Friday, March 15, 2013

New Disqus is live (sigh)

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Welp, it’s official: All those long and tedious hours of work, planning and troubleshooting I’ve put into customizing the appearance and function of this blog’s comments have been promptly rendered moot with the imposition introduction of the New and Improved Disqus 2012™.

Highlights (compared to the previous version) include:

  • Inability to customize general appearance (sizes, spacing, colors, etc.);
  • Inability to modify code to allow for automatic hyphenation (something I was quite happy with);
  • Inability to change position of comment input box;
  • Inability to change avatar size or placement (avatars now create a wide margin of wasted space);
  • Inability to remove superfluous bells & whistles (fave-like “star” system, “Community” and “My Disqus” tabs, “share” buttons, etc.);
  • Inability to disable comment “likes”/“dislikes” (which I’m sure spammers and trolls would never abuse);
  • Inability to set a default site-wide comment thread sorting method (by date, popularity, etc.);
  • Inability to set custom text colors via CSS classes (which really came in handy for moderation;)
  • Inability to hide attached media (though attachment should be disabled for newer threads);
  • No more one-click comment editing (now requires browsing through several menus);
  • No more “absolute” timestamps (eg. “12/30/2012 12:00 AM”), though you can see it by hovering your mouse over the uselessly vague “3 months ago”;
  • Automatic hiding of longer comments by default that can’t be disabled;
  • Forced comment nesting (with depth limited to only three reply levels); and
  • Presumably several more issues that will surface over time.

Meanwhile, basic functionality like backlinks is still inexplicably missing despite being a quasi-standard almost everywhere else.

In short, Disqus has taken what was a mostly functional and customizable system and rejiggered it until virtually every helpful feature has been either lost or buried under layers of useless, unwanted and irremovable crap, whilst stripping admins of the ability to repair virtually any of the damage. And they call it an “upgrade”.

Look, I’m not opposed to all these new gadgets and trinkets being included in the new platform. If others enjoy them, so be it. But would it really be too difficult to at least give admins the option of enabling or disabling said gadgets and trinkets on their own blogs? Many of the features that are now immutable used to be optional in the previous platform, so it’s not like they don’t know how to do it. Really, what’s more basic and commonsensical than giving users the choice of which features they want included in their product?

I realize I may sound a bit peevish and nitpicky over this, but I think I’m entitled to be. I quite liked the way I’d gotten the old system to work (despite its flaws). Then Disqus decided they wanted to appeal to the crowd’s dissonant whims and simply steamrollered all over it without any choice to opt out.

While it’s possible they’ll eventually improve the current system, I’m not holding my breath. I’m rather going to be looking into alternatives and seeing whether they might give me the control I want over my own blog’s comments system.