The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Blog Comments Active For All Years

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The main point of this blog entry is to let folks know that I have turned on Blog Commenting for all years and to encourage people to use it. If you want to move on to a cooking related entry you can. For those who want a little more background information, please read on there is a little more to it than that. Blog comments and how they have not worked well for me, has been a sore point with me throughout the life of this site. It isn’t that I don’t like blog comments, I do actually. Please post away and let me know what you like and dislike about a blog entry. It has been the way blog comments were implemented within the site in the past that I didn’t like.
Traditionally, and for reasons I will explain below, this site has always had blog commenting. But the comments were only for the active year’s blog. As I would start a new blog page for another year I would turn off blog commenting for the previous year. Blog comments were always a battle between convenience and aesthetics for me. I let aesthetics drive the bus and so my convenience and that of the commenter sometimes suffered.

This site was originally created on Apple’s iWeb software. It was as much an experiment as any thing else. I decided to do a blog for the site, because I there was a Blog Page page type, and I wanted to see what blogging was all about. I really didn’t know what I was going to write about and didn’t know how long I’d keep it up. As it turned out I found plenty to write about. But I also don’t consider myself a Blogger (capital B), I happen to have a blog on my site. I consider the main purpose of the site to be the food photos that I share with anyone who is into food photography. The site is a picture based site with a blog. Version 1.0 of iWeb didn’t have commenting and you had to rely on third party software which inserted the proper HTML code into the main blog page of your site. You had to do this EVERY time you uploaded a change to the site. Needless to say: This was very inconvenient. Even worse IMHO were the aesthetic issues. This code you inserted allowed commenting via a 3rd party site. Posting a comment brought you to a third party website where the actual commenting was done. I never liked the way this looked. You were suddenly removed from this site to another site that had a totally different appearance to make your comments. There were different themes you could use, but they were all just as ugly as the default theme and never came close to looking like my site. On the good news side of the fence: You got email notifications which let you know whenever a comment was posted. This was very convenient.

Less than a year after iWeb was introduced, an update added the ability to do blog comments from within iWeb. Apple, as it often does, thought differently about blog commenting. The blog comments were done with some sort of java script mechanism which was built into the .Mac website. The only way you could use these comments was if your site was hosted with Apple’s .Mac service. I was a .Mac member so this wasn’t a problem. The integral comments appeared at the bottom of the page and looked like part of your page. Comments were brain dead simple to activate. Select a single check box and you were done. No longer did you have to use a special tool to insert a code onto you main blog page(s) after each upload. The notification method was totally different too. Instead of email, you were notified from within iWeb in three different ways by little comment badges. The only problem was it often just didn’t work. You didn’t get notified immediately like you were supposed to. In August 2010 I logged into iWeb to add a new page to the site and found I had 6 new comments in various blog entries dating back 2 up to months. There were also several instances where I lost blog comments. Sadly I’ve lost about 1/3 of the comments posted on this site through no real fault of my own. This quirky notification system was one of the main reason I’d deactivate blog comments for all but the current years blog. I’d often have to go online and check for comments in my web browser every time. I just couldn’t trust the notification system in iWeb and as I added more entries and more year’s blogs it was getting impossible to manage.

This past spring when Apple announced they were no longer going to provide web hosting after June of 2012 and that was the last straw. They were no longer actively developing iWeb either. Sure I could move to another ISP and keep using iWeb, but blog comments, slide shows and several other items that were hard wired into the Apple hosted web site would no longer work. That was the impetus for me to either kill the site entirely and move on or find new software and a new host. After 6 year’s growth the task of migrating this site to new software was daunting to say the least. I spent nearly three months on the task, and when it was done I’d had more than enough fun playing with my site. One of the reasons I chose RapidWeaver was it’s backend capabilities. Provisions for things like blog comments, guest books, site analytics were built in and just several clicks away. Because some of these items were much more difficult in iWeb I thought they would take days to implement and instead they took hours. Another reason I chose RapidWeaver was for aesthetics. These third party items hosted on remote sites were implemented so they could blend right in with you current theme so it looked like part of the page.

