Almost exactly a year from today, we decided to make a major switch in our site and ran Livefyre Commenting System to replace the default WordPress comments. It was a product that we fell in love with from the start, and we established great relationship with the folks in the company. Unfortunately, with our recent overhaul, we made the decision to part ways from Livefyre. A lot of our users have been asking us to do a detailed article on the new design and changes. The most common question we were getting was why did we switch from Livefyre. In this article, we will give you some insights into the decision of switching away from livefyre and reverting back to the default WordPress comments.
Why we initially fell in love with Livefyre
Livefyre offered real-time comments, “reduced” spam because of registration requirement, integrated with social media and brought conversation back to the site. Livefyre allowed sign-on with facebook, twitter etc as well. The thought of reducing server load was also in the back of our mind. All that sounds great, but as our site grew we saw us running into a few issues.
What the heck happened?
1. Real-Time Comments
We really enjoyed the real-time comments feature because we were able to have some great chat-like conversations in our comments. It was the best engagement experience that we have ever seen from comments. However, real-time comments got harder to moderate. Spammers realized that they were only a single registration away from getting all of their comments approved on our site.
Note: Normally we would never publish emails or IP addresses of users. This is a spammer, and we feel that it is only fair to reveal their identity.
Back to the point. So we found ourselves cleaning up a lot of these comments on a regular basis. Some would even escape our eyes and stay in for months until a user sees it and reports it as SPAM. One of the reasons why we kept this feature going while moderating these comments was that the user’s link was pointed to their livefyre profile rather than their actual website. So we weren’t out-linking to bad neighborhood sites. This came to an end when Livefyre decided to launch a new feature that allowed users to add their own website links and giving website publishers NO CONTROL over this option. We started seeing an increase in SPAM comments, so we quickly disabled the real-time feature (which was the main the thing that attracted us to Livefyre in the first place).
2. Like SPAM
One of the things that sold us to the idea was that requiring registration will reduce spam. Well that was totally WRONG. Livefyre has a feature called Like. Which obviously was created with great intentions. However, the system is being heavily abused. Let us explain the process. Any registered livefyre user can like a comment if they agree with what is being said. When a user likes a comment, their avatar shows up next to the comment with a direct backlink to the user’s site. Not to mention it is a DO-FOLLOW backlink. Below is a screenshot from Livefyre’s blog itself where you can see Like SPAM in works.
In the example above, this spammer is not a very smart one. He is using the default mystery man avatar. The spammers on our site were smarter. They had their logos as avatar. So you would see a colorful bunch of mini-icons that were being linked to spammy SEO sites, credit card offer sites etc. Some might not believe this to be a real thing, but this is happening. Below is one of the users’s profile that we reported to Livefyre almost a month ago.
No action has been taken so far. The spammer’s profile is still active or at least seems active (because it is visible). Now either this guy really loves every single comment he reads, or they are a spammer. We choose to believe the latter. Don’t believe us, go check out the site link mentioned in his profile, it is an adsense farm website.
Now you are thinking what we described above is bad. The worst part is that there is no notification of who liked what on your website. There is no way for you to know who is SPAMMING your site. The only way to find out is if a user reports it to you, or you accidentally go to one of your older posts and notice this.
When we found out that we were a victim of Like SPAM on numerous articles through out the site (and probably more that we didn’t know about), we knew that we had to switch right away. We felt helpless and out of control. One of the downside for not owning your content.
3. Social Conversation
Social conversation is a very nice option that Livefyre provides. You can choose to bring in your conversations from Twitter and Facebook back to the article. In theory this sounds great, however it has yet to be perfected. We saw a lot of irrelevant comments coming from Twitter. It is a good idea, it just needs more perfection and a better filter. We tried this feature on our site, and it did not work as great as it should have.
When choosing to use Livefyre, we were under the impression that there was a two-way communication between Livefyre and your WordPress database. Which would mean that you can use WordPress moderation to approve, delete, or reply to comments. Well that was not TRUE. It seemed to work for us in the beginning, but recently it backfired. We updated the Livefyre plugin, and all of the sudden we had hundreds of comments pending moderation. Turned out all the comments we had moderated already were back (and marked as pending). Not sure what happened there. We contacted Livefyre support and got the response:
It sounds like you’re trying to moderate comments from within the WordPress Dashboard, which we do not support at the moment i.e changes within your dashboard won’t sync to Livefyre.
We are sure that it was working in the past. Don’t recall which version upgrade it was, but it seemed to mess things up. Talked with a good friend Mitch Canter (@studionashvegas), and he said it worked on his site too. He said it still works for him. So we are not entirely sure what went wrong, but nonetheless, we were left with hundreds of comments to go through and re-moderate.
We were told that in order for this to work, we have to moderate the comments using the Livefyre Moderation Panel. There were quite a few reasons why we absolutely disliked the livefyre administration panel from the start.
