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How to Configure WordPress and Thesis as a Blog – Part 2 WordPress Discussion Settings

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This is part two of five in a series on how to configure WordPress and Thesis as a blog. Here we go over the WordPress Discussion Settings and the purpose of checking or unchecking the options under these different comment settings to moderate comments and prevent spam.

Video Transcript

The next area of change is under Discussion settings. So in terms of default settings, it’s a very common thing in blogs to reference other blogs you know, whether you’re quoting them or you’re saying somebody else wrote a great article about this or something like that. So if you put a link to another blog in your post, this will automatically try to contact them and let them know.

And the same thing is true here, allowing link notifications from other blogs and those are called pingbacks and trackbacks. There is an excellent… WordPress has an excellent page on this subject of blogs. It’s under codex.wordpress.org called Introduction to Blogging and if you go up to the top, it really gives you a good summary of all the elements of a blog and the concepts of archives and feeds and blog rolls and syndication. And in this case, in Managing Trackbacks and Pingbacks, trackbacks and pingbacks are just ways of communicating between blogs.

And the main problem with pingback and trackbacks is, from my perspective, the main problem is that they interrupt the flow of conversation. It can be nice to know that somebody has linked to you and have that show up your comment settings. But a blog post that has lots of pingbacks and trackbacks, in the midst of its conversation, I think the conversation gets lost. And so, I actually generally don’t allow notifications from other blogs. I usually have this unchecked rather than checked.

And then allow people to post comments on new articles. If you don’t any comments whatsoever then you would uncheck this. But if you want people to comment then you would check it. And it says new articles because you have this ability down here then to decide when there are comments or closed. And so that’s the section under here, other comment settings and the first thing is comment – author must fill out a name and email. You absolutely have to do that. If you don’t do this, you are going to get spammed like crazy. So you want to make sure that they provide a name and an email.

And then you can, if you want to restrict access to commenting to registered users, you could check this box. I don’t, I’ll let anybody comment but I have to approve the comment first. So they don’t actually have to be a registered user of my site or a logged in user in order for that to work.

You can also automatically close the comments on your articles if they’re older than 14 days. And I suppose there’s some reason in which you might want to do that or actually, any number of days but I don’t do that. And so, I leave that unchecked.

And then enable threaded or nested comments; I do think nested comments and threaded comments are interesting. And so, I do have this checked and then you can decide how many levels of threading or nesting you want to display. Having said that, I do not have threading… I don’t believe I have threading and nesting activated here. I don’t. I don’t have threading or nesting activated on this site so every comment that I have on the site is simply in order. You know, I’m going to change that right now. On my site, we’re going to go ahead and save those changes and we’ll nest and thread our comments now.

And you can also control the breaking up of your comments into pages here. If you kept tons and tons of comments, you probably want to do this but chances are, you’re not worried about this at the moment.

And then email me whenever anyone posts a comment and whenever is held for moderation. Now, I like to know when someone has posted a comment so that I have the ability to respond to it and because from my perspective, the reason why you want people to comment on your blog is because you want to engage them in a conversation and if they comment and you don’t respond, then you aren’t engaging them in a conversation. So I like to make sure that I respond to comments hopefully, as soon as I get them. And I hold all comments for moderation unless this occurs here below.

So your first opportunity as a moderator, you must always approve the comment. That’s the safest thing to do. But what I do is the comment author must have a previously approved comment. As long as you have a previously approved comment then you can continue to write comments without any additional moderation.

And this whole question of moderation comes into spam comments. I’m going to show you what a spam comment looks like. You probably already know but I’ll show you anyway. If we go to comments here, I’m using Akismet to prevent spam comments. And you know, when you see these places where they offer to sell you links you know, they offer to sell you one way links to your site, generally, what they’re talking about doing is they’re talking about commenting on posts with your URL getting a link back to your website. And now, that is generally considered to be comment spam and some people try to mask their comment spam. For example, the following time I learned a web blog, I hope that it doesn’t disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my option to learn however, I actually thought you’d have one thing interesting to say. This is just some non-native English speaker being paid by the link to you know, post a link with map of Washington D.C. 94 as the you know, as the back link. And here’s another… well, it’s the same person there. Some attention grabbing points in his time in his article but I don’t know if I see them all heart to heart. You know, it’s just all ridiculous.