I think it was my fatigue from the 3 months spent working on the site, but when it came time to activate blog comments I reverted to my iWeb based practices. I turned on blog comments for the 2011 blog only. It certainly wasn’t difficult. You chose the comment service you wished to use in a popup menu and RapidWeaver took care of the rest. I am using the Disqus service and after you chose Disqus in the popup menu you must supply your short name (think user name). That was it. These comments work and work well. They appear as an integral part of the page so any aesthetics issues are a thing of the past. The notifications are rock solid. I suspected this would be the case back in August when the site went live. I just didn’t know it yet through actual hands-on experience. So I stuck to having active comments for only this year’s 2011 BBQ Blog. I have found the new site is visited far more often, something I hadn’t anticipated. I believe the reason for this is moving off the Apple servers has made this site far more accessible to the various search engines. With RapidWeaver I was easily able to register with the major search engines and automatically ping them when the site is updated. More people on the site has meant more people reading the blogs from all of the years. Also the individual blog entries are showing up in search queries. A small amount of the blog entries are time sensitive, but most of them are still quite relevant today.

Several times a month since August, I have gotten message from folks who were looking at past year’s blog posts and had a question or comment. Since there were no blog comments for 2010 or before, they had to use the Contact form. Nothing wrong with that, but many times their comment or question (and possibly my answer) was something that might help others. The Contact Form queries would have been better served if they had been a blog comment. This got me thinking about turning blog comments on for all years. The entire process would take me less than a minute to activate commenting for the 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 blogs. But there was one last problem to solve. What to do about the old comments? There was no way to migrate them from iWeb to Disqus when I redid my site, so I copied and pasted the text to the bottom of the appropriate blog entry. I transferred the legacy comments, the poster name and post date in by hand and tried to format it in such a way that it looked as much like the current comments as possible. It didn’t really look like the current comments and I was worried it would be confusing to have two different looks for the comments. Plus since the old comments came first and the Disqus comments came after, a potential comment poster would not see the “Comment” buttons until they scrolled way down the page. So I held off reactivating all comments until I figured out a solution. I finally figured something out yesterday. It was as simple as reposting the various comments as new Disqus comments using a different Guest user for each poster. I copied and pasted in the body text and added the original post date at the bottom. The “Originally Posted...” line item appears just above new Disqus generated post date and I think it is clear enough. To make the new post I had to log out as myself and post as a Guest. You need to give then a valid email address to post so I used one of my seldom used email addresses. For the Guest name I used the original posters name. It worked like a charm with one exception. If this is something you are thinking of doing yourself for your own legacy blog comments, be sure to read the sidebar for the one gotcha. If not skip past the sidebar.

There was one gotcha I found in doing this migration process. As I mentioned you must give Disqus a valid email address to post. Then you are free to use whatever name you wish. The gotcha is if you are trying to migrate posts from more than one guest user on a particular blog entry, you must use a different email address for each unique guest user. Strangely enough this on applies on a per page basis. So on the same page Guest User A must use Email Address A and Guest User B must use Email Address B. If you use Email Address A for Guest User B, the name on Guest User A’s post(s) get changed to Guest User B’s name. Now if you are posting in two separate blog entries you can use the same email address for the different guest names. Just don’t use the same email address for two different Guest Users on the same blog post.

I have migrated all of the old posts into Disqus and the commenting function is available on every year’s blog. For any of you original posters: Your comments were migrated verbatim via copy and paste. I did not change the content of your comment. The reason I mention this is because you will see several comments say “Moderated”. I had to edit several of the comments because I can’t manage to spell “Originally” and got it wrong several times when typing “Originally Posted...” and I didn’t catch it until after I’d posted.

Please feel free to use commenting for any year’s blog entry. Use it for any public comment or question you have about a blog entry. With Disqus I will get the notification in a timely manner. Use the “Contact Me” link in the masthead to send me a private email with private questions or comments you may have about the site. But if it is something that might benefit others too I encourage you to use the blog comments versus the Contact Form. I look forward to hearing from you.

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