Comment Subscription – On by Default?

I am an avid user of email notification when it comes to commenting on weblogs. With the help of Scriptygoddess’ “Subscribe To Comments” plugin, I am providing that very feature on this site.

The idea is, if you comment on a weblog entry, you can be notified by email whenever new comments are added. Currently, you have to check the checkbox yourself if you want this, but I love the feature so much, that I’m considering turning on comment subscription by default.

Before I do this, however, I want to ask you, the reader, what your preference is: should comment subscription be on by default?

Update: I have decided to leave comment subscription off, for the time being, but redesign the comment form slightly, to better encompass the subscription checkbox. The checkbox state will be cookied, and it will be part of the tab index, prior to the post button. Once this is done, I will leave it like this for a while, and then check up and evaluate again. Thanks for all your replies and suggestions.

25 thoughts on “Comment Subscription – On by Default?”

  1. Michael says:

    Well, I think so… Too often, people will leave a comment, and forget / not bother with subscribing, making efforts at answering questions irrelevant.

    If you’re interested enough to leave a reply, chances are you’re interested enough that you want to know what else happens.

  2. Joen says:

    My thoughts exactly! Yet, I’ve been reluctant to go “on by default” mainly due to the rise of spam. Emails that look just slightly like spam, are “intrusive”, especially when they weren’t explicity asked for.

    It’s the same with sign up boxes—I’ve created a good deal of commercial websites that required user sign up. All of these had the option to “Also subscribe to newsletter?” in a checkbox. Only, rules and regulations required this checkbox to be unchecked, so the action to subscribe would be user-initiated.

    I’m not worried about rules and regulations here, and I do like the feature.

  3. Michael says:

    It is annoying to get spam messages from comments on blogs via subscribe. But employing the right countermeasures, and spam hardly ever slips by… (I can heartily recommend using the ‘moderate after x days’ plugin, it catches 99.5% of all my spam).

  4. Michael says:

    (Of course, I entirely misunderstood what you said, but… Yeah, my opinion stands ;)).

  5. Joen says:

    Oh well, that aspect is important! Comment spam must be prevented at all costs, when people are subscribed to your entries. Fortunately all comment spam I have recieved after migrating to WordPress has been catched. Especially due to my adding the recommended list of common spam words to my blacklist.

    With that said, I am reluctant to use “close after x days”—I get a lot of visitors from Google, and allowing them to comment on an old entry they find, is worth the hassle of deleting spam from the moderation queue, me thinks.

  6. Michael says:

    I get a good deal of stray visitors as well, but since it’s a one-click deal to say ‘allow’ to a moderated comment, I’ve found that it works extremely well for me.

  7. Christopher says:

    On by default. Most definetly.

    I left a comment last night, er… very early this morning… and I hit post before I clicked the checkbox. There was much gnashing of teeth.

  8. I would have to say no, the subscription should be off by default.

    Imagine I am a new visitor and I post a comment, not realising that I am automatically requesting email notifications of replies… I’m going to be mortified to find an “unsolicited” email from your website. There’s a good chance I won’t try to unsubscribe (since we are always told that that only confirms a live email address). From then on, I’m going to continue receive email when a new reply is posted to the thread – I’m going to be angry and I’ll most likely never return.

    The notifications are great, I use them when I want to keep track of a thread and I also use a similar system on my own website.

    However, I leave the facility as an option as I don’t want to alienate even a single user.

    Leave it off Joen.

  9. Joen says:

    Hmm. It certainly is a pickle. Jonathan, your arguments are very good, and confirm what I feared. Still, Michael makes a good case too, and people commenting here are likely to know what they’re doing (considering my target audience).

    I have to think about this.

  10. Christopher says:

    I see what Jonathan is saying as well. Hadn’t thought of anyone that wouldn’t want to keep in the discussion. Perhaps the “subscribe to comments” checkbox could be moved next to the POST button. If it’s placed before the POST button then when I hit tab I check the box, tab, and hit the POST.

