Open source orientated websites and proprietary comment systems

I like to frequent a variety of websites and blogs which discuss and advocate open source software.

Recently I had some time to kill and I did a few searches on DuckDuckGo in order find a few more decent ones to read.

This prompted me to write this post in regards to emphasize the sole issue of using such services while simultaneously advocating open source software in the same breath. I have no comment regarding sites that do not fit this particular issue.

As I have looked around I could not help but notice that a growing number of these websites are powering their comments section with Disqus, a closed source proprietary comment hosting service, instead of either using their website's built-in comment system or an equivalent open source system.

Not only does using an external service like Disqus take various points of control away from the site owner, it also undermines the very principles that these sites are trying to convey when they promote open source software.

If an external service goes down you can't do anything at all to bring it back online quickly and efficiently. All a site owner can do is wait and hope for the best.

Also, if their database was ever compromised or corrupted in such away that your data could not be completely retrieved you would be unable fix it. While Disqus does allow you to export your comments for 'backup purposes only', it does not allow you to re-import that very data back into their ecosystem.

The proprietary nature and lack of control is not the only issue in regards to using this service. If you read their privacy policy you will many issues from a privacy standpoint as well. They track user activity and usage patterns across a variety of websites through various means in addition to selling that personally identifiable information to third parties.

I will concede that there are times when at least initially, a service like Disqus is the only easy method of attaining a comment system depending on the website or blogging platform they choose to deploy.

Pelican, the open source static blog generator which I use for this site, is a great example of this. Because due to its very nature of providing solely static html files they have added Disqus as an optional feature for those who want a comments system with it.

Other times it can simply come down to the fact that they are on a shared host and which restricts what they can run as some of the much nicer open source commenting systems like Juvia and talkatv need additional software such as ruby or python and a back-end program running to work.

I was looking for a simple light-weight PHP-based commenting system that I could add to Pelican and I quickly found jskomment. It is AJAX-powered and although it obviously is not the fanciest system around it does exactly what I wanted.

In conclusion, there is always an alternative to using a closed source environment and if you are going to promote open source software in any form you should take the time to make sure that you don't send mixed messages.

If anyone knows of other excellent open source commenting systems please let me know and I'll add them to this article.


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