fattening the calf

Oh look, they just gobbled up another struggling startup. (I surmise Intense Debate were struggling since a) they’re currently closed to new signups, which strongly suggests recent encounters with the failwhale and b) they’re not Disqus, who were presumably beyond Automattic’s budget.)

I did wonder why suddenly threaded comments were on the roadmap for 2.7 after years of being dismissed as plugin territory, and now we know. It also explains the influx of new staffers on the forums. If this means we finally get threaded comments on wp.com then it is a Very Good Thing, but I still have my doubts about whether such a massive change is feasible. There are a lot of comments to migrate in this system, and if any got lost in the transition people would be cross.

Obviously I do have concerns about Automattic being in control of a centralized comment service, given the way Akismet’s been used to block troublemakers in the past. But then I’m already blogging on a server where they can edit or delete any comments at any time, so it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me.

[edited to add links. I’m getting lazy.]

23 Comments »

  1. If this means we finally get threaded comments on wp.com then it is a Very Good Thing, but I still have my doubts about whether such a massive change is feasible. There are a lot of comments to migrate in this system, and if any got lost in the transition people would be cross.

    WordPress has had the database schema for threaded comments available for plugins for a long time, so no migration is necessary. All existing comments are “top level” (i.e. they have no comment_parent). The main burden is going to be updating themes to support it in a way that preserves the artistic feel of the theme.

    What I might do, for my wp.org blogs is limit threaded replies to me only. That might be a nice alternative to quote-and-respond-50-comments-later or my personal annoyance: people who edit the comment and reply in the person’s comment.

  2. I edit comments if a link doesn’t work or spelling / grammar is awful, but otherwise publish as is. Seems to me an add-on for comments will be unnecessary clutter, but let’s wait and give it a try when it comes along. I hope the wp.com masses will be able to opt out, but not holding my breath.

  3. Rex said

    I guess Mr Jacquith just didn’t have time to deride your clearly scurrilous suggestion re Akismet…

  4. So… Intense Debate will be shifting all their comments over to wordpress.com, rather than wordpress.com shifting its comments over to Intense Debate? That makes sense given Automattic’s apparently infinite bandwidth, and the fact that Intense Debate’s database is clearly the smaller of the two. It also means that the most sensible way of viewing this is that Automattic just bought wordpress.com a new commenting system which they’re willing (like Gravatar and Akismet, unlike global tagegories) to share with blogs outside.

    Themes are a major concern, of course. There are a lot of themes here and I would not like to be the person responsible for converting something like DePo Masthead, or even one of the old narrow fixed-width themes. It’s also another burden on the providers of .org themes, but then if you’re still developing for .org you’re clearly a masochist anyway.😉

  5. I have no idea what the plans for wordpress.com are, nor for Intense Debate in general. It would make sense to move some of its features into WordPress core, and then keep as external services the things that don’t scale well on individual blogs, or the things that have a network effect.

  6. Andrew said

    If ID was struggling, then it was a good time to buy it. You make the contrast with Disqus, but much of the commentary on the Intensomattic deal is about how tough this makes things for Disqus. For example:
    http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2008/09/23/things-just-got-tough-for-disqus/
    My own reaction:
    http://changingway.org/2008/09/23/intense-debate-now-automattic/
    If you think that Automattic is fattening the calf, then this looks like an effective, relatively low-cost way to do it.

  7. Yes, I’d be worried too if I were Disqus.

    On the other hand, this does take ID out of the equation in the short-to-medium term; moving everything over is going to take time, and, while I wouldn’t expect the hiatus to be as long as the year Automattic left themes in limbo, I doubt anyone knows exactly how long they’ll be closed to new business. That gives Discus more time to entrench their current position. It also leaves the Blogger/MT/everything else field open for Disqus to exploit, since while ID will remain available for those other tools their main focus will now be on WP integration.

  8. their main focus will now be on WP integration.

