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Why I Pulled JS-Kit Echo Comments Off My Blog

Last week, JS-Kit’s Echo commenting system came and went very quickly on my blog. After my dishonest experience with JS-Kit’s support staff, the over-promised/under-delivered system won’t ever be coming back to these pages. Here’s why…

As part of my recent reboot of Chicago Carless, I’ve been looking for a way to update the commenting system to give readers an easier, more enjoyable experience here on the blog. I wanted to roll out a meta-authentication system. You’ve seen these–that’s when a site gives you the opportunity to sign-in using OpenID or your favorite social-media or chat screenname. One of such commenting system, the plugin-based JS-Kit’s Echo, was recently adopted by Cnet’s Deep Tech blog and promised to automatically work with both comments and trackback pings.

The other two leading comment authentication systems, Disqus and Intense Debate, offer to do the same thing. I figured I would try them both sequentially if Echo didn’t work out. I perused JS-Kit’s support forum to see whether other Echo users were happy and they seemed to be.

Trusting the honesty of that support forum was my big mistake. I should have dug a little deeper. But I probably trusted more than I should have since Echo is a paid service–$12 a year for basic users, hundreds more per year for commercial users.

Immediately after rolling Echo, I discovered several industry standard commenting features were missing. In order to allow comments to be editable, outbound trackbacks to be sent, or inbound trackbacks to be recognized, I was forced to manually add snippets of code into my WordPress template pages. I only learned that after digging through the support forum for help. There, I found a regular stream of Echo users complaining that these features weren’t baked in to a paid service like Echo.

Echo representatives responding to these complaints directed users into JS-Kit’s support Wiki. I managed to find the code. However, I wasn’t sure if it was the right code. That’s because parts of the support Wiki was written in a haphazard style that glossed over key details. As I would soon learn, my confusion was also because JS-Kit had not bothered to completely update the support Wiki since renaming and updating their WordPress plugin in mid-2009.

I followed the instructions I found in the support Wiki as best I could anyway. I managed to get commenting editing to work. Trackbacks, however, remained unseen by Echo, no matter how I played with the code. For a deeply internally linked blog like Chicago Carless that tells a narrative story over time, not having trackbacks working would damage my strong rankings in Google search.

I went back to the support forum and left this comment reporting the support Wiki’s outdated trackback information:

“The instructions on the Wiki page to add code for receiving trackbacks on your primary theme’s comments page seem to be outdated, although the page was edited three weeks ago…The instructions seem to be for an older (pre-echo?) version of the service. So is there currently a way to enable Echo to recognize incoming trackbacks? And what specific code would I have to put where to make that happen? (Right now I have trackbacks queued in my wordpress comments queue, but of course I can’t get to them.) Thanks!”

After waiting more than 24 hours without a response, I took Echo off Chicago Carless and returned to the standard commenting system in order to capture new trackbacks. Another 24 passed before JS-Kit finally responded to my forum query. Early this morning, to my surprise, JS-Kit staff had grouped my comment into a new thread with several open tickets from other disgruntled users drawn from the past several months, all complaining about the inadequate Wiki and JS-Kit’s poor and untimely response to the problem.

Points at least to JS-Kit for announcing in their late reply that the support Wiki had finally been updated. Points taken right back away when people in the forum told JS-Kit that the new instructions were still inadequate to get trackbacks working. I wondered why my searches of the support forum hadn’t turned up these disgruntled user posts two days earlier. Although it’s worth noting, two days earlier I also wondered why the support forum for a paid service like Echo had so many open tickets and obviously canned responses, but very few people saying they were giving up on the service. Thoroughly disappointed in both JS-Kit and Echo at this point, I submitted this comment explaining why I was turning down their invitation to stick with the service”

“Igor, respectfully, no thank you. After reading all the comments in this merged thread, I have no confidence at all in JS-Kit’s ability to provide acceptable support. Changing the name of your plug-in, updating it, and not having a fully updated support Wiki on the same day isn’t acceptable. Neither was waiting 48 hours for an answer. I would think you guys want we rank-and-file bloggers to be your brand ambassadors. The story told in this merged thread suggests otherwise. I have taken Echo off my site and have returned to plain, old WordPress baked-in commenting. Why? I have never once had a problem finding the info I needed in the WordPress codex. If I ever put another meta-authentication commenting system on my blog again, it won’t be yours.”

