Rant Mode: ON
UPDATE: Since publishing this post, livefyre – much to their credit – has implemented greater options for email-based notifications. I have since turned some emails back on. It would seem they’re making progress, and it would be wrong of me to not preface this story with acknowledgment of their improvements.
Sometime in May or June of this year, I got to chatting with someone on a blog somewhere in the comments, leading me to her site to continue the conversation around a recent post she’d published. This was the first time I’d come across livefyre, a comments-handling platform similar to disqus, which I have been using on all my sites for years, now. The article was worth creating yet another proprietary account, and things started smoothly enough, but then the emails started coming in.
The Problem livefyre’s Trying to Solve
Blog comments can mean conversation, but that doesn’t mean they generally are conversation. More often than not, the comments section ends up being the author participating in a bunch of one-on-one conversations with individual commenters. Livefyre is trying to encourage everyone who comments to interact with one another in addition to the author; that is, they’re trying to drive actual conversation. Admirable, to be sure, but…
Email notification options at original posting:
Email notification options as of post update:
Here’s the Problem lifefyre Causes
Once you’ve created your account, you can choose to receive email notifications immediate, often, or never.
- Immediately – The instant someone – anyone – leaves a comment on a post you, too, have left comment, you get an email. Doesn’t matter what they say, if they contribute anything of value at all. You get Cc’d.
- Often – Take a guess! They don’t specify (and it doesn’t seem to change anything for me).
- Never – Even if someone replies to or mentions you, you stay in the dark.
Here’s What Happens, Then
You leave a comment on one of your favorite blogs, one where the posts are, more often than not, meaningful, and where you’ve been getting to know the author through conversations in the comments over time.
- If you have immediately selected: He gets 20 comments and replies to each in kind. You get 40 emails; maybe ten at a time if he replies to multiple comments at a sitting.
- If you have often selected: Since livefyre doesn’t clarify what this means (and I’ve yet to see any difference between it and immediately), the best I guess you could hope for is a sort of daily digest, where you get an email with all the day’s comments in the middle of the night, so you can go back and maybe interact with someone in yesterday’s news.
- If you have never selected: Life is good! No barrage of email! Of course, if you live and die by the email notification like I do (on dozens of blogs and forums all over the world), the onus is on you to make the rounds back to all the recent conversations you might have had over the past few days, looking for replies that didn’t happen or just not responding to people who mention you or reply to you as posts fall through the cracks.
This is just a single post on a single blog using livefyre! Imagine you like to keep up with two or three bloggers who tend to get a lot of comments. Now you’re looking at 40, 50, emails a day or more for each new post on each blog on top of the additional comments trickling in on the previous day’s conversation.
Here’s Some Ideas to Make livefyre More User Friendly
As a blogger myself, I understand the desire to build a community through comments. It’s not easy, and I’ve seen few do it better than Scott Gould, but livefyre basically forces people to choose between all or nothing. That’s not cool. Since any fool can bitch about what’s wrong, right? Here’s a couple ideas that might make livefyre less of a strifemire.
- First of all, clarify what often means on the settings page.
- Next, take a page out of the discussion forum etiquette book and provide an option to receive a single email alerting the user to replies which links to the conversation, and does not send any more alerts until such time as the user visits the page.
- While we’re at it, how about an option to select the type of alerts desired on a per-comment basis right from the page? I know you’re trying to encourage real conversations, but if I’m not yet interested in what anyone but the author or those who specifically address me have to say, give me the option to choose that, even if I have to check an additional box every time I leave a comment.
The User Experience
We, the commenters, subscribe to blogs because we believe in what the blogger has to say and because we enjoy interacting with him or her. Over time, active commenters naturally get to know each other, often leading to additional subscriptions and connections. That said, do not force us to subscribe to each other by default. That is so not cool.
Less than a week ago, I updated my Life-Changing Blogs page to include two new entries I’ve really come to enjoy of late. In the last 24 hours, both have implemented livefyre and I’m having to decide if trying to participate is worth the perceived disrespect to me and my inbox.
Rant Mode: OFF