    Will it though? I could have sworn that I read that ID worked with Typepad. Now I’ll admit that I know zip about both Typepad and ID but something in the back of my mind is making me think that this is a back run to get Akismet support into Typepad. Not saying that is what is occurring here. (Again, I know squat about both products outside of Lloyd thinking that Typepad is the root of all that is evil with blogging of course.) I seem to remember Matt making a bit of a huff when Typepad Antispam came out about how Typepad kept their service closed to other antispam solutions. And the huff he had when they used his code for their WP plugin.

  9. Andrew said

    @mike, ID does indeed work with TypePad.
    I think that the main focus for Intensomattic right now will be making ID scale up to WordPress.com proportions.

  10. According to Toni, the WP implementation will involve storing local copies of comments as well as the central database. In the case of wordpress.com, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Automattic to maintain two separate databases, so the most likely scenario is that ID will be moved over here in the same way as Gravatar. Automattic already have experience of scaling wordpress.com and Gravatar to wordpress.com proportions, so I don’t think scaling will be a major issue.

    I don’t know why Automattic would want to get Akismet support into Typepad. There’s more money to be made by persuading people to switch to WP because Typepad has less spam protection😉 If you’re big enough to need a licence, you’re probably big enough to need VIP hosting and paid support.

  11. WordPress has had the database schema for threaded comments available for plugins for a long time, so no migration is necessary. All existing comments are “top level” (i.e. they have no comment_parent).

    The problem with this is that it requires n + 1 SQL queries to get the entire tree of comments on a post (where n is the number of comments on the post). The nested set model, for example, requires just 1 SQL query to get the entire tree of comments on a post. The approach of storing parents just doesn’t scale.

  12. I don’t know why Automattic would want to get Akismet support into Typepad. There’s more money to be made by persuading people to switch to WP because Typepad has less spam protection

    First, I am sure Automattic would love, love, love to get Akismet support into TypePad because it would mean more money for them. However, I can’t see Six Apart ever agreeing to such a partnership – not because we (yes, I work for Six Apart) have a superior service, but because I don’t think it jives with our belief that no one should profit from the existence of spam.

    Of course, WordPress users may want to pay for Akismet because they want to show their appreciation to WordPress and Automattic. That is completely legitimate – I would never argue with that. However, I might suggest that if you like WordPress that much, then consider showing your support by making a donation to the project, don’t send that message by paying to fight spam. When people make money because of spam, spammers win.

    Of course WordPress users should note – they too should never, ever, ever have to pay to keep spam off their blogs. TypePad AntiSpam is free for everyone, regardless of platform and regardless of the number of comments you send through the service. So use TypePad AntiSpam for free, and donate your money to WordPress.org – that way everyone wins, and more importantly: the spammers lose.

  13. Kissing Bandit said

    Just curious, but where exactly would those donations go? As my research went (admittedly, that was some time ago), it didn’t go back to the developers and I could have sworn I’d seen Matt mention somewhere that hosting costs were negligible. In fact, he went so far as to say skip the monetary donations and help out in the support forums, make a theme, or code a plugin. (Too lazy to look that up at the moment, so I could be completely off.)

    -KB

  14. Byrne, you may want to review the comments in the Techcrunch article where they talk about Typepad Antispam. Matt states that he gets “tons” of requests for Akismet within Typepad and how your platform should be open. He gets called on not doing the exact same thing with wp.com in the very next comment. It’s been pointed out specifically to him but he’s had no comment on the topic.

    Byrne, I’ve suggested this a couple of times to the SA folks but I really think MT should be marketing this to the WordPress Multiuser clients. Akismet support is at the $500 level for those sites. I’ve been told that it’s fine with you folks. (I have the email somewhere.) We used it for a short time on our own mu sites until we moved to an internal solution based around Spam Assassin. I know some sites switched when Matt blackballed me a few months ago because it interfered with me providing volunteer support at their sites although none of them are marketing the solution as such in fear of blacklash from Matt.

    Getting in on other platforms would be a great move. As I understand it, all you have to do is change over the URL to point at the SA server instead, right?

    I’d love to make a few suggestions on making the WP plugin better, features that are not found in the Akismet one. Is there someone I can contact about them?

    KB, the use of the donations has come up a few times. The one mention that comes to mind is when Mark put up those wp tutorials on his site and got hit with a huge bandwidth bill. Matt covered it out of that.