This morning I learned why JS-Kit’s support forums seemed unrealistically rosy given the persistent problems with core features, and it’s a pretty unsavory reason. I got an automated email telling me a JS-Kit staffer had deleted my comment about losing trust in the service from the support forum. Poof! Gone. I was also disallowed from submitting a support-forum grievance regarding the deletion.

That’s no skin off my nose. There are other meta-authentication systems out there and right now Chicago Carless is doing just fine with the standard comment system. But it’s a dishonest way for any business to deal with an ongoing problem affecting core features.

I’m now forced to wonder how many other user comments expressing dissatisfaction have been similarly deleted by JS-Kit staff from their own support forums? If I had known that their loudly promoted trackback feature had been widely inoperable for months, I would never have rolled out Echo on my blog in the first place. I wonder how many other potential Echo users will end up saying the same thing now that my comment has been added to what I can only imagine to be a lengthy deletion list.

In the end, though, JS-Kit’s actions here are a great example of how not to engage your customers on behalf of your brand. As I’ve written before, the blogosphere rests on a bedrock base of transparency. Covering up problems with your paid product and acting in a dishonest manner with customers who are simply seeking a solution is a great way to develop online brand ambassadors. Just not for your brand.

I won’t tell you not to use Echo. I’ll just leave you with my story and let you decide for yourself. I left a final note on JS-Kit’s support forum protesting the comment deletion and letting them know I’d be sharing the story with my readers and followers.

I bet you know what their staff did with that comment, too.

Categories: Social Media TECH

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion

Contact: mikedoyleblogger@gmail.com

31 replies

  1. I found this blog after doing a search for js.kit. I didn’t really feel comfortable opening up myself to an application like that without knowing more about it.

    I have a lot of respect for the extremely professional way that you wrote up this article outlining your negative experience. In my opinion – which doesn’t mean much – you can tell a lot about a person by the way they act when they’ve had a bad experience.

    Mike, you’re definitely to be commended on the way you’ve handled the entire situation. I must admit that I probably would have blasted them negative feedback instead of being as professional as you have.

    I believe you’ve just acquired another reader.

    Keep up the good work, please.

    Thanks again!

  2. I’d rather a service provider say it as it is “We do not provide support to non-paying users.” rather than deleting people’s comments. I did not use Disqus or IntenseDebate because my commenters’ comments could not be seen after that. But since I am starting my blog afresh (with a new webhoster), I am tempted to try either IntenseDebate or Haloscan.

    Thanks for your post Michael, it’s been eye-opening and honest!

  3. I have had no problems with Echo until this year when they started charging me $10 per month for what I had been using for free for the last two years.

    I went over to Disqus yesterday. There are a few niggly differences but the interface looks a lot better, conforms to my css like magic and so far seems free. I’m sure it will annoy me sooner or later but for the moment I am just glad to be rid of JSkit/Echo.

  4. I just wanted to add my two cents, as a graphic designer who is new to all of this. These comments, among those I have seen on other sites, have verified my suspicions that echo is NOT the tool for the blog that I help manage. I have had a terrible time trying to stumble my way through the JS-Kit Wiki, partly due to my inexperience but more so, I have discovered, due to the sometimes vague nature and the lack of consistency with updates for this Wiki (not to mention the less than helpful support staff). Because I had originally assumed that the reasons for my hardships on the matter were more due to the former, both my employer and I contacted Echo Staff several times seeking to answer seemingly simple questions. The response we received was that they refused to help us unless we upgraded to their commercial services. Their immediate suggestion was that if we did not have an in house computer programmer on our staff (which we are “in between” programmers at the moment), then we should either upgrade our service or use a “lesser” commenting plugin similar to facebook comments. So that is exactly what we will do – goodbye echo. However, one aspect of the echo tool that I found interesting and (as far as I know) unique was it’s ability to pull comments made about your specific site around the internet, and post it in the sidebar. Are there any other programs, not necessarily commenting ones, that do this well?

  5. Michael, I just tried to install IntenseDebate here on Carless but the comment import overloaded my webhost. I can’t seem to catch a break with rolling out an interactive comment system this year!

