Marketing, Design, Writing & More

Epoch Speeds Up WordPress Native Commenting

Epoch Speeds Up the CommentsThere is this plugin called Epoch, that’s been developed by a company named Postmatic. I have been using it for about a year at this point and it’s going nowhere, anytime soon. This will be the first of seven posts that I planned on doing to showcase the entire package for those bloggers that are looking for something but still unsure of what they could be doing with their commenting section.

Before I dive into all of this goodness that Epoch brings, it should be noted that I have also used many third-party plugins along my journey and this is not meant as a fanboi post, nor was I asked to write it by Postmatic. I always believe that full disclosure upfront is important & needed. I have no vested interest or hope to gain anything out of it. Now, let’s move on…

Disqus was okay for a while, but I didn’t like the direction it was going in (control-wise) and hated having to use their control panel and not my own. Livefyre has incredible support and a great offering but I wanted some search engine optimization (SEO) benefits from the commenting section too. I even tried Jetpack (made by WordPress themselves) but it was overkill to install and use. All three of these mentions could squash my most important area of my site at a moments notice because they control it (not fully, but I am a 100% type of guy).

The point is that I have tried paid plugins and free ones. I just wanted something simple that got the job done and this is why Epoch is getting this attention that is long overdue.

I will start by giving credit to one of the two developers, Jason. His almost stalking-like presence to find who and where is his work being discussed, in mere minutes it seems, completely blew me away. I have never had a developer jump into a conversation as quickly as he has. He has been amazing at providing answers to questions, and just being part of the conversation on-site as well as social media. The support, extra offers, and the plugins Postmatic have released takes native commenting to a new level. They deserve some respect for their quality plugins and giving them all away for free. This excludes the Postmatic Premium service of course. We’ll talk about that soon.

Taken straight from the WordPress’s plugin directory, Epoch features:

  • WordPress native comments.
  • Real-time with minimal server load.
  • Fully ajax commenting for both sending and receiving comments.
  • Integrates with any theme while still blending in with your brand.
  • Front end moderation with real-time updates. It’s insanely fast.
  • Ad-Free <—I added that one

That’s a list of impressive features and why this plugin is so valuable. Before working on this piece I had sent jason a list of questions. I wanted to get responses straight from the developer. Here is the question I asked Jason, followed by his answer.

Adam’s Question

Epoch is tagged as a Disqus alternative and I have seen the point that it’s the framework that others can use to add features, but will Epoch itself see Disqus-like features without having to add more plugins?

Jason’s Response

No. Epoch is actually about to get even simpler. You’re right that it is a framework for other things to be built upon. Much of what we are doing with our plugins is new and different. If we were to combine all of our offerings into a single plugin it would just be a huge mess of confusion. Better I think to keep each major component (content delivery, web comments, comment notifications, moderation tools) separate and let the users build what they want. There’s nothing to say you have to use our products with each other, either. Everything is based on open standards and WordPress best practices. Want to use Subscribe to Comments with Epoch? Go for it. This also helps users discover us from a half dozen different angles instead of just one.

Native Comments & SEO

Third-party commenting systems have had a mountain of success over the years because they know how terrible the default commenting is. Even WordPress knows it’s a sore spot so they pushed Jetpack as an option.These commenting giants grew to a degree that billion-dollar companies were using them. Facebook comments happened because people could just use their Facebook account to post. Ya…I tried that too and Facebook commenting was probably the best plugin to date because over 1.4B people have an account so it was natural. The issue was that Google couldn’t index Facebook comments and those comments stayed with Facebook and not the blog. I tried transferring hundreds of comments to a new plugin and it was a nightmare. Great for the companies sucking up data, bad for the website owner and a clear win-lose situation.

WordPress got the blogging piece right and it’s been extended in so many ways that the platform can be a blog, a store, a support ticket desk, or a number of other uses. What was missing was an effective engagement tool that shipped with the platform. This issue plagued Joomla, and other CMS’s as well. Companies & developers saw an opportunity and they successfully fractured the comment plugin users. Social sign on (Oath), proper commenting, and other pieces should be core by now so I give WordPress an F on native comments.

People have been wanting native commenting because in addition to the content that is posted, the SEO benefits can increase a site’s ranking in organic search. It’s more content Google can index and a place where deeper conversations can happen. Most of us just thought engagement could only happen at places like Reddit, and in many cases this is justly so. You may not know this, but other commenting systems like Disqus don’t help in the SEO scheme of things. They keep the comments connected in their own servers. Google can’t index those and you lose out on one of the biggest reasons to blog…being found, highly read, and indexed in search.

I have seen many sites switch back to native comments in the last year or two. You don’t need to lean on a third-party solution to deliver and hold your content. I have read blogs from work and wanted to leave a comment to scroll down and see that Disqus was blocked by the military network. This is a huge issue that we need to address because I know that there are close to 3 million people working for the federal government that can’t comment on a kick-ass blog post. Other major networks also block things like javascript or third-party cookies. That is something that native comments never have to worry about. I don’t hate third-party offerings, but I understand the limiting nature of them.

When you have an opportunity to use built-in features and just slightly enhance it like Epoch does then you keep all of the value and keep the content and comments together. Hopefully you can see that being native is an important feature to have and is probably the most important feature that Epoch brings to your website.

Speed & Integration

I have to admit that I have a lot of plugins to make this blog work and usually it slows down everything, but Epoch is fast. You type out your comment and submit, then wait while it adds it into the database, and finally it updates in near real-time. A website owner is chasing every single millisecond it can cut because we know people will leave if the experience is slow and cumbersome. We want our site to load faster because we want to create the best experience possible. We always trying to speed up our pages and some go to extreme lengths for it. I call this the web’s version of “chasing the dragon”. Speeding up a site can be difficult and when I see a plugin that uses Ajax I know there won’t be any page re-loads.

Epoch adds speed to the comment section by leveraging Ajax. Ajax makes the conversation happen closer to real-time by working behind the scenes with the database. The user doesn’t see the transfer of the comment to the database and then published within milliseconds. I am a huge fan of Ajax and I wish it was implemented more often. Less page refreshes keeps the commenting alive and the more that we leverage this, the more value it brings.

Clearly the speed improvements are awesome, but I want to also address the integration piece of Epoch. It let’s you choose your comfort zone in the backend settings. You can see below that it’s 3 basic options to choose from and below it (I did not screenshot) you are given the option on headline text and other settings.

Epoch Theme Integration

I usually only select the second option to use my typography and colors. I am a design freak. This gives me that ability to look seamless. The integration works with CDN’s, caching plugin and the majority of themes. I run Epoch on all the WordPress websites that I admin or help develop because I know it’s going to work without debugging the site for hours. I have yet to find the theme or plugin that it doesn’t get along with.

Wrap Up & Test It

This is just 1 of the 5 plugins that I will be reviewing from Postmatic. The easiest way to test and see the plugin in action is to just let a comment below and you will see the comment update without the page reloading and more. All 5 are installed so you will see the entire suite of plugins and figure out the next plugins I will cover. Please leave a comment below if you want to share some thoughts. I am always looking for new plugins that are improving the core functions and providing value for the site and it’s readers. Give Epoch a try on your site if you want the features I wrote about here. Thank you for taking the time to read this and the next post is on it’s way!

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