In late March the Disqus commenting system implemented their new "collapsed replies," where comments from separate threads within the comment section were hidden behind a "show more replies" link. Readers were not pleased and made their opinions known, to us and very vehemently in Disqus' own blog post announcing this "feature."
Disqus did not, and still has not offered an opt-out to website owners to remove the feature from their websites.
Commenting was slashed by about half as of the second day of the "collapsed replies" rollout.
That is the backstory, and now we'll tell you what has been happening behind the scenes, and how this change that nobody asked for, and apparently, by reading the comments on every blog post they have posted since, where readers do not care to address the topic they are writing about at all, in favor of providing the "feedback" they keep saying they want regarding the disastrous collapsed replies implementation, they intend to continue to ignore how hated this new feature is by their users and websites owners using Disqus.
We've discovered that Disqus is only refusing to allow smaller, Independent Media websites to opt-out, while allowing liberal larger outlets like The Hill to opt-out of the collapsing replies, which indicates they are pushing yet another method to attempt to suppress Independent Media readers ability to communicate with each other on websites like ANP.
HOW UNPOPULAR IS THIS FEATURE?
The Disqus blog post announcing the collapsed reply garnered over 1,800 comments, which is far more than most their other posts, combined, because users and website owners all offered the "feedback" Disqus claimed they wanted. They got far more than they bargained as most were all overwhelmingly negative and requesting an opt-out.
To show exactly how unpopular this feature is, on their subsequent blog post a week later, about a completely unrelated topic, no one cared one iota about the chosen article topic, because users were still angered that not only Disqus refused to offer an opt-out, but were completely ignoring the fact that there was an overwhelmingly negative reaction to their arbitrary attempt to destroy comment sections.
In fact the only comments left on that thread that even mentioned the article topic of matching content to social media was a snarky response stating "What if matching your content to social media channels gets buried under the collapsed replies and no one sees it? Asking for a friend."
Nearly a month after implementing this disastrous collapsed replies feature, Disqus published another blog post about Podcasts, and again, no one cares to discuss that topic because they are unsatisfied with Disqus' blatant contempt for their own users by ignoring the feedback that they requested, so the entire thread is once again offering negative feedback about the collapsing replies.
This issue is not going away, despite the fact that they closed off the comments on the original announcement of collapsed replies because angered users are just waiting for a new post to continue offering their "feedback."
BEHIND THE SCENES.................DISQUS LIES
Behind the scenes we emailed the publisher-Disqus support team. The first email received no reply. After a few days, I sent another, but this time used one of Disqus' own blog posts to highlight that their publisher support team was ignoring the emails regarding the failed collapsed reply rollout and implementation, as well as publicly calling them out on Twitter.
Boom, I received a reply from a representative named Ryan.
The initial exchange shown below, my email to the [email protected], as well as Ryan's response, where he claims that "At this time, it is not possible to disable this thread format."
To whom it may concern:
Since the day Disqus implemented the "collapsed replies," we have received numerous complaints, and as a site owner I can tell you commenting has dropped off by more than half.
This should not have been implemented without an option to OPT OUT for website owners.
As your blog post comments show, over 90% of the responses are unfavorable, which should tell you that at least that amount would OPT-OUT.
Why would a commenting service do everything in their power to LIMIT commenting?
Please provide a way I can opt my site out of this disastrous new policy.
Thank you, Susan
Thanks for reaching out and sharing this feedback.
At this time, it is not possible to disable this thread format. However, we've seen the requests to make this optional, and will take them into account in future product development.
Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
-- Ryan from Disqus
Ryan, You were able to ENABLE this format without any input from website owners, the response has been 150/1 against it, it is ruining comment sections, so perhaps you folks should set up a simple opt-out. It is horrible when our own readers continue to send us OTHER commenting systems even knowing we would lose years of comments because they too are so unhappy with this horrible change.
It has been weeks, so we know you have had plenty of time. Please fix what YOU broke.
I received no response back...... until, Stefan highlighted to me that Ryan lied, it is possible to disable the thread format and Disqus does it for the bigger liberal websites, as he sent me the screen shot from The Hill's comment section which does not have the "collapsed reply" feature enabled. First I thought maybe the techs at The Hill had managed to disable it themselves, but Ryan's reply after I sent him that screen shot, made it very clear that they can disable the "feature" and do, just won't for smaller Independent websites.
Back to the email I went and started another chain of emails rather than just sending it Ryan, this way the "support" team, which frankly doesn't give any actual support as you can see from above, sees it.
To whom it may concern:
After receiving a very unsatisfactory reply from Ryan in regards to the destructive Disqus implementation of the collapsed Replies, to which no one is happy about, not website owners nor readers and commenters, we discovered much to our surprise that the website The Hill, which uses Disqus, does not have collapsing replies enabled.
