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MT 3.0 (developer release) commenting blows

It's been awhile since I've had one of my longer software rants, so to your detriment, here goes (this is targeted at MT 3.0 administrators and developers), though if you're in anyway interested in the constant change of the comment configuration on this site, this entry should explain:

While MT 3.0 developer release improves the interface for managing comments, I don't like the ways in which they've implemented their two main new features for MT 3.0: TypeKey and comment moderation. My gripes with TypeKey are easily fixed and are indicative of this being a developer release, but the comment moderation system is too time-consuming at this point to be useful.


I've been experimenting with the Typekey comment settings in MovableType 3.0, and I'm pretty much convinced at this point that they blow. Here's my dilemma: I want the ability to get e-mail addresses from people that sign in using Typekey, but I don't want to require them. That's a reasonable request: people shouldn't have to give me their e-mail address, but if they request something, I can't contact them back unless they do.

If you tell MT 3.0 to not require e-mail addresses, then it is not possible to pass along an e-mail address. If you tell MT 3.0 to require e-mail addresses, the person logging in is given the choice "The site you are commenting on requires an e-mail address. Do you want to pass along your address?" If you say yes, I get your e-mail address. If you say no, then MT 3.0 will tell you, "Comment submission error: Sorry sucka, you can't post without an e-mail address." (paraphrased)

I'm just about ready to give up on Typekey for this site, as convenient as it might make it for Typekey users. The ability to communicate with people who post by e-mail is very important, considering that a large percentage of comments I get here are requests.


Moderation isn't very useful, as it costs more time than it saves, and it's confusing to people commenting on this site as they don't see their comments immediately, nor is there much indication of the status of their comment.

You can only approve one comment at a time and then wait as your pages rebuild slowly (you can be 'sneaky' and click all the 'approve' buttons with a small pause between, but I digress). The comment summary screen also doesn't show enough of the comment, so it can be difficult to judge whether or not it is spam unless you click to read the full comment.

Another timesink is that deleting comments that haven't been approved yet takes a long time. It would appear to me, at least, that MT is rebuilding pages when I delete these comments, which doesn't make much sense, given that the comments aren't on any page. I did a recent timing, and it took 15 seconds to remove an non-approved comment; as a comparison, my site can generally save draft entries instantly.


I hope that the final version of MT 3.0 fixes my gripes with TypeKey, and it should only be a matter of adjusting some of the TypeKey login options and MT templates. Site owners should be able to "request" rather than "require" e-mail addresses, and commenters should be able to deny this request and still comment, if that's what the site owner allows. It seems like a small gripe, but e-mail addresses are very important to a comment system, as is the ability to allow users to choose their level of anonymity.

The comment moderation system seems like a harder fix. Without comment moderation, I only have to manage the spam comments; with comment moderation, I have to manage both the spam comments (by deleting them) and the good comments (by approving them). It seems like a minor technicality/nuance, but it there is a significant time difference between the two the way things are implemented now.

I recommend a separate administrative page just for sorting unapproved comments that would allow me to quickly organize the unapproved comments into approve and delete queues, and then do the rebuilding in one batch, instead of the one-by-one approach they currently have. The batch processing would mean that the rebuild time would be less noticeable, and it would also allow the MT to optimize some of the rebuilding by, for example, grouping the comments by entry so that each entry only gets rebuilt once. A small difference this page should have from the normal comments page is that the page should make it easier than it is now to tell whether or not the comment is spam, first off by including more of the comment so I can tell what it is saying, instead of the ~25 characters they show right now. Also, more importantly, there should be some time-saving Javascript enhancements:
- if I mark a comment from a particular IP address for deletion, then all un-approved comments from the same IP address should automatically be marked as well
- it should find comments that use the same text or reference the same URLs, as comment spam usually comes in batches. As this page would only be searching the un-approved comments, this should be fairly easy.

Finally, deleting un-approved comments should also be near instantaneous, and I can only assume that this is an optimization that they just haven't finished writing yet.

One last feature I would like to see implemented, outside of comment moderation and Typekey, is another column in the power-editing mode that allows me to turn off comments on an entry. One way to fight comment spam is to limit the number of entries which are publically available for spamming; frequently when I get a comment spam on an entry, I turn off commenting on that entry as it means that entry has made it into the spammers addressbook. For most of my entries, I am happy to turn off commenting after two weeks; I really don't need to read a new comment on my "Lakers Lose!" entry a year from now.

Final thought:

I'm eagerly looking forward to a MT Blacklist that's compatible with MT 3.0, as the Typekey + moderation scheme that MT 3.0 promotes simply has not been helpful in maintaining this site. I've found that Jay Allen seems to update the blacklist frequently enough that the newest list takes care of most of the day's spam, and it's much more satisfying to eliminate spam with a broad sweeping axe than it is to pick and choose the spam one-by-one in the MovableType interface. It's also comforting to know that the spam you've deleted can't come back, which makes the investment feel worth it.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on June 18, 2004 10:47 AM.

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