Blog Feedback: Nested Or Chronological Comments?

As some of you guys know, the blog underwent a massive redesign a bit over a month ago. The most exciting changes were on the back end, as the old version of WordPress that we were using lacked so much functionality.

But beyond that, hopefully the blog now looks like it’s actually from this century, and hopefully the blog’s new features are useful.

There’s one thing I’ve been getting a lot of mixed feedback about, and I think it’s time once and for all to make a decision on it. In general I’m very much an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of guy, though that’s what lead to me having exactly the same blog design for over six years, so clearly that doesn’t always end well. ­čśë

At the same time, the single thing I enjoy most about writing this blog is interacting with you guys, in particular in the comments section. Whether it’s agreeing, disagreeing, or calling me an a#&hole (all of which are valid), I love hearing what you guys have to say.

As a result, the single area I’ve been most reluctant to change is the comments section, since I don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes the lively discussions that happen there.

In terms of comment organization, there are two main options:

Chronological comments (the status quo)

If you check out the comments section now, you’ll see that the comments are displayed chronologically. The way I see it, the big benefit of this approach is that if you want to “follow” the discussion in the comments section, it’s easy to see who left the last comments. In other words, if you read the first 20 comments of a post yesterday and come back the next day and there are 30 comments, you’ll know that the last 10 comments displayed are new ones.

Disqus/nested comments

Nowadays the more popular type of commenting system involves nested comments.

Basically you have the ability to reply directly to someone else’s comment, and it will then be displayed below it. For example, Hack My Trip uses nested comments, so if you check the comments section of a post like how much “Plucky” loves Lufthansa, you’ll see it there:

Nested-Comments

The one downside of this type of commenting system, as far as I’m concerned, is that you can’t easily go back and see the most recent comments that were left. For example, if you read all 20 comments of a post and come back a day later and it has 30 comments, you can’t just scroll to the bottom and assume those are the most recent comments. Instead the most recent comments could be scattered throughout the post, in reply to other commenters.

So please help let me know which system you guys would prefer — what’s easiest for you to read, and which would make you most likely to comment? Please vote in the poll below and let me know in the comments section if you have any further thoughts! Thanks!

Which type of commenting system should the blog use?

View Results

Comments

  1. Nested by a country mile.

    So annoying to have to see the responses, if there are any, by searching through what can be dozens and dozens of comments.

  2. Nested for sure, Ben… Especially for those popular posts (see Korean Air JFK Lounge vs. The Gays)…

  3. Nested, but with a max indent after which they become a flat list. Nothing more annoying than a response 4 deep or so which turns into one letter per line on a mobile device (and as such, unreadable).

    Also, would like the total # of comments to appear at the start of the comments – having it at the top is nice but not the place I usually want to check it.

  4. I myself think would prefer chronological. If i am searching back to see new posts (i hate subscribing to comments) going to the end and working my way up to where i last was is so much easier. And, to AJK, its not hard to find responses to posts as long as users reply to that post by including the posters name (like I just did). ctrl+F and its a piece of cake.

    Personally, I use the comment section on this blog more than others, because this is not nested…

  5. I like nested, though I HATE Disqus. It’s the least engaging comment software I’ve ever seen. Always lagging, not logging in,…

  6. I like the chronological because I leave the page open in a tab and read it every day to see the updates. I do miss the numbers as I think it helps to be able to refer back to a specific post.

  7. Nested, for sure.

    Can’t count the times when I go the last post and it reads something like

    “@Fred – Typically Wednesdays only.”

    I then have to scroll backwards chronologically to find what Fred’s original question was.

    Could just be my problem, as I follow your threads and sometimes the comments keep coming in for hours or even days.

  8. Nested simulates interaction — it allows for people to talk to each other (in writing). I read your blog on my smartphone and cannot use CTRL-F to find and replace. I avoid commenting on this blog for that reason.

    Also, I posted 2 comments on ask lucky. chronological comments resulted in you responding only to the 2nd because I assume you thought Andy’s 1st question was already answered.

    Thanks for everything you do! Hope to see nested comments. Also, you might want to consider changing the ask lucky page.

  9. @ John — I can in theory, but the problem is now the Ask Lucky page (and any post with more than 250 comments) is paginated, so the numbering resets every page. Just seemed like that would be more annoying than not having the numbers.

  10. But no disqus please

    MileValue has nested comments without discus.

    Discus has a mobile feature but half the time it takes 20 min to load or gives error message

    Please excuse poor grammar

  11. I’ll give some feedback on why I continue to prefer nested comments: As the blogger, it’s much easier for me to follow individual conversations and respond to people asking different questions. There is not much inconvenience finding the latest message because Disqus sends an alert for each comment with a link to it.

    Readers who subscribe to Disqus can get similar updates with links back to the responses to their own comments. It is a very effective system, but all of this “convenience” requires that you sign up for Disqus.

    Otherwise I agree it can get confusing. Those who want to stay anonymous or who want to read comments without contributing their own probably find the chronological method easier. I often fit that description when I read other sites, but I’m not responsible for responding to all the comments on those sites.

  12. Nested.

    Chronological with preceding @name to indicate a reply is silly, especially when so many people DON’T use it.

