Feature Friday: Commenter Breakdown

Today we are going to talk about a new feature right here on AVC. It's been running for a day or so, so some of you may have already noticed it. Right next to the comments link, there is a new link that says "disqus commenter breakdown". It looks like this:

Commenter breakdown

If you click on that you will get an alternative view of the comment thread – broken down by the most active commenters. You can scroll down, find the commenters you enjoy most, click on them, and read what they have to say.

Like many of the hacks featured on this blog, this was built by Kevin Marshall. He built it on top of the Disqus API.

I like applications that offer an API to developers to build alternative views for end users. And I think Disqus does this better than anyone else in the comment space.

Given how long and busy some of the comment threads are here on AVC, I can imagine a number of alternative views that one could construct that would be useful. If anyone else wants to hack on the Disqus API and create something useful, I am happy to give them similar real estate.


Comments (Archived):

  1. brian trautschold

    thanks Kevin. I expect to find a great deal of benefit in the coming weeks…already imagining some great signaling analysis & qualifiers for comments..

    1. falicon

      Cool thanks – if you have any ideas, request, or hit any snags please feel free to reach out any time!

  2. ShanaC

    Kevin, I heart you and your work, but it doesn’t appear on this page alone (it only appears on the homepage)

    1. kidmercury

      yeah would be great to have it on this page

      1. falicon

        You have to speak to fearless leader about that. 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          what do i need to do to get it on this page?

          1. falicon

            I don’t know your template/blog system but you should be able to just put the widget I sent somewhere in your template so that it renders on this page and it *should* all just work…maybe put it in the footer or someplace where it’s not cluttering up too much real estate?

  3. LE

    Nice touch. (Note there’s a fire in the boiler room that needs to be tended to.)

    1. ShanaC

      huh? what fire?

      1. LE

        The error that I attached that is thrown.

        1. ShanaC

          screenshots? I send them along to people

      2. LE

        Here’s another.

        1. falicon

          Nice – I step out for a lunch meeting and this gets posted 🙂 will fix asap

          1. Charlie Crystle

            what could possibly go wrong

          2. falicon

            If I built it…a lot 🙂

          3. Charlie Crystle

            you and me both, brutha

    2. andyidsinga

      it prime time that be taken care of 🙂

      1. falicon

        Sprinkling in a few errors is a great way to see if people actually are using stuff and care 🙂

  4. Kimberly

    I seem to be getting an error on the home page and do not see it at all when I click the blog link.

    1. kidmercury

      the error seems to happen on the link corresponding to this blog, try older ones they worked well for me

      1. LE

        Actually the first error I generated was from an older post. I posted that error.

    2. falicon

      Sorry – let me know details if you are still hitting errors. Thanks!

  5. ErikSchwartz

    I’m not seeing it.

    1. ErikSchwartz

      Oh wait. I see it on AVC.com not on the blog post page.

  6. kidmercury

    outstanding!you know how it is with APIs though. it’s all fun and games and everyone’s BFFs until someone drops a dollar into the mix, then its straight up gang warfare. best to drop the dollar in first, and become BFFs by sharing the dollar.

    1. LE

      Two towns over and I want a taste.

    2. fredwilson


    3. falicon

      Luckily dollars and I rarely mix… 😉

  7. Fernando Gutierrez

    ****ing awesome Kevin! great feature. When I’m late to the party but want to read a few comments I skip searching for a few users, so this is perfect!

    1. falicon

      That was my motivation as well (and because I am working on some summary stuff for gawk.it and needed an easy way to compare my results with what Disqus reports)

    2. Mark Essel

      Yeah same here. No time, but like to see how folks are doing.Didn’t see the link though

    3. William Mougayar

      We have to be careful about building something for a small niche of users. We are all commenting geeks here, and we take everything around comments like a kid’s toy.

      1. falicon

        agree – I find comments themselves really interesting and ripe with potential…but I do realize that I’m in a minority there and so I generally just build hacks and things to play with around that interest (and businesses like gawk.it around the things that are more useful and appealing to the masses — even if the masses don’t know it yet) 😀

        1. William Mougayar

          I love the names you come-up with Gawk.it, Greentile, KnowItKnow. Cool.

