WordPress Comments – Interacting with your readers through comments
An exciting aspect of blogging with WordPress is receiving feedback from your readers after you post to your blog. Feedback, or blog comments, is akin to having a guestbook on your blog. People can leave notes for you that publish to your site, and you can respond and engage your readers in conversation (see Figure 1-3). These notes can expand the thoughts and ideas you present in your blog post by giving your readers the opportunity to add their two cents’ worth.
On the WordPress Dashboard, you have full administrative control over who can leave comments. Additionally, if someone leaves a comment with questionable content, you can edit the comment or delete it. You’re also free to not allow comments on your blog. The blogging community says that a blog without comments isn’t a blog at all because exchanging views with visitors is part of what makes blogging popular. Allowing comments on your blog invites your audience members to involve themselves in your discussion. However, publishing a blog without comments lets your readers partake of your published words passively and, sometimes, that’s okay. For example, if your content on a controversial topic
may attract visitor insults, it would be reasonable to publish a post without enabling the comment feature. Mostly, readers find commenting to be a satisfying experience when they visit blogs because comments make them part of the discussion. Still, it’s up to you.
Feeding your readers
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. An RSS feed is a standard feature that blog readers have come to expect. So what is RSS, really?
RSS is written to the Web server in XML — Extensible Markup Language, as a small, compact file that can be read by RSS readers (such as I outline in Table 1-1). Think of an RSS feed as a syndicated, or distributable, auto-updating list of “What’s New” for your Web site.
By using tools called feed readers, readers can download your feed automatically — that is, they can set their feed readers to automatically discover new content (such as posts and comments) from your blog and download that content for their consumption. Table 1-1 lists some of the most popular feed readers.
or blog readers to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest content you post, they need to subscribe to your RSS feed. Most blogging platforms allow RSS feeds to be autodiscovered by the various feed readers. The reader needs only to enter your site’s URL, and the program automatically finds your RSS feed.
Most Web browsers alert visitors to the RSS feed on your site by displaying the universally recognized orange RSS feed icon, shown in the margin.
WordPress has RSS feeds in several formats. Because the feeds are built into the software platform, you don’t need to do anything to provide your readers an RSS feed of your content.
The best way to understand trackbacks is to think of them as comments, except for one thing: Trackbacks are comments left on your blog by other blogs, not people. Sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? After all, why wouldn’t inanimate objects want to participate in your discussion?
Actually, maybe it’s not so crazy after all. A trackback happens when you make a post on your blog, and within that post, you provide a link to a post made by another blogger on a different blog. When you publish that post, your blog sends a sort of electronic memo to the blog you linked to. That blog receives the memo and posts an acknowledgment of receipt in the form of a comment to the post that you linked to on their site. The information that is contained within the trackback includes a link back to the post on your site that contains the link to theirs — along with the date and time, as well as a short excerpt of your post. Trackbacks are displayed within the comments section of the individual posts. The memo is sent via a network ping (a tool used to test, or verify, whether a link is reachable across the Internet) from your site to the site you link to. This process works as long as both blogs support trackback protocol. Almost all major blogging platforms support the trackback protocol. Sending a trackback to a blog is a nice way of telling the blogger that you like the information she presented in her blog post. Every blogger appreciates trackbacks to their posts from other bloggers.
Dealing with comment and trackback spam
Ugh. The absolute bane of every blogger’s existence is comment and trackback spam. When blogs became the “It” things on the Internet, spammers saw an opportunity. If you’ve ever received spam in your e-mail program, you know what we mean. For bloggers, the concept is similar and just as frustrating. Before blogs, you often saw spammers filling Internet guestbooks with their links but not relevant comments. The reason is simple: Web sites receive higher rankings in the major search engines if they have multiple links coming in from other sites. Enter blog software with comment and trackback technologies, and blogs become prime breeding ground for millions of spammers. Because comments and trackbacks are published to your site publicly — and usually with a link to the commenter’s Web site — spammers got their site links posted on millions of blogs by creating programs that automatically seek Web sites with commenting systems and then hammer those systems with tons of comments that contain links back to their sites.
No blogger likes spam. Therefore, blogging services, such as WordPress, spend untold hours in the name of stopping these spammers in their tracks, and for the most part, they’re successful. Occasionally, however, spammers sneak through. Many spammers are offensive, and all of them are frustrating because they don’t contribute to the conversations that occur in blogs.
All WordPress systems have one important thing in common: Akismet, which kills spam dead. Akismet is a WordPress plugin brought to you by Automattic, the maker of WordPress.com.