Sometimes, you get these that look like they might be a genuine thank you. “Thanks for taking time to sharing this article. It was excellent and very informative.” And I can usually tell that that’s by… that it’s a spam by the name. If the person puts the name of their site as their name then that’s… some people say that’s considered to be good SEO technique. I think it’s spammy and so I just assume that if the name of their site is their name, I consider that to be spam.

And then you have these ridiculous ones which are just generated by bots that just try to come in and post a whole bunch of links. Okay, this is comment spam. Now, I use Akismet as the tool for blocking a comment spam and it’s the only tool I use and almost never does spam make its way into my moderation queue because of this. And you can see there’s currently 373 spam comments in the spam queue although if we look at my stats you know, in the last 60 days, it’s blocked 4136 spams. All time, it’s blocked 12741 spams. So and you can see that in that time, there’s only been 1 case where I said that it wasn’t spam. And so, I do check that spam folder from time to time, just to make sure there aren’t any false positives.

But anyway, Akismet is the tool that I use. Nowadays, Akismet costs something and I keep promising people that I will look at some of the free alternatives to Akismet and I haven’t done that yet, unfortunately. So I don’t have a suggestion for you as an alternative. I will say that you know, for $10 a month, it does a remarkable job. However, if you’ve got 100 blogs or 100 places you want to prevent spam from, it’s not inexpensive. They’ve talked about changing that to you know, to controlling it on subdomains rather than on every individual domain… I mean, controlling it on the domain as a whole, including all subdomains which can be a way of saving some money but I promise I will look at other alternatives and get back to you with this.

Somebody asked, “Is there a cost for Akismet?” and the answer is yeah, I think it’s $10 a month is what it costs right now unless you’re a nonprofit of something like that. But for commercial use, it’s $10 a month.

And let’s see, I lost track on where I was on this. So oh yeah, back to Discussion settings. So then we have content moderation and you can set you know, how many times you want to, for example, how many links. So if you’re a regular commenter on my site and you put 3 links in, it’s still going to hold your comment for moderation on my site. It won’t kill it, it’ll just hold it for moderation. Now I can say how many links I want to allow before I have to moderate. I figure 2 is good enough but you can do whatever you want.

And then what you can do is you can also put words or IP addresses or URLs or email addresses… anything in that you want to trigger automatic comment moderation, you can put into here including you know, swear words and stuff like that. If you want to double check you know, comments before approval that perhaps, objectionable language.

And then the same thing is true with the blacklist although it won’t be moderated. It won’t go into moderation. You could you know, put penis enlargement and Viagra and stuff like that in here and the blacklist will automatically spam anything that has those things in it. So that’s comment moderation.

And then avatars, again, a big part of this interaction on the web between you and blogs you read and you as a blog owner and your readers is you know, making a personal connection and an important way of making that personal connection is via an avatar. So you can set your avatars to display first to show avatars and then you know, you can make sure that you can set the rating required for avatars and then you can set the default avatar. Now what will happen is that if you select any one of these things, Identicon, Wavatar, Monster ID or Retro, these things are automatically generated avatars based on you know, your IP address or the email or whatever. By default, WordPress goes out to gravatar, to grab the name or the avatar of the person. And so, you can either have a mystery man or you can have blank if they don’t have any avatar or you can put the gravatar logo or one of these other things.

Now on my site, there’s one other permutation of that and that is in fact, this mystery man is being superseded by my forum plugin which substitutes a different avatar for mystery man. But anyway, that’s comment moderation.

So then in fact, that’s Discussion Settings from this page. You can also set settings specifically on a post by post basis. So if we go over and take a look at Posts… so you can have those general settings the way you want them and then you can come along and change those settings if you want as well on a post by post basis. And you would do that on the post edit screen under Discussion. Now Discussion is down here near the bottom and if you scroll down there to the bottom and don’t see it, you just have to come back here to the top, go to Screen Options and select Discussion so that it shows up. And then you can scroll back down here and now, Discussion shows.

And you could decide… well, I’m not going to allow trackbacks and pingbacks on this page. Well, I’m not even going to allow comments on this page. And if you do that and then we hit update for example, and then view this post, you can see that whole comment box is not here anymore. If we go to our blog page and we look at the rotated image post… pardon me, if we look at the rotated image post, here’s our comment, right? Because comments are allowed in this page but if we go back and instead of our… we look at… well, which one was it looking at? It was looking at another Mt. Rainier picture. Now the comments are completely gone.So you have post by post control over this as well.

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