          1. falicon

            Thanks…I currently own about 60 domains…as I come up with ideas I grab a domain for it…if I don’t use it for that, I eventually use it for something fun 😉

      2. Fernando Gutierrez

        I agree, we are very niche. Most people don’t ever comment. And most sites don’t have as much activity as AVC.

  8. LE

    Kevin is hosting it at Amazon..

    1. falicon

      Us-east-1d ftw 🙂

  9. Tom Labus

    I like it!!. Congrats to Kevin, nice joib.

    1. falicon

      Thanks (and sorry for the delayed response)

  10. awaldstein

    Nice Kevin!Fred–is there a place where these hacks are listed? Honestly this is the first one for Disqus that has touched me as a user that I know about.

    1. falicon

      That other little service I do also uses the Disqus api in a lot of ways (as did Engagio I believe?)

      1. William Mougayar

        Exactly.Disqus needs to treat their API developers like an ecosystem, and they need to take that out of the closet.I’m not sure if it’s a big priority for them, or they see it as side projects, maybe a distraction at times.

        1. fredwilson

          it is a bigger priority for them than anyone else in the comments space but it could be a bigger priority. they do have a lot on their plate right now

        2. JimHirshfield

          There was outreach in this case. A conversation ensued between one of our product guys and/or @falicon:disqus and Kirsten Lambersten.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            We had a great interaction with someone at Disqus. I’m an even bigger fan now, if that’s possible 🙂

          2. JimHirshfield

            Ahh geez, that warms my heart. 🙂

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            One idea: get listed with thesmallbusinessweb.com. Lots of startups look there for services with open APIs (like MailChimp, et al)

        3. ryanv12

          You’re definitely right, and we do recognize it as a priority. You’ll definitely start to see more from us in this regard in terms of examples, features, etc. However, I personally still think that we’re missing the consumer interest that will really drive developer interest in the platform.The API is powerful enough to do many interesting things, but we see only little to moderate interest in using it. If you’re into analogies, I see this as having a huge fleet of the most modern planes available, but these planes are painted completely white.

      2. LE

        Kevin – no reason not to toot your own horn (presume you mean http://www. gawk.it ..)

        1. falicon

          But the toot is much better/louder when it comes from someone other than me 🙂

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            This gets even more interesting taken out of context.

          2. Cam MacRae


          3. LE

            By the way wanted to add that you gained actually from the fact that it was broken. Not only the obvious extra comment activity, but the fact that you fixed it from an iphone and got it done quickly.Reminds me of when we made mistakes on printing jobs back at my old company. We actually got in better with the customer because then they saw how quickly we fixed the error working overtime etc. So we came out ahead (unless of course it became a regular occurrence). I can’t stress enough how good it was that things like this happened.I almost always put responsiveness above quality. I have a guy or two who do work for me that make mistakes from time to time. But they pick up the phone or returns my calls/texts/emails really quickly even when they’re on vacation or overseas. Even if just to say “I’m at the mall I’ll be on this as soon as I get home”.That said I don’t deploy software within any time period that I know that I won’t be available or the contractor is not available I’ve learned from experience that shakedown is inevitable and that unexpected problems crop up.

          4. falicon

            Thanks! It was not ideal to fix in-transit but that is how the timing worked out…luckily they were all small things and I have iSSH on my phone for just these ‘worst case’ scenarios ;-)I’m a big fan of release/react quickly…better when things just work, but generally not so bad as long as communication and action are clear and quick when they don’t.

    2. fredwilson

      no, there is no place where they are listedbut the search field at the top of the page leverages gawk.it which is partially built on the disqus api.you can search for blog posts or comments with it

      1. awaldstein

        Yup, knew about gawk.it. Waiting for Kevin to do a fix for me (nudge nudge) so I can use it on my site with a bunch of blogs hanging off of it.

        1. falicon

          Yes – sorry about the delay on that…you use your blog platform and Disqus in pretty unique way…gotta figure out an elegant solution for that edge case yet. 😉

          1. awaldstein

            Honestly no rush! New clients for consulting, building theLocalSip 2.0, and trying to keep up with Lianna’s green food biz is all i can handle.