    1. Mike, I may try out IntenseDebate. My current blog isn’t too comment heavy so hopefully that won’t be a problem. I will make sure and due greater due diligence this time around before rolling out anything new.

    2. It took awhile but I finally disabled js-kit/echo today. My $100 renewal was coming up and I surely was not going to do that. Been reading up on the debate between IntenseDebate and Disqus once again but I am heavily leaning toward a new kid on the block, Livefrye. In the meantime, the WP default comment system is back in place.

  6. So am I. I don’t have time to run down all the fixes and patches for this stuff which apparently doesn’t exist anyway. For $99 it should work right out of the box with any glitches being rare.

  7. Michael, I’m really surprised to hear that a full five months later–and with the paid service, too. JSKit, what happened to all the promises you made me and others in February here on my blog and on Twitter about your product and how it was going to soon work as advertised?

  8. Wish I had found this blog before I forked over $99 to JSKit. Trackbacks don’t work. I can’t edit my comments. It distinguishes comments based on IP only, not user name. And finally, I can’t reverse a users approved status. Right now, it has been a total waste of money and I wish I had stuck with the default wordpress system and simply used plug-ins to improve the service.

  9. Why would anyone pay for this lame service.. go for Disqus or Intense Debate , they offer better service and are free

  10. I, too, am on the point of pulling JS-Kit Echo off my blog. Trouble is, I’ve spent far too long tweaking it to what I want, and I didn’t like the look of Disqus last time I tried it out. But the clincher is about to be their lack of response to requests for a mobile-friendly version.

  11. I’m glad I read this post. I’m getting very close to getting rid of Echo comments too. The whole reason I had installed Haloscan to begin with was because Blogger comments didn’t allow you to leave trackback pings. Now not only do I have to pay for Echo comments, I can’t figure out how to leave a ping. I honestly don’t feel like having to take hours to hunt down answers on something simple that I used to be able to do with the free service. I also hate how Echo comments takes over the whole page–it’s total overkill for what it is, in my opinion.

  12. Michael, I’m glad you commented. ID is the only of the three big real-time commenting systems I haven’t tried out yet. You’ve put my mind at ease about a few things and I may go ahead and roll-out the system here on Carless in the near future. Thanks!

  13. Hey Mike – just wanted to hop-in and answer your question about IntenseDebate: yes, every single comment submitted via IntenseDebate is automatically synced to your database and WordPress comments.

    ID runs parallel to your WP comments so if one of your readers has JavaScript disabled in their browser then they’ll still see all of the comments (since we sync back to WP) and be able to leave their own. Any comment posted in WP is automatically imported into ID (including all of your old comments) so they won’t miss a beat.

    We’ve also got a really cool feature called SyncRepair which runs in the background to clear-up any discrepancies between the number of comments in ID vs. WP (just in case sync is interrupted). All of this makes our “Graceful Fail” system possible – if there’s a load delay then ID will revert to your default WP comments so your site doesn’t get hosed. Any comments left in WP during that time will be imported into ID.

    IntenseDebate is an Automattic invention so our plugin is built and maintained by WordPress core developers. No-one can match our WordPress integration and expertise. Oh and while I’m at it, you can edit your comments and we support trackbacks and pingbacks.

    Hope you don’t mind my intrusion!

  14. Amy, I’m thinking it’s the people they have (or had) running their forum–apparently their tech people–that are doing this. Their company president and outreach person swore to me they don’t support the practice. When were your comments deleted?

    I will note, Cnet’s Deep Tech blog has taken JS-Kit comments off of its website, too. They said their readers didn’t like it.

  15. I ALSO had a negative comment deleted! This company is a nightmare to deal with. The product lacks basic features bloggers have come to expect and it causes all kinds of havoc–slows down page loading, email notifications mysteriously disappear and in every case the customer is blamed. AVOID JS-kit/echo at all costs!

  16. Mike, As I understand it, Intense Debate synchronizes its data (the comments) with your comments (the regular comments stored in WordPress). They note in their FAQs that “Comments made in IntenseDebate are automatically backed-up to your WordPress comment system, while your existing WordPress comments are automatically imported into IntenseDebate.” Contact me directly if you want to talk further about this.

