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How to decipher the discussion settings in WordPress

Comments are referred to as discussion in WordPress, because that is what interaction is, continuing the conversation between the blogger and his/her readership, which if encouraged can become a discussion that continues the post’s subject further.

Regulating your comments (or discussion) on your blog is important, as since we are plagued with spam left, right and centre nowadays, any comments we do get should be treated like gold dust. Therefore it is necessary to go into your Settings of your WordPress blog (either .com or .org) to rearrange the discussion settings to your liking.

Look for the Settings link in the left hand sidebar of your Dashboard, and then select Discussion from the activated drop down menu.

Understanding the default discussion settings in WordPress

The first ticked box allows pingbacking, which is if you have included a link to another blog post, its author will be notified about this soon after your post had been published, and it will show up in his or her comments.

The second ticked box enables you to be notified if any pingbacks or trackbacks come to you from other blog posts, and will show up as a comment. Pingbacks are explained above (though in this case it acts the other way), and trackbacks are if another blogger has written something that is related to your post’s subject, or has quoted a part of your post in their blog, you will be notified of this so you can go and check it out. If you approve, you should thank them, as it can increase your post’s page ranking within the search engines.

The third ticked box means you accept people commenting on all of your posts. If it is unchecked it will say something like ‘Comments are closed’ at the bottom of your posts and there will be no comment box available. You can turn off comments on individual posts if you want, which is done through the ‘Quick Edit’ option (see my post about how to do this for pages, as it is a similar procedure).

Other comment settings in the Settings Discussion page

The top two options in this section refer to the permission required to leave a comment. The first box is checked by default as it is normal for a commenter to leave their name and email before submitting their response, and if there is a field for their blog’s URL or web address, that is an added bonus as it will mean their name will be a link back to their blog. This option is also one way to try and confuse robot spammers, through it doesn’t deter human ones (though what they include in these fields are a good way of sussing them out if they slip through the spam filters).

If the second box is checked, any prospective commenters who haven’t done so before on your blog will have to register themselves before they can publish their comment. This can be seen as a deterrent to any hesitant genuine commenters, but once completed and their first comment is approved, they won’t have to do this again.

The third box automates the closure of comments after a set amount of days. I can’t see why you would want to do this, as visitors can and should be able to comment at any time during the post’s life.

Showing nested or threaded commentsThe forth box really relates to discussion. Threaded or nested comments arise if a second or subsequent commenter replies specifically to a previous comment by clicking on the ‘reply’ link underneath it, and not the general ‘reply’ link below all the comments. My blog doesn’t offer this option, so I can’t use this setting here, but if it was applicable the secondary response is indented from the left underneath the one it is responding to, as shown in the image on the right. The drop down menu limits the number of indents the responses can go to, so the comments don’t get ridiculously narrow.

The fifth box refers to those bloggers who are blessed with a huge amount of comments. Here the comments can be divided up into pages to stop the post’s layout from getting too long, whether the first or last page of comments is presented directly underneath the post, and in which time hierarchy the comments are displayed.

Comment notification by email and level of moderation

What I find strange is the order WordPress places these options. Next we can activate email notifications whenever anyone leaves a comment and it is stored in the moderation page for consideration before publishing. Both boxes can be checked, but be aware that if you have a popular blog that attracts many comments your email inbox may get a little cluttered. The email used is the one specified in the Settings > General page.

I check the box that enables all comments to be manually approved, or in other words, moderated. I prefer it that way, as I like to keep a check on what is being said and sometimes to suss out the commenter before confirming what they’ve provided.

The second box below will allow a previously approved commenter to have their contribution automatically published without moderation, if you are brave enough to assume they will produce a good enough comment every time. This box is checked by default, and I always swap these over whenever I set up a new blog, especially if the owner is a bit nervous about comments. But if you are lucky enough to have a loyal band of devoted commenters at your beck and call, then by all means check the bottom box to ‘whitelist’ these followers.

How to moderate spammy links or words

One feature that marks a comment out as spam is the number of links it contains, and in the past spammers used to litter their comments with backlinks accordingly. Now they’re a bit more canny about this, but you can still force a comment into moderation by the number of links it contains. Here it is set to 2 by default.

You can also automatically send a comment for moderation by recording which words, names or IP addresses it may contain, placed in the empty field above, to trigger this reaction. Be aware that a designated spam word inside an innocent word may result in unnecessary moderation.

Blacklist moderation field

The second field is for spammy words, names and IP addresses that need to be totally blacklisted, but be aware, this will send comments into oblivion before you get a chance to check them over.

Allowing avatars to be shown and which category

Showing examples of gravatars next to commentsIf you have set up your Gravatar (Globally Recognised Avatar) or portrait icon of yourself that is recognised around the web, it will be automatically placed next to your comment on both your blog and any other blogs you comment in (the mechanism to set up your Gravatar can be accessed in Settings > General in WordPress.com blogs). This is the same for any other commenter avatars who leave a contribution to your post’s discussion.

If you don’t want gravatars to appear next to your comments, uncheck the ‘Show Avatars’ box accordingly.

And you can choose the appropriate rating for your blog, similar to that of films, that allows your Gravatar to be shown. I always select G, so I am not aware of what the other categories will result in.

Selection of custom avatars for commenters who don't have one

And if your commenters have yet to set up their Gravatars, you can choose which kind of icon will be shown next to their contribution that matches the mood of your blog, like these examples below:

Nicola's avatar Deon's avatar

Now all you need to do is to click on big blue ‘Save Changes’ button at the bottom of the page to activate all the options you have chosen.

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.
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Important GDPR stuff: before you submit your comment, you will be asked to leave your name, email and web address, so we request your permission to display this data within our comments. Be reassured this information will not be collected onto lists or used for any other purpose.

  • Deon Fialkov says:

    You are so right about the SPAM comments. When I first started blogging, I used to love all the comments I was getting. Little did I realise that those particular comments would be really really bad for my blog, so bad that my IP got blacklisted.

    Anyhow, I spoke to my ISP to sort it out and enabled a plugin that moderates comments for comment-spam.

    I am perfectly happy with Spam-bee plugin.

    • Moderation allows me to check over each comment that gets written, so I can make a decision whether they are suitable for not. Luckily for you I decided your comment was good enough, Deon, so I have published it, and better still, responded to it!

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