I was very surprised since Ryan claimed in our previous email that " it is not possible to disable this thread format," yet it appears that it IS possible as is seen in the screen shot of The Hill's Disqus comment section attached below.
We too would like the "thread format" to not have collapsing replies as since the day you implemented this disastrous policy, commenting has dropped by half.
Please FIX this for our site as it is at The Hill's..... today.
So, after telling us "it is not possible to disable this thread format," we were able to show that it was possible, so then Ryan replied claiming he used a "poor choice of words," before explaining that they "are able to receive some special, one-off customizations," to their "highest tier of Business publishers."
His response in full:
Apologies for my poor choice of words.
To clarify, the collapsed replies thread structure is now our default across the entire network. We do not provide the option for this to be toggled by sites at this time.
That being said, The Hill belongs to our highest tier of Business publishers, and as a result they are able to receive some special, one-off customizations that Disqus is unable to provide network-wide.
We are still collecting feedback on this feature for use in the future, so if you have any other feedback specific to the collapsed replies functionality, please include it and we can pass it along to our team for review.
I am not sure what was more annoying, that the "support" over at Disqus would blatantly lie then claim it was a poor choice of words, or that by only allowing the "highest tier of Business publishers," being those that have the resources to become such are all liberal leaning sites like The Hill, to disable the function, our own readers and those of other smaller Independent Media websites were being discriminated against by having their ability to read and interact with each other suppressed.
My final response to Ryan made it clear we would be taking this to those that use Disqus, via an article:
We will be publishing a story with your reply, and how you first said "it is not possible to disable thread format," then now admit after we found that it IS possible, that you do it for The Hill, but not the hundreds or thousands of smaller sites that DID NOT WANT IT, yet you refuse to disable it for us smaller sites, when you have for them.
I believe all sites that use Disqus should be aware of your system of discrimination and lack of care for what website owners AND users have made very clear to you they do not like, want or appreciate as it is costing us commenters, which means revenue.
Needless to say, I haven't heard back from dear old Ryan now that they understand their lies and emails would be published.
ALTERNATIVES TO DISQUS - PROS AND CONS
We at ANP have been researching alternative commenting systems ever since Disqus joined the coordinated attack on Alex Jones and Infowars by deplatforming his presensce on web platforms, because whether one reads or likes Jones or not, that type of coordinated censorship should be condemned. What we have found is that while options are limited, there are alternatives to Disqus available, but each comes with their own set of flaws, limitations, and disadvantages.
For example, native comments, where all comments would be hosted on ANP with a built in commenting system, would cause a high server load, and would eat up our server space. Plus we are uncomfortable with the idea of hosting readers' user data. Websites with millions or billions in resources have been in the news for being unable to protect user data, and being a smaller Independent news website, we simply do not have the resources to make sure that type of data would be secure from hackers or other bad actors.
Another thing we are looking into is instead of replacing Disqus totally, simply embedding a different commenting system on top of it, allow users the choice of which system to use, and allow us to slowly phase Disqus out entirely, while not sacrificing the hundreds of thousands of comments made over the course of the past years, because while Disqus does have an exporting option, they make it clear that it may not work for all websites.
With all that said, after this article is published, being it is highly critical of Disqus, while exposing their lies to publishers about their inability to offer an opt-out, they may just deplatform us, which would mean a mad rush to embed another system for our readers and commenters, no matter the flaws and disadvantages.
(Note- If the comment section disappears, please know we will be working round the clock until we can replace it.)
Implementing a "feature" that suppresses user interaction and commenting, by a system built specifically for commenting seems counter-intuitive, unless one views it through the prism of big tech and their constant methods of deliberately trying to prevent Independent Media readers from having open discussions, while making it much easier for the liberal sites like The Hill, by not forcing them to use the collapsing comments.
Unlike Disqus who has been consistently ignoring their users' feedback, we want and do listen to our readers. When commenters made it clear they do not want to "register" just to be able to comment, we opened comments up to "guest" commenters. We specifically set the Disqus settings to allow videos, links, and images, because readers enjoy the back and forth and use all of those methods in their comments. Options that some of the alternatives do not offer.
When commenters expressed their displeasure with the collapsing replies, we went after Disqus, via email, on social media, and in their own blog posts comment sections, and we are still utilizing every option available to us to get them to offer an opt-out.
The ANP comment section is an important part of this website, where we don't just "talk" to you via our articles, we want to hear from the ANP online community as well. The choices facing us are not just mine and Stefan's, but all of ours collectively.
Please feel free to offer any comments, suggestions, tips or preferences below.
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