  17. Jeff, if you decide to turn off Intense Debate, will the comments that have been submitted through it still exist on your blog? I may try it, as Disqus broke my design container when I attempted to use it.

  18. I’ve installed Intense Debate. So far…I like it. It handles threading…allows for user profiles…has all the usual “subscribe to” stuff. Since I’m not always at my computer…and I moderate all comments…it’s nice that it emails me when there is a new comment I can reply with “approve” and a short time later the comment appears.

    And…to answer a question that was posed…Intense Debate can tie into Facebook and Twitter.

  19. I’m beginning to have concerns about JS-Kit also.

    I’m sure it’s possible, but as to date I haven’t been able to find any documentation for connecting JS-Kit directly to a Facebook Fan (Product) Page instead of to an application. This would seem like a very logical feature, and is relatively easy with other social media services like Posterous (which I am a big fan of).

    I agree that the documentation is lacking, or could at least be better organised.

    Can anyone suggest if any of the other streams like Disqus or Intense Debate may be better suited to my needs?

  20. Mike,

    One major concern I had when looking into Disqus for comment management on my site was that you are not the owner of the comments. Unless something has changed, they are not stored in your database on your server. They are stored by Disqus and you do not have access to take them with you.

    What if you wanted to change your commenting provider in the future? Then you end up with a giant hole in commenting during the time you used Disqus. Additionally, I would assume your SEO results would be hurt since those comments don’t count toward your keywords.

    Also, Disqus doesn’t support trackbacks.

    ETA: Looks like updates since I originally looked at Disqus have fixed most of these issues (comments are in sql db and SEO is for your site and no longer javascripts). I would still be concerned about what happens if Disqus goes down.

  21. Guys just to confirm it is NOT our policy to delete comments and we are looking into this as a serious matter. We believe in open communication and transparency – it’s the essence of our product.

    As far as Trackbacks go, we are working on something even better, but it will take time so please be patient with us!

    Chris

  22. Matt, you’re just the person to whom I was referring in the above comment. This is really two issues I think:

    1. Echo should work as advertised, and if trackbacks aren’t working, they shouldn’t be touted as an available feature; and

    2. Comments shouldn’t be deleted from support forums like Echo’s, including comments from customers who don’t feel like the product is working the way the company says it should.

    If JS-Kit gets trackbacks reliably working, Echo would be a great product. But if they keep deleting comments from their support forum, unhappy users may lose faith in the company and give up on the product. If trackback functionality worked perfectly tomorrow in Echo, it would take a lot for JS-Kit to regain my trust as a consumer, and that’s a shame because from their marketing and testimonials from commercial users I was sold on the product originally.

    I do give JS-Kit management credit for responding to this issue on a Sunday. But timely intervention like this is simply a best-practice of wise PR and social-media damage control. It would have been more helpful if the matter were handled openly and in a timely manner in JS-Kit’s own support forum, which is where this discussion would be right now if comments hadn’t been deleted in the first place.

  23. Thank you, Chris. I appreciate your response and I do hope that Echo’s support forum becomes a more open environment. (Shortly after I posted this blog entry, another Echo user posted to the user forum saying that the moderator had deleted several of his posts regarding the trackback issue.)

    I must say, though, JS-Kit’s online promotional materials including the front page of its own website clearly indicate trackback functionality as a core–and available–element of the current version of the commenting system. If that is not the case, JS-Kit should not be marketing Echo saying that it is.

    I support the feature being reliably added to Echo as soon as possible. Competitor services Disqus and Intense Debate offer inbound and outbound trackbacks, and frankly, no contemporary commenting system is much more than a beta without them.

  24. Mike I am very sorry you experienced this sequence of events when trying Echo.

    It is NOT our policy to delete legitimate questions or complaints on our support forum and I will be digging into it to find out why that occurred in this case.

    It seems that your primary concern was with the Trackbacks issue which indeed, in Echo’s case, is an old feature that is not properly/easily supported in Echo at this time.

    I agree with you that this should be made clearer and we will endeavor to do so.

    Thank you for your detailed feedback, it will help us do better in the future.

    Chris – VP, Strategy, Echo

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