    3. Ro Gupta

      Hey Arnold. We are planning to showcase these better outside of the occasional blog post. But if you’re interested in playing around with one or two others in the meantime, email me. I’m sure the creators would value your feedback.

      1. awaldstein

        Hi Ro, been awhile.Honestly, I’m insanely busy and don’t have much free time lately.But–If I was Disqus, I would want every developer and every community builder to know about cool and useful stuff that people like Kevin had built that I might want that I had vetted.Just good marketing.

        1. Phillip Trotter

          As Arnold says – good marketing. A Disqus developers showcase page with links to API docs would be the ideal way of doing that. Seed the first examples like those Kevin has built and then have each dev who submits something to the show case include a short paragraph write up of use case and API usage. Push the occasional great example as a how to article to Hacker News. Valuable to Disqus in that it highlights API (and API usage for future feature analysis), valuable to developer community and end users since it shows versatility and possibility of the platform. Everybody wins.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Good ideas, thanks. We’re working towards organizing all the 3rd party apps, widgets, etc into a showcase. Not sure on timing.There are some API recipes over here:https://github.com/disqus/D

          2. JimHirshfield

            cc @falicon:disqus @awaldstein:disqus

          3. falicon

            BTW – posted a reply yesterday to your mention of me talking with the dev team that never seemed to make it to the web for some reason…in it I was trying to make the point that the Disqus API console is what I would call ‘best of class’ on the web right now (and I have worked with a ton of APIs)…anyway, just wanted to put that on the record 🙂

          4. JimHirshfield


          5. awaldstein

            Yup…I’ve built more than a few companies with the principal outreach being the developers.Marketing in every company I’ve been involved with has reported into the same line as developer relations.Nicely said.

  11. falicon

    These should all be fixed now (painfully via my iphone as the subway went in and out of internet reach) :-)Thanks for pointing them out and let me know about any others 🙂

    1. falicon

      Sorry this was supposed to be a reply to @le

    2. fredwilson

      wow. fixing on the subway on an iphone. that’s above and beyond the call of duty!

      1. LE

        And really difficult to do.

      2. falicon

        it tends to make me physically ill to know about an error, know how to fix it, and not be able to actually put the fix in-place…which is why I have tools like iSSH on my phone in the 1st place…it’s my prep. for ‘worst case scenario’…unfort. I got to put it to the test today…fort. it actually did allow me to deal as planed. 🙂

      3. William Mougayar

        My CTO used to always fix stuff on the subway. When something was small enough or easy, he would say, “that’s a 5 min subway ride fix”.

    3. ShanaC

      you’re awesome

    4. JaredHoughton

      @falicon:disqus super impressed at the timeliness of these fixes. On the iphone, on the sub – nice work. I’m also a big fan of this commenter breakdown feature, looking forward to seeing more to come.

      1. falicon

        wasn’t ideal – but got through it…iSSH is a *must* have app if you’re running on AWS. 🙂

    5. Kirsten Lambertsen

      You are a badass.

      1. falicon

        Thanks – I’m trying to work my way up to always having ‘mofo’ attached to that statement 😉

    6. William Mougayar

      i think you can fix that one from a bicycle if you did the other fixes from the subway :)GENERTED MOST REPLIES–> GENERATED

      1. falicon

        unicycle (riding backwards; juggling two chainsaws; one on fire)…and fixed. Thanks 😉

  12. karen_e

    I am a Disqus commenter and I have totally broken down.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Aaron Klein

      There is nothing broken down about your comments, Karen E. 😉

    3. JLM

      .I have absolutely no idea what your comments means. But it appears to be particularly well made.Well played.JLM.

      1. JimHirshfield

        It took me 24 hours to get what she meant. It’s a pun. The feature in question is called “commenter breakdown”, as in a re-organized list of comments broken down by commenter. @karen_e:disqus has made a funny by using an alternative definition of breakdown; that is, mental unhinging. Combined with a confessional format as self-deprecation, it’s actually very funny…until it’s explained. 😉

        1. JLM

          .Luckily I have you to ‘splain things to me. Thanks.How about the Harlem Shake?JLM.

          1. Techman

            I did a fun Friday post about the Harlem Shake. Maybe @fredwilson:disqus this could be a great fun Friday post. http://www.techmansworld.co

        2. leigh


    4. William Mougayar

      Was there music involved?

