I was chatting on twitter with Jeremy Vaught today, talking about Disqus. I’m interested in understanding why Jeremy likes it, and he’s interested in understanding why I don’t. So this post is mainly to get my whole Disqus malaise off my chest and share my perspective with Jeremy, who is way more of a social media guru than I ever want to be. Consider this the perspective of the average, somewhat clueless person.
My first experience with Disqus was at Brent Spore’s iBoughtAMac.com. When I went to make a comment there, this dialog popped up for Disqus. I didn’t know what it was but it was clear if I wanted to leave a comment, I had to go through this thing. Since I didn’t have time to look into it right then, I just didn’t leave my comment. This happened several times.
Finally, I wanted to leave a comment enough that I clicked on the Disqus logo, where I read that it was a tool for web publishers to use for managing comments. I noticed you could create a profile, and that somehow would help an individual manage or track their own comments across different sites. At the time, I didn’t feel a need for help with this. I still don’t. I pretty much know where I comment and what communities I belong to. I didn’t look much further into it. But I understood “this thing adds value for the site owner, but not for me.”
One problem I have with the Disqus dialog is that, even though it allows you to comment as a guest (instead of connecting to Twitter, Facebook or OpenID) by entering your email address and name, just like a WordPress installation that doesn’t use Disqus, it interrupts my thought process. A pop-up opens with these options, and I have to think about it and make a choice before I can leave my comment. Since I don’t encounter Disqus every day I have to remember what it is, or look it up, decide whether I have an account, remember how I answer the dialog, and if I don’t remember right away, suddenly I’m wondering why this thing is in my way, and what implications the posting choice I make will have for my privacy, online identity, etc. I just want to leave a comment, yo.
When I do comment through Disqus, I use the Guest option. But it recognizes my email and pulls up a profile picture. I don’t know where that comes from. I think it’s getting it from Gravatar, or maybe at some point I created a Disqus profile, but I’m not sure, and the Disqus dialog doesn’t explain. So if I want the answer to that question I’m going to have to go dig it up from the Disqus site. I don’t really want to spend my time trying to figure this out, so I don’t. But every time I comment through Disqus and it recognizes me, I’m left with a vague creepy feeling that becomes part of my commenting experience, and thus part of the feeling I have about sites that use Disqus. I always have in mind that if I’m using a service I don’t pay for, I’m not the customer. I’m the product. I just want to leave a comment, not wonder who’s tracking me and how they use information about me.
Also, say I don’t know a person well, but find my self at their blog. Maybe they motivate me to engage. From my point of view, I’m there and commenting because I want to enter a relationship. I feel like we have something to say to each other. When I go to leave a comment, and that Disqus box pops up, I feel like the underlying message to me is “Hi. I don’t trust that you’re not a spammer. So if you want to start a relationship with me, I’m going to require you to be involved with this 3rd party, too.” But, but… I just want to leave a comment. I don’t use Disqus on my site, and other plugins take care of spam just fine, and it’s hard for me to see the need for this.
And so I guess my dislike of Disqus comes from never having realized a benefit from it myself, but knowing it’s keeping track every time I comment through it. If someone showed me a reason to love it, maybe I’d change my mind. But for now it’s come to leave a negative aftertaste. I view it as a comment deterrent. If you see a Disqus-powered comment from me anywhere, it means at least at that time, the relationship I wanted to create with the site owner was more powerful to me than the vague “ick” I feel when I see a Disqus dialog.