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Share your thoughts: how should Postmatic handle legacy comment subscription plugins?

WordPress has long benefited from a large number of plugins that allow commenters to subscribe to comments by email. Postmatic takes things a step further by not only sending new comment notifications but accepting replies as well.

Since there are so many different flavors of subscribe to comments plugins available we simply can’t write an importer for each. Some don’t even store the information in your local database. Of those that do the data is often very messy, inconsistent, and difficult to extract with accuracy.

We want to make it possible to switch to Postmatic without leaving those old subscriptions behind. Currently we have a hack available to help you do that, but we know we can do better.

Here’s our idea. Please let us know what you think.

When talking about people that have subscribed to comments in the past on your site they all have the same thing in common: they are engaged in a conversation or conversations. The probability is that they have left more than one comment on the post(s) to which they are subscribed. That’s the nature of a conversation, right? A little back-and-forth?

Let’s allow that to serve as the foundation. Let’s think about how to keep people engaged. 

This is how it would work

Postmatic would start by looking through your database to identify all of your commenters. Maybe there are 1,458. Let’s pick one out to walk through the scenario. I’m going to pick Chester.

Postmatic will look and see which posts Chester has left more than 1 comment on. These are the posts he cares about. Ok. Easy. Let’s say he has been active on 2 of your posts.

Now here is the tough part: we know Chester was involved in these 2 discussions but have no way of knowing if he actually subscribed to them. All we can assume is that we have a name and an email address for Chester. It’s a smart guess though that he cares about these posts, the subjects at hand, and the conversations he’s been in. Let’s see if that’s true.

So we shoot Chester an email with a personalized introduction (customized by you) saying something like:

Hey Chester, I’m switching over to a new commenting system on my blog. Since you have been an active commenter in the past I’d like to invite you to subscribe to the comment threads on the 2 posts which you have been active. When someone leaves a new comment on one of these posts we’ll shoot you an email with what they said. You can then send a reply back right from your inbox without ever hitting my site. Interested? You can unsubscribe from any conversation at any time.

Here are the discussions you were involved in:
– The nature of ugly ducklings from January 12, 2008. You left 4 comments. Other contributors include cyberhobo and jasonlemieux.
– Five reasons to bake chicken heads from March 8, 2012. You left 3 comments. Two were in reply to tommcfarlin.

If you would like to continue these conversations reply to this email with the word ‘subscribe’. If not you can ignore this email and you won’t be bothered again. Thanks!

The pros and cons of this idea

Pros

  1. This could be a very proactive tool to reach out to people that weren’t ever actually subscribed. It would be a little nudge to remind them of the conversations they’ve been in and maybe get them interested and back into the fold
  2. We don’t have to write importers for a dozen legacy plugins (which we have neither the time nor money to do)

Cons

  1. This solution still does not solve the problem of retaining 100% of the legacy subscriptions. But.. again, I’m not sure we can actually do that for both financial and technical reasons. We need to find a middle ground.

What do you think? Does it seem like a fair solution? Would you use it on your site? Have any other ideas?

Please use the comments area to bat it around a bit. Subscribe if you’d like to stay in the loop. If we can come up with a solution that seems right we’ll get to work on it right away.

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