Forum-like blog comments

by on October 29, 2008

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.