    I think the only problem now is the location of the check box. If that’s an easy change of some CSS then I think it would solve both sides wishes.

    Course, then again this is your site Joen, do what you want. 🙂

  11. Joen says:

    Positioning of the checkbox is an easy change—another option would be to specify the tab index to simply jump to where the checkbox is now, after this input field. Moving the checkbox is a good idea though.

    Currently, I’m leaning towards that. However, I am still very interested in knowing what people want. One thing is the fact that it is my site. Another thing is the fact that it is nothing without any readers/viewers. As such, your opinions are very much appreciated.

  12. Joen says:

    … still, Michael holds a very, very good point:

    If you?re interested enough to leave a reply, chances are you?re interested enough that you want to know what else happens.

  13. Christopher says:

    I certainly am interested but I also read a few dozen blogs a day and am quite flighty. 🙂

  14. Joen says:

    I’ve decided.

    For now, I will keep the subscription disabled. I will, however, redesign this form, so that “subscribe to comments” will appear before the Post button, and be part of the tab index.

    Ultimately, while I do love the feature and think everyone should use it, it is ultimately not up to me.

  15. Jennifer says:

    You could store the preference in a cookie… Just like the rest of the comment “profile” stuff is remembered…

  16. Jennifer says:

    You can delete this comment later – but when I posted the last comment I got a LOT of funky errors (possibly relating to the whole comment subscribe thing). I can email them to you if you wish…

  17. Joen says:

    It’s an honor to have you here, Jennifer!

    Indeed, a cookie. Why didn’t I think of that. I have added it to my to-do list, I’ll add that when I tweak the forms.

    As for the funky errors, my sincere apologies—I do however think it’s got to do with my terribly slow server setup, though. My SQL server times out more often than it works. I am currently considering server options, so hopefully in the future it won’t happen again.

  18. Colin D. Devroe says:

    If I may be allowed to chime in, even though it’s a little late in the process here.

    I would say that I agree with the first few comments on this post, that most people forget that they commented. However, people may find it annoying to get emails from now until the end of the time on a particular post. For instance, on Veerle’s blog – I subscribed to comments on a post from about 6 months ago and I still get nagged to read what people have wrote after me.

    A must would be to have an unsubscribe on the email which is received. Further, having simply a notification of a comment is incredibly annoying. Example: “Someone has left a comment on blah blah blah”. The entire comment should be included to eliviate the end-users need to click a link and open a browser window just to scroll down the page for 3-day just trying to catch up.

    To do:

    • Turn on subscribe automatically.
    • Allow for unsubscribe with 1-click from every notification email.
    • Include full comment with notification

    Then we might have something here.

  19. Christopher says:

    I hadn’t even thought of the “stuck getting emails” problem. That’s happened to me on the MacRumors forum. I get updates on comments from topics that started in January. Mac folk just won’t let crap die.

    But, Joen, to calm your nerves before you punch a wall over this, I don’t mind being kept in the loop on comments here as they’re not as asinine as other places.

  20. Christopher says:

    Something else I just thought of, RSS comments. But, that would require a separate rss file for each post and subsequent server load when someone refreshes the feed. So, perhaps that idea is best left stillborn. 🙂

  21. Joen says:

    Christopher & Colin,

    Actually, most of the issues you mention are already present, and / or the case.

    1. Unsubscribe with 1-click is how it works (if I remember correctly, otherwise it’s two clicks)

    2. Full comment is being included with each notification.

    3. RSS Feed for comments is already here, in galore! Not only is there a feed for comments to this thread (It’s right above the trackback URI, but seeing as you didn’t see it there, I probably have to redesign it’s location), but there is also a feed for ALL comments on the site.

  22. Christopher says:




  23. I say go for it! Or at the very least make it remember via cookie – as was mentioned.

  24. Bobby D says:

    Just wanted to see how this blog comment stuff works. Sorry for wasting your disk space

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