  13. William Mougayar

    I’m all for hacks and API usages, but I’m not totally getting the value of this one.Nothing will replace 5 mins of diving into a post’s comments to really understand who is saying what, to whom, etc…But I can see it as an alternative view that could be built-in in the Discussion pull-down:- Best- Newest- Oldest- Commenter breakdown

    1. falicon

      I built it for personal use initially ( really to help debug/test/check some other more complex stuff I’m working on with gawk.it )…but then I found that, on days when I was too busy to keep up with avc comments, it was useful to be able to hop in and see who were the really active people around a given topic/post and what were some of the regulars gravitating towards talking about that day…As much as I hate to admit it, when I’m too busy to read it all, I generally hop in and just look for what you, Arnold, Fred, JLM, Kid, Charlie, and a few other stand outs are saying…so this hack makes that really easy to do late at night when I’ve got just a few seconds to see what I missed throughout the day 😉

  14. Brandon Burns

    nice.what i would like to see are “quality” commenters. sheer number of comments doesn’t mean much — i can leave 50k comments full of dribble. i’d rather see the ratio of comments to replies and likes.this data is being collected in kevin’s hack, but it’s not being used. par example, as of right now, falicon/kevin sits on top with 10 comments generating 2 replies, with LE second at 6 comments and 5 replies, and shana and kid in 3rd and 4th with 3 comments and 3 replies each.based on that data, i’m more interested in what shana and kid have to say — there’s a 1:1 ratio of them saying something, and someone else finding it worthy enough to respond. LE is at 0.83:1… not to shabby. but falicon/kevin, who’s on “top,” is at 0.2:1. nothing against falicon/kevin (who contributes tons here!) but today, he’s got other people beating him out for the most quality comments.activity and quality are not the same thing.

    1. fredwilson

      i would love to see Kevin take this feedback and iterate the service a bit. i agree with you

      1. Brandon Burns

        i would also love to see disqus take some of that feedback, too. the “best” algorithm is the perfect place to start.often times on AVC, and i’m sure elsewhere, while the comment with the most up votes sits at the top of the feed, the comment that generated the most discussion gets buried in the middle. which one is truly “best”?

        1. JimHirshfield

          Hey @Brandon_Burns:disqus we’re thinking about those things. We factor in a lot of data point behind the scenes, think a lot about the “best sort”, and the UI such that we surface the meaningful conversations. For instance, we’re playing with a feature that truncates comments that are lengthy (readers can always click to read more) but point is, not to let one person’s full screen of comment overtake the UI. No guarantees this makes it into production, but it’s an example of our thinking and iterating.

          1. falicon

            I am thinking about the same UI, features, and issues with my search results stuff…very difficult as there is no true ‘one answer to rule them all’…likely an ever-evolving set of attempts 😉

          2. Brandon Burns


    2. LE

      I’m not sure you can determine “quality” by any ratio.It’s easy to say things that will provoke comments or replies or spark an intense debate. You just have to be absolute instead of circumspect. Even controversial.For example in my first sentence I could have said “You’re 100% wrong Brandon there is simply no way to determine “quality” by ratio – you’re obviously not an artist.” And somebody might get drawn into a reply challenging me.I also don’t think it can always be determined by likes either. Likes relate to populist points of view as well as how early on you post, generally. And isn’t that an indictment of our whole system? [1] After all that’s one of the problems with politics. (Note the addition of the word “generally” to that sentence and “always” to the prior sentence. It would prevent a reply from someone saying “not always”.[1] From courtroom scene in animal house.

      1. Brandon Burns

        debatable.even with your proposed “100% wrong” comment, who’s to say it’s not quality if it generates 10 people trying to challenge you? its not perfect, but its something.almost everything is subjective, but code is not. code is math. the ratio idea i suggested might not be the best, but either way, when crunching data to attempt to find richer results, we need to use the tools at hand — code and mathematical principles — and just be comfortable with the fact that it’ll never be perfect, only (hopefully) better that what we had before.

      2. Cam MacRae

        The proposed ratio is really an activity metric by another name, although it may prove a useful heuristic.

