Settings for Comments on WordPress Blogs

As you have probably gathered by now all parts of your WordPress blog are under your control. Every feature can be customized to your liking, from the theme that you use to the behind-the-screen settings for managing a WordPress blog.

Comments are managed according to the settings you choose by going to Settings/Discussion in the main menu.

The Discussion Settings page holds settings that help you manage comments left on your blog. Under ‘Default article settings’ checking off all three boxes will allow traffic to flow between your blog and the blogs of your commenters. Uncheck “Allow people to post comments on the article” if you aren’t interested in comments appearing on your blog.

wordpress comments settings discussion

You can choose to be emailed whenever anyone posts a comment or when one is held for moderation.

You can control when a comment appears on your blog in the ‘Before a comment appears’ section. You can limit comments to only the ones that you approve first, only if the commenter leaves her name and email address, or only after a prior comment has already been approved from that commenter.

If you’re bothered by a nuisance commenter, you can reject the comments from appearing altogether by using the ‘Comment Moderation’ or ‘Comment Blacklist’ features.

wordpress comments blacklist

Input words that you find offensive in either the moderation or blacklist boxes and any comment in which the content, name, URL or e-mail contains these bad words will be marked for moderation or marked as spam.

To reject comments coming from a particular IP address, place the IP on your blacklist.

Spam comments do make it through the Akismet plugin, but they are pretty easy to spot. Spam comments usually try to sell you pharmaceuticals or other stuff you don’t want. Their content is often filled with links to sites of questionable quality, so don’t go there! Email addresses that a person would never choose are the norm, so if you see something like “asdfkjl;@tk5jj6.cn” for an email address, mark the comment as spam.

wordpress comments avatars

The Avatar section lets you control whether you allow avatars to show up next to a person’s comment. Avatars are those little pictures that represent people and their interests. Some commenters use their photos and others use interesting pictures or abstract designs for their avatars.

Also, you can set the audience rating in the Avatar section. The same as movie ratings, you can rate your content for G-, PG-, R- or X-rated audiences.

Remember, any changes you make to the Discussion Settings page will not stick unless you click on the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page.

Managing Comments on Your WordPress Blog

One thing that separates a blog from just another Web site is that blogs have a commenting capability that engages your readers to talk back. Allowing readers to leave comments on your blog will can start a conversation of sorts. Web sites that aren’t in a blogging format must rely on forms and email for communication with the webmaster.

Blogs – remember that blog stands for Web log – typically report information through time. Posts are created and stamped with the time and date when they’re posted. Anyone reading a blog post may be able to comment on the post, depending on the settings of that particular blog or post.

WordPress blogs allow for comments, too. Whenever someone leaves a comment on your blog, WordPress alerts you with a little flag at the top of your WordPress Dashboard. Check it out:

wordpress comments screen

Click on the Comments menu item or on See All in the ‘Recent Comments’ section of the Dashboard to get to the manage comments screen.

wordpress comments manage

The text of each comment is presented with information about the commenter, such as their website address, email and IP, which is just a numerical address of their computer on the Internet. Under the actual comment you’ll see the post or page where the comment was left and when your blog visitor left their comment.

To the right of each comment are three links that you can use to manage them. You can choose to accept the comment, mark it as spam, or delete it. If you have lots of comments to manage, use the bulk approval/mark as spam/delete buttons at the top of the comment list. Click on the little box next to Comment to select all the comments, then click on your selection to moderate the comments. Each little box to the left of a comment lets you select or unselect comments for moderation.

Further down the manage comments page you see the background color is different for comments that have already been approved.

wordpress comments approval

Once comments have been approved you still have a chance to unapprove them. See that the top right link has changed from Approve to Unapprove for a comment that has already been accepted.

Before you accept a questionable comment, visit the commenter’s website to get a better idea of their intentions. If it’s not related to your blog topic, then you might not want to accept the comment. Many people sprinkle comments in blogs everywhere so they can have links pointing back to their site in hopes that the search engines will rank their site higher.

You don’t have to approve any comments if you don’t want to, after all it’s your blog!

Best Tools for Troubleshooting Problems with CSS and XHTML

Different browsers have their own ways of helping developers troubleshoot problems with positioning divs and combating errors that pop up here and there.

I have found a few tools that are extremely valuable for developing web pages. I’m sure these are very popular due to their ability of helping isolate and fix problems.

I prefer Firefox browser so these are my favorite browser add-ons and their features that I really like:

  • Firebug – view divs onscreen, explore code and its output onscreen
  • Web Developer Toolbar – one-click validation, resize screen to 800×600, disable cache, lots more – an army of tools
  • Total Validator – validates complete with screenshots in various browsers
  • ColorZilla – color picker, great view of css divs, zooms page

Care to add to my list? What do you use to help in your WordPress and web page design?

Unformatted Page Due to Corrupted Stylesheet

Yesterday, I ran into a problem that was really confusing, to say the least. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but the problem was that one of my WordPress blogs lost all its style. That is to say that the pages appeared in black and white and in one long column down the page. No color. No sidebar. No header. Freak me out!

The content of the blog was untouched and it was apparently functioning as intended.

The stylesheet was resident in the theme folder and verified to contain css when I checked it using html-kit or another FTP program. I could download the stylesheet and see that everything appeared to be in there, including the commented-header required for a WordPress theme. If fact, WordPress did not report the theme as being broken – I guess it saw the file named style.css and figured the theme was kosher.

However, when viewed with any browser the unstyled output was seen. Also, validators sent to the blog could not find a stylesheet. What the ??

The really weird part of this story is that I downloaded the stylesheet and could use it on my local machine using the same version of WordPress and the stylesheet produced the desired design. Beyond that, I downloaded the entire theme, zipped it up and sent it to another WordPress fan to check out. He could see the design in all its glory on his development machine.

So, we figured it must be some server configuration that was interfering somehow. Totally vague, I know. At least the problem seemed to be isolated to the online server. I had already tried to upload a number of older versions of the stylesheet, but the style did not come back.

What I did notice, which lead me to a solution, was that in one of those validation reports another error was produced in that the favicon.ico file was reported missing. I verified that file was also resident in the theme and ok. That made two files that the validator could not find even though I could see they were indeed there.

Since the theme apparently worked fine on other systems I took the version that I had downloaded and renamed it. Then I uploaded said “new” theme to the themes directory and deleted the old theme. Exclaims of joy were now coming out of my office – it worked!

I don’t know how the stylesheet came to be corrupted, or if it even was, seeing the same problem with the favicon. The solution was to use a backup. It’s crazy that the backup in this case was the same theme that contained the corrupted file but the moral of the story is that performing backups are definitely worth the time it takes. If the files were corrupted I had backups ready to upload.

Backing up is so easy these days, especially with automated services like Mozy, it’s kinda dumb not to assure yourself that you can recover from gremlins that visit every now and then. Mozy gives you a free 2GB so get started on protecting your files today!