please comment to test comments

The forum-like tracking comments plugin, that I talked about earlier, is now live on this blog (thanks for the great work Enej!): see recent comment link above the header.
It works, it is stable and it covers the basics that we have originally defined:

  • Ability to expand/collapse post and its comments (little plus in front of post);
  • Sort the posts by
    • time published (default, though I think we should make sorting by latest comments default),
    • name of the post,
    • author,
    • number of comments,
    • date/time of the latest comment.

Now that it is live, I see that few small things could be added:

  • Remove the posts with no comments – the point of this plugin is to show activity on posts;
  • Tighten up the user interface to look better, perhaps apply gray to the first row (one that carries the columns’ names);
  • Ability to expand/collapse ALL post with one click (big plus in the header of the table, left of the post);
  • Add the date/time for each comments;
  • Ability to sort comments by date/time;
  • Trim the post to first X words with more link to load the full post (since it is your post you do not really the whole thing here);
  • Limit posts to latest 10 or so with see more link that will load all other comments;
  • Have a little control panel (options) thing so that the user could setup the preferences for the most of the above (how many post/comments, default sorting, exclusion of certain columns – like author in personal blogs, etc…).

We have submitted the code to WordPress Codec, and once it is published I hope that others will join to  continue the development of this plugin.

So, please support this plugin and comment on the this post and previous posts to give this plugin a proper test!

forum-like blog comments

One critique of using WordPress as a LMS that keeps coming back to me, is that discussions (or comments, depending on where you’re coming from ;) are not easy to track or find.

I heard that, while users enjoy the flexibility, openness and many other cool 2.0 qualities of WP, they often miss the simple forum interface found on WebCT or on many web bulletin boards.

So, here is the problem: Typically, “discussion” page within WP is a simple post with open comments. Now imagine that typical course may have many (sometime over 20) pages that are very active with lot of comments posted. How can one track all those comments? Here are few ways:

  • Get the recent comments feed into your favourite RSS reader and keep looking through.
    Problems: Lot of WP blogs are closed with no available feeds. For those that are open, it involves setup time and many students are not familiar with the concept of RSS and feed readers.
  • Publish the recent comments feed right on the course homepage so that students can find the new comments as soon as they get to the site.
    Problem: Typically, you can publish only certain number of comments on the homepage, let’s say 20. So if one page had a heavy discussion within the last few hours, other pages that had discussions earlier won’t even be featured on the homepage.

The idea (proposal for a WP plugin): Create a page that will list in the chronological order the pages that have were last commented.

This could be the dedicated recent comments page:

With a bit of AJAX, we could also have the little Plus sign on the left expanding the page’s comments, right there on the aggregated comments page view.

Combined with some sort of threaded discussion plugin, this extension should significantly increase the usability of WordPress as a teaching platform.