    3. falicon

      quality filter is difficult…but def. a goal I’m happy to keep working towards.My initial build was to show who is the most active within a conversation…the rest of the stuff you see there was really just a side effect of saying ‘oh neat, I can throw this in there now too’…so very happy to evolve this based on your feedback/ideas…thanks!

  15. Karen Williams

    lately, not so interesting Fun Fridays that I most look forward to in the week

    1. falicon


      1. Brandon Burns

        don’t be. :o)

        1. falicon

          I mean it in the “I acknowledge your complaint, but have nothing to offer you for it” kind of way…so it’s really a sorry with an astrik 😉

    2. fredwilson

      i will get back to it

  16. JimHirshfield

    Nice stuff @falicon:disqus When you’re ready, I have a few other ideas you could build on our API.

    1. falicon

      hit me up any time…always happy to chat about ideas and see what I can throw together (if/when I have time). 🙂

  17. Sir Mole III

    I mean talking about coincidence. Just today I was looking to hack disqus to enable some functionality for my trading site and then I ran into your blog doing something completely different (looking for Paul Graham’s essays). How strange but thank you very much!!

  18. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    It is a terrific hack especially for blogs that elicit a lot of comments. Nice job Kevin. I agree with others that these need to be displayed and highlighted by disqus. Services such as WordPress have shown what an open and active community can bring in terms of values. Perhaps some disqus advocates can start a group on google or another platform and keep track of these.

    1. falicon

      There is a google group for the Disqus API…but most of the chatter there is focused on how-to questions and not so much featuring any apps or hacks…

  19. Scott Barnett

    ok, I’m confused – I don’t see the commenter breakdown link?Also – while we’re at it – is there a way to load all the Disqus comments on one page vs. the “Load more comments” button? I find if I’m searching for a term or phrase, it’s annoying to have to load more comments and search again. I’d rather wait the few extra seconds and get the entire comment thread in one view. I looked at the Disqus options but didn’t see anything – did I miss it?

    1. ChuckEats

      agreed – most annoying thing about Disqus. often, i want to load the entire comment section, go outside, disconnect, & read.

      1. William Mougayar

        You will have to wait for their Mobile App….I’m just teasing them…that’s my hobby 🙂

      2. Scott Barnett

        So, is there no fix for this? Anybody from Disqus here to help?

        1. ChuckEats

          i’ve found Disqus to be very un-helpful w/ most inquiries

  20. Luke Chamberlin

    Hello Fred,I love that you practice what you preach and I love the way this blog is open to innovation.But at some point us readers might have to stage an intervention.The front page of AVC has so many added features and widgets that it has slowed to a crawl.The front page of AVC makes *over 400 http requests* with a first view page load time of ~10-15 seconds (see attached waterfall chart). The front page is over 3MB (the average webpage in 2012 was around 1MB). The page loads 50 individual javascript files totaling 800kb+.At this rate I estimate that at some point in 2014 the weight of the AVC home page will cause it to collapse into itself in some sort of black hole scenario sucking all of us down along with its inescapable gravity and possible also the rest of the universe.(Apologies to Kevin, I like your work and it is certainly not the cause of the page performance. This was just a trigger to my widget rant.)

    1. falicon

      🙂 no problems…so far my contributions should have no effect on the avc load as both don’t load anything until a user-initiated action is taken like a click on the link or a search in the search box (generally I prefer ‘widgets’ to act in that manner – user triggered/requested as much as possible)…

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        Thank you for being so performance conscious. I figured your additional were very passive.In the meantime, this is the longest waterfall page load chart I have ever seen.

        1. falicon

          Yeah that is crazy…imagine if he ran more advertising (my day gig is in the ad space and believe it or not I *often* see waterfall pages worse than this — sadly we even cause them sometimes)

    2. fredwilson

      i went through another phase like that three or four years ago and we did a total overhaul as a result

  21. William Mougayar

    It’s like watching a ping-pong game: 22 comments, 14 replies10 comments, 8 replies7 comments, 5 replies5 comments, 4 replies:)

    1. falicon

      Doh! No cheese for 37 more days! 😉

  22. leigh

    One of the coolest things in that breakdown, is how crazy diverse the community is there. gender. race. i’ll assume from some heated discussions religion and politics too. love it.