Should Discourse make an effort to become a viable comment platform?

Yes, Discourse could do something similar to that with its comment embed widget. Among other things, it might help to reduce the awkwardness that some people experience when starting a forum that only has a few active users: AI sockpuppet accounts to jumpstart my community?. New Discourse sites could use blog posts to promote and seed their forum. That is kind of possible now, but allowing users to comment directly from the embed widget would make the process more seamless.

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A simple Discourse-connected comment form on the Wordpress side, so that visitors do not have to first go to Discourse and create an account there, before posting a comment, would help reduce the friction and build engagement, at least for publishers like me.

For my use case, it would be ideal if a commenter could leave their comment simply with a name and email address. This then could be used to create a staged user in Discourse and invite them to fully join to continue the conversation, without stopping them from leaving their comment.

We’re finding that the extra friction of creating an account to leave a comment on a published article is making it hard to build engagement and ultimately grow the community in our forum. For example, when asked about our comment section (using the current Discourse-Wordpress integration), one author gave us the following feedback:

Re the conversation area: now that you mention it… I remember seeing this. And at the time, I actually figured I’d forget it for the time being since it seemed time consuming to sign up. That’s strong evidence re: how most people would feel about having to go through that process. I’m normally borderline obsessed with seeing comments on my writing. I remember laughing to myself and saying : “Guess I’m not obsessed enough to deal with this right now.” Ideally, you’d just leave comments open to everyone with no sign-up process. But any level of simplification/ease would improve engagement there. Comments like that are usually an impulse move. If people are stymied at all, they’ll tend to move on and not take the time.

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I was just thinking about this the other day. Oddly I’ve missed having Wordpress comments on my blog posts because it seemed so fast for people to get started, very low barrier to entry.

Despite having a really simple sign-up process, right now if someone wants to comment on the post, they have to visit a new page. I think crossing that threshold may feel too burdensome. Almost like I want to comment on A, but I have to visit B to comment on A and then go back to A to see the comment. Would feel more natural to comment on A right underneath A.

I like the idea of staging users. I can think of maybe hacking this together by having the Wordpress comment form send an email to the Discourse forum and then stage a user that way, although I imagine it may get more complex to fully integrate it this way.

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I think this used to be possible, but I’m fairly sure that Discourse now compares the email’s “From Header” to its Return Path. If those don’t match, the email is rejected. (If Discourse isn’t checking the Return Path, the comment system could be easily abused - any email address could be entered into the form.)

There are a few ways that the problem of Discourse as a comment system could be approached. I think the best approach would be for Discourse to improve its comment embed iframe so that users could interact with it as authenticated Discourse users. If that’s not possible, an embedded Discourse comments web app could be developed. That would be an interesting project, but I’d want to be sure that Discourse wasn’t going to provide similar functionality via their embedded comments iframe before pursuing it too far.

There are also some possible WordPress specific solutions. The simplest one being to enable WordPress comments and the WP Discourse plugin. The risk is that this would reduce activity on the Discourse forum. I think there’d be ways of helping with that in the WordPress UI though - for example, link to related conversations that were happening on Discourse.

It would also be possible to develop something specific to WordPress sites that were functioning as the Discourse SSO provider. I wrote about that in previous posts in this topic. To do a good job of it might require significant changes to the WP Discourse plugin. Unless (I’m thinking out loud here):

What I’m trying to indicate with the above screenshot is that for the case of a WordPress site that’s the Discourse SSO provider, comments could be displayed with the Discourse comment iframe. Comments could be created through a form that posts to the Discourse API. This might require some changes to the Discourse comment iframe to ensure that it refreshes when a new comment is added, but wouldn’t require users to be able to interact with it as authenticated Discourse users.

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So, if I understand correctly, the idea would be that the commenter would register on the Wordpress side, then leave a comment via the embedded Discourse iframe, which would post to the topic on Discourse, then refresh the display back on Wordpress, so that it appears right away.

The Wordpress registration process would validate the email, I take it. But this would also require switching to Wordpress as the Discourse SSO provider—doable, but in a way unfortunate, because it moves the friction to the other side for people who might just want to sign up for the forum.

I tend to agree with what you’ve said here:

If it were even possible to register right there in the iframe, or at least be staged, so that one could proceed with the comment (which might only get posted once the email is validated), that would strike me as one solution that balances ease of use with security.

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Yes, you’ve got it. If WordPress is the SSO provider, the problem of allowing users to comment on Discourse topics isn’t that hard to solve. The tricky part, in terms of working with the current state of the WP Discourse plugin, is figuring out how to display the comments on WordPress - currently the WP Discourse comment section doesn’t mirror the Discourse topic’s replies. Instead, a selection of the “best” comments is displayed.

It would be possible to update the WP Discourse plugin to handle this use case, but to do it properly would require completely re-writing the way it handles Discourse comments. It’s not my decision to make, but I think that putting effort into improving the Discourse comment iframe would be a better use of time.

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