- No Bulk Moderation – If you want to delete multiple comments or mark them as spam, there is no way to do it easily. You have to do it individually. This remains to be the problem even in their NEW interface.
- Poor Individual Moderation – Simply deleting a comment requires 2 clicks. One is the decision to delete, then giving the reason to delete. This can get tedious. This remains to be the problem in their NEW interface.
- No control over comments – When we made the decision to switch, there was no option to edit user’s comment. This made it harder to enforce comment guidelines. For example someone leaves a great comment, but ends a signature link (which we do not allow). We either have to accept the comment as-is or delete it. This is fixed in their new interface. You can now edit comments.
- Replying is a PAIN – For a site like ours, we often find a need to reply to comments. There is no easy way to do this. You will see the comment in livefyre moderation panel. You have to open the article where you can see the comment as pending. Approve it, and then reply from there. This makes the Livefyre moderation panel pretty much useless. In WordPress backend moderation, there is a really cool feature called Reply and Approve. So you can reply to the comment without ever opening a new tab/window for the post.
5. Formatting Issues
We noticed that Livefyre was adding additional CSS as comments text for some users. It has to be some sort of user-end issue because it was only happening to a handful, but we value all of our users. Not sure if this has been fixed or not.
Another thing we noticed was that adding line breaks in your comment was a pain. So we would try to reply to someone and paste a link. However Livefyre’s auto-formatting would get rid of those. Sometimes even caused the links to be broken, so we would have to add extra spaces between the link and the text after that. The biggest problem was that when you are typing, you can use Shift + Enter, and it will show you that the line break was there. See the image below:
6. Not a Fair Compromise
When deciding to use Livefyre, we made some compromises. We gave up some opportunities to get other cool features that Livefyre was providing. But after using Livefyre for an extensive period and see the downsides, we felt that we did not make a fair compromise. Let us elaborate a little bit.
No Custom Styling
We were well aware of this when we switched to Livefyre. Anytime you use a third party script, you lose control over some of the styling. Currently our comment design matches the theme, and it looks beautiful. With Livefyre we did not have control over the looks as much. They do not have the white-labeling option available for the general public. However, we do believe that this service is provided for enterprise level customers.
No Lead Generation from Comments
We knew that once we switch to Livefyre, we would lose the lead generation opportunities from the comment form. We were doing comment redirects for first time users as well as giving the users an ability to subscribe to the newsletter from the comments. We talked with the Livefyre team about adding this. The bottom line was that there is no SIMPLE solution. The solution they proposed was that there is an API available which we can use to hook into their system and collect emails if the user checked the checkbox. There was no possible way to do comment redirect.
Our team’s thought process went a little like this:
In order for us to use this platform and get the features we want, we have to build it ourselves. Whereas there is a perfectly good commenting system in place which is much easier to work with. There are plenty of plugins already available. Well the decision was unanimous.
Again, we were aware of this when we signed up to use Livefyre. We knew that we would have to require our users to sign up with a third-party service “Livefyre” to comment on our site. We believed that it was for the greater good because we will have meaningful conversation and other added features. All the WordCamps we attended, we always had a few users come up and complain about the commenting system. We got numerous user emails about it as well. Folks were having trouble commenting behind a firewall, some folks just felt their freedom to comment on WPBeginner was lost. Yes, a few months back Livefyre added guest commenting as a feature. But it still encourage users to signup with Livefyre afterwards. This again was not a fair compromise. We let our users down. A lot of them stopped commenting. Few would comment via email to let us know if we made a mistake etc. This was really disappointing for us. Some of these users said, they would happily register to comment, if they were signing up for WPBeginner. But we were requiring them to signup with a third party. We talked with Livefyre about this. They do have an enterprise API that will let you keep your own user base. All user data would be yours. However, the integration process didn’t seem as straight forward. Don’t recall the whole thing, but basically we would have to create a separate bbPress or BuddyPress database to hold all users. It just sounded too confusing. We chose not to go forward with that.
At the time, these compromises did not sound like a big deal compared to all the cool features that we were getting with Livefyre. However as time went by, we were able to see a clearer picture from our experience.
So What Now?
Well, we have switched back to the built-in WordPress commenting system. Few users emailed us asking what we are using to add the sign in with Twitter / Facebook option that you see below. We are using a combination of two plugins (by the same author @otto42) called Simple Twitter Connect and Simple Facebook Connect.
Update October 12, 2012: We got rid of both twitter login and FB login options mainly because we saw that people weren’t using it as much. Getting rid of them makes a significant impact on load times. We would rather have the site faster for the majority
We have met and talked with numerous users who love using Livefyre. While it was not a right fit for our site, you are more than welcome to try it out for yourself. We would like to hear your thoughts on Livefyre. If you have an opinion, feel free to comment below.