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Note: this page describes a custom system for commenting once present on this site. As you can see, it no longer is. Please provide any comments via twitter or email. Thanks.

Recently I decided I no longer like disqus. It was a great hands-off commenting system, but it had its downsides. I decided to make a change.

I have my own commenting system which I wrote as a yesod module. The initial reason I didn’t go with this when I first moved to yesod (and lost my existing homebrew php commenting system) was because it didn’t support authentication. I knew that an unauthenticated “enter comments” box had like a 100 to 1 ratio of spam to real comments.

When I put up rentersreality, I took the time to build authentication into my comments system by natively supporting YesodAuth so that I could use my module there. With that in place, the only thing keeping me back was losing my existing comments (more on that later).

This module really speaks to the flexibility of the framework. With about 8 lines of code I (the end user) was able to add tightly integrated commenting to my yesod site. Comments are stored in my database and users are authenticated using my authentication model. Furthermore, I (the developer) was able to put together a system that integrates this way even with my limited haskell-foo thanks to the openness and robustness of existing modules like yesod-auth and yesod-persistent.

I decided to make a few other changes along with this one. First, I moved the site from sqlite to postgresql. I originally went with sqlite because I was intimidated by postgres. After moving rentersreality to postgres, I realized it was no harder to get set up and offered great benefits in speed, reliability and maintenance tools. Secondly, I had to ditch my simple auth setup (one manually added user) in favor of a more typical auth setup. Now, anyone can authenticate with their open id (to be able to comment) and I just maintain an isAdmin flag manually to allow me to do the me-only stuff.

Why did you do it?

For the sake of completeness here are the Pros and Cons of the recent shift:

Pros:

Since I develop the comments module, I know that I’ll get preferential treatment when it comes to bug fixes and features. Also, it’s awesome.

Pages load faster and usage is clean, pure GET and POST html-forms.

Comments are parsed by Pandoc the same way my post content itself is. This means that you have the full expressive power of this awesome markdown system (any non dangerous html is possible plus syntax highlighting and other nice features).

Both visually and architecturally, the comments are deeply integrated into my site. This is in spite of the code itself being completely modularized and reusable anywhere. Yay haskell.

Cons:

I have a plan for this.

I kind of sidestepped the whole javascript edit-in-place usage scenario and instead created a full-blown management sub-site for commenting users. By following the “comments” link in my sidebar you can see all the comments you’ve left on this site and edit/delete them at-will. It’s a really clean method which provides a lot of functionality while being a) javascript-free and b) still completely modularized out of my specific site and reusable anywhere.

Quote could be done with some javascript to just populate the box with a markdown blockquote for you. Reply (and the implied threading) would require a re-engineering that I might not be willing to go through for a while.

I’m not sure how much of a use there is for this on a site like mine but with the new administration sub-site it would be almost trivial to add this functionality – maybe I’ll do this soon.

To existing commenters

If you’ve commented on this site before I want to restore your comments, but I need your help.

What I need you to do is go ahead and login once, choose a username, and email it to me along with the disqus account you commented on previously.

If you commented on the old-old system, I could still restore your comments, you’ll just have to decide the best way to let me know what comments they were (the username you used or the thread/nature of the comments, etc).

With this information, I’ll be able to reinstate your comments and link them to your new identifier on the site.

I hope you’ll help me with this; but if not, I understand.

Play around

So go ahead and use this page to try out the commenting system. See what kind of markdown results in what.

If you want any comments (here or on other pages) edited or removed, I can always be reached by email. I don’t mind running a quick sql statement on your behalf.

Let me know of any bugs you find but don’t worry about css-fails, those should get fixed almost immediately (I just need the content present to find them).

08 Jul 2011, tagged with haskell, self, yesod