    At least that’s how the story goes. Not sure what they’re used for now.

  15. When people make money because of spam, spammers win.

    I suppose they are handing the spammers an excuse for continuing to engage in their nefarious activities (what, after all, would become of the anti-spam industry if there was no spam?) but, let’s face it, nobody really cares what excuses spammers might make; they’re going to spam anyway. Spammers win when spam is published and remains published. It doesn’t make a lot of difference to them whether others are making money from it or not.

    On the one hand, profiteering from the criminal activities of others is, as you point out, a bit icky. On the other, they’re merely asking people to pay for services rendered. (Security guards don’t work for free, even though you could argue that by not doing do they’re profiting from the threat of theft or vandalism.) This kind of reminds me of Duncan Riley’s argument a while back that Akismet ‘relies on the failure of the WordPress code to be able to natively deal with comment spam‘. Do you hate spam less once it’s paying the bills? Do you secretly fear its decline or extinction? (They’re certainly less prompt at dealing with splogs than they once were, though I tend to think that’s because there’s more splog reports than they can cope with, rather than because they’ve crossed back to the dark side😉 )

    re: wordpress.org donations: I’m quite vehemently opposed to these, on the grounds that multimillion dollar companies don’t need your charity. If there was some transparency about where the donations go, and a guarantee that they would be ploughed back into the open source movement, I’d moderate my stance.

  16. @Mike – send your suggestions to me: byrne at sixapart dot com, I would love to hear them!

    Getting in on other platforms would be a great move. As I understand it, all you have to do is change over the URL to point at the SA server instead, right?

    Yep. TypePad AntiSpam is 100% Akismet compatible – just change the URL and you are done.

    @that girl again

    This kind of reminds me of Duncan Riley’s argument a while back that Akismet ‘relies on the failure of the WordPress code to be able to natively deal with comment spam‘.

    Let me step up and defend WordPress, god forbid. Fighting spam is hard and complicated. You could build it into the core of WordPress, just as we could build it into the core of Movable Type. The truth is that it functions better as a service because it can leverage the knowledge and learning that others contribute. Plus operating it as a service allows us to upgrade your spam fighting capacity independently of you having to upgrade your core software.

    Granted, with a mandatory upgrade every 4-5 weeks with WordPress, I guess it the benefits of a service are somewhat diminished.🙂

    I kid people, I kid.

  17. You could build it into the core of WordPress,

    I’m actually glad it’s not. Heck, I don’t think it’s even included with the download anymore. Too many flashbacks of all that went on with the monopoly of IE and Windows. Plus folks would feel that Akismet is their only choice.

    we could build it into the core of Movable Type

    Of course it is included with the download.🙂

    Fighting spam is hard and complicated.

    I think this is now #3 on what uses up my time now a days since we have our own internal solution. Monitoring what gets by, what gets caught by accident, etc. One thing that does bother me though is the “we don’t release our filters as spammers would learn from them” argument. SpamAssassin releases theirs and it still works fine. Ditto with other spam solutions.

    By the way, Byrne, I’ve noted that the engine for Typepad Antispam is listed as Open Source. Is it available for download? I don’t mind not having the rulesets as we pretty much have our own taken from Spam Assassin. Just looking at options.

    The donations stem from when there was no Automattic and everything was paid out of pocket and/or the money Matt got from CNet for developing WP. (edit: Just noticed that you do say that in one of your other comments that you linked to.) But, yes, I feel the need for removing the link as well. The “totally separate” policy was proven to be false when they placed Toni’s “Vote for me as best CEO” adverts over on the wp.org site.

    Of course we heard time and time again that they were going to turn wp.org into a charitable nonprofit but I don’t think that’s ever occurred. Ditto with the security audit.

    Can you tell I’m in a good mood? 5 hour EKG today and I’m going to miss getting lunch today. I hate end of the month…

  18. Kissing Bandit said

    Heck, I don’t think it’s even included with the download anymore.

    Yes it is.

    -KB

  19. izle said

    thank u

  20. Ray said

    Yay for more spam!

  21. Movable Type🙂

    http://antispam.typepad.com

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s