Reply via email for WordPress blogs
September 1st, 2009 by ravi

Earlier this year, the chaps at WordPress added a very useful feature for blog owners: reply to comments via email. No longer do you have to plod through the comments responding to them via the reply form or through the Dashboard comment section (which despite admirable enhancements still does not offer a threaded view, making it difficult to tell if you have already responded to a comment — a very real concern for a forgetful dweeb like me).

Excellent, you say. Indeed, but the nub of it is that this brilliant new feature is unavailable for self-hosted WordPress blogs (no doubt, in part due to the intricacies of tying up with the email system of the blog owner). Needless to say there has been some anguish in the community.

In a comment in the original announcement, when posed the question of the lack of love for his grown-up children, Matt suggests that they adoptĀ Intense Debate. My problem with sites like Disqus and IntenseDebate (more with the former, as it will turn out shortly) is that they inject themselves in all sorts of nefarious ways into your blog, altering the look and feel of it, hijacking your comments, and leave you feeling dirty and exploited. That was my impression after a brief and unrequited affair with Disqus.

Matt’s prompting helped overcome my trepidation of engaging with IntenseDebate, and I signed up with great caution, to find that indeed they too wished to reach third base with my comments on the first date. However, IntenseDebate (henceforth ID) did offer a gentler side and here is how to get to it:

  • First, when you sign up and configure ID refuse its insidious offer to import your comments. Those belong to you, and they should stay in the WordPress DB.
  • Second, in the Settings section for ID (in your blog Dashboard) instruct ID to use the WP Comment Template, the WP Standard Comment Links and WP Standard Moderation (see image).

And with those changes you now retain control of your comment system: the comments are rendered using the theme of your choice, they are stored in your DB, and yet, you get to use IntenseDebate’s very useful features, in particular, the one that gave rise to this post: respond to comments via email.

UPDATE: IntenseDebate seems to be misbehaving a bit for me (perhaps due to my cavalier attitude above?). It occasionally eats up comments or my responses to them — I do not discern the cause or pattern at work here, but I am worried enough that I am turning off IntenseDebate on my blog for now. I have sent them email and will post updates here.

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