  13. Definitely nested. When viewing your response to a comment, I have to go back up and find out who you were talking to and what their issue was. It also makes it easier to see when new comments have been added or when people have replied to a specific comment. You could always have a comment count of the original comments, but people interested in a discussion that the article provokes can stay tuned more easily. And chronological comments are so last century…

  14. @Stratos (<— something which would not be required with nested comments!)

    Sure, one could use CTRL+F to find a comment, but it gets really tedious really fast if you have to do that more than a couple times.

    @Lucky

    The chief difference between chronological and nested comments, IMO, is that chronological comments incentivize one-off rants/insights, while nested comments foster actual *conversation.* If it's the latter you want to actually see on your blog, as opposed to "@s" everywhere, go with nested.

  15. Given how popular your blog is nowadays, I’d say chronological (with comments having a number) similar to Flyertalk.
    I personally prefer nested comments so I can follow a side conversation but I feel that is more effective in blog posts that have smaller readership.

  16. Nested please!

    Either that or start quoting the entire message you’re replying to so I can tell which question is being answered without having to scroll back and forth over and over and over again.

  17. nested for sure, streamlines the convos so much more and makes em that much easier to follow.

    right now its a hassle to go back and see what someone replied to (without context several posts down the line) … who cares about chronology when platforms like disqus TELL YOU exactly what all the new comments are. its a much more advanced system and the nay sayers may not be aware of that systems full capabilities for an improved comment interaction format.

  18. Is there a software or system available that allows the reader to toggle between the two methodologies to sort comments as preferred, similar to how you can sort by oldest / newest / most popular comments in some setups? If not, someone should invent that — everyone wins. One issue I see would be that when sorted chronologically, the original comment / response structure might become unclear, but I’m sure that could be addressed with an automated tag of some sort.

  19. Interesting how the the poll, as of this writing, is slightly skewed in favor of chronological (77 v. 67), whereas, of the 27 (now 28 comments)–the people actually commenting–only three prefer chronological.

    I think that in and of itself is quite telling.

  20. Without a doubt, chronological.

    Nested comments just seem to devolve into back-and-forth conversations rather than actual subject matter related commentary.

    If you want somewhere for your friends to chat, set up a chat room or a discussion forum. This is your blog. Treat it accordingly.

  21. Diamond Vargas nailed it. Sometimes long chronological threads are hard to read but it’s easier to find recent information. Is there a nested system that identifies the date I was last viewed a page and shows me comments since that date in BOLD?

    One thing I like about FT is that when I go back to a very long, active thread I can look at the page numbers on the bottom: dark blue is unread, light blue shows I’ve clicked on that link.

  22. I vote with @Diamond Vargas for a toggle system. If that doesn’t work, then nested.

    Also, make the Ask Lucky page searchable. There is some real gold in there that is now buried deeply.

  23. @ AJK: Does that mean people who actually DO comment prefer nested, and “lurkers” prefer chrono? And if that is the case, which group generates for revenue for Ben?

    Another idea I’ve seen that is useful is the “most liked” comments to the top option. These tend to be the most intelligent and relevant comment, less useful stuff drops out of sight quickly.

    And of course there can be sticky or wiki headers for people who keep asking the same questions or for significant recent changes to a topic.

  24. Chronological! I agree with @SeanM that nested commentary fosters segues into unrelated discussions. And I very much like being able to see the most recent comments.

  25. Nested please! Not everyone follows the @terminology correctly and finding related comments can be a pain instead of having the question/comment and responses right there together. For people who prefer to know about new comments, there is always the option to subscribe to the post and you get all the new comments. There is no workaround for for getting a more organized version of comment section.

  26. Chronological Please, at the moment, I don’t think you are getting over 100 comments per post, and thus its really not that much to scroll through.

  27. I prefer nested. There is a non-travel-related forum I read, Chowhound, whose comments sections are nested, but if you are logged into the site, it will collapse all the comments that were there the last time you visited and only shows the new comments. You can, of course, uncollapse them to view all. You can also choose to view them newest first or oldest first. Since Disqus has a login feature, is this possible for you to implement? It seems like the best of both worlds, but I’m not familiar with what feature Disqus offers on the backend.

  28. Lucky,

    How does changing the comments format affect the existing comments on your website, particularly the Ask Lucky page?

  29. @ Charlotte — I’d have to manually go back and “nest” many of them. Or they just wouldn’t show as nested.

  30. I’m genuinely surprised to see chronological winning the vote. I wonder what people prefer about it since for me it means I have to scroll up and down to combine the the questions with the answers. If using @username turned the other post into a quote then I probably wouldn’t care but just seeing @name doesn’t remind me what they were asking or if it mattered to me. If folks are worried about being able to tell which responses are new there are ways to add highlights to nested replies which are new. There’s also the rather simple fact that most of Lucky’s posts don’t receive many replies beyond the first or second day after being published.

  31. Chronological unless there’s a way for new nested comments to be highlighted or emphasized some other way when you return to the page again.

  32. The one common refrain from people who are anxious about a switch to nested comments is:

    “But how will I be able to see all the new comments?!!?!?!?”

    If I had to guess, upwards of 90% of Lucky’s posts have less than 100 comments, 95% of which probably are said in the first 24 hours of a post.

    Simple solution for all you chicken littlers out there:

    –Click “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” and you’ll get an email for those posts on which you’re interested in receiving the new comments.

    If history is any indicator, your e-mail won’t be bombarded, your productivity won’t plummet, and the rest of us can enjoy a more organized and streamlined commenting structure.

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