Comments are a really important part of why WordPress has become successful. WordPress started life as a blogging software and the ability to get and give public feedback and additional information through comments is the life-blood of blogging.
The ability to add comments to every page and post is the default behaviour of an installation of WordPress. This may be perfect for your needs, or it could be an unwelcome distraction. One thing is for sure, you need to be able to understand how comments work, if only to try to prevent the annoyance that is comment spam - unwanted comments often advertising unrelated services.
In this chapter we will look at how to control who can comment on your blog, how to disable comments, and how to prevent unwanted comments. We'll also look at pingbacks which is a system that lets you know if other people have mentioned your posts on their blog or site.
Introduction to comments
To leave a comment, users fill in the comment form at the bottom of your posts and pages. Here is an example of a comment section that is open to visitors of the site to post:
The fields Name and Email are required here, which you can tell by the red asterisk. Clicking the Post Comment button will bring you to a page which shows your comment.
This example shows the message "Your comment is awaiting moderation". This means that the comment is not visible to other visitors of the site until it has been approved by a site moderator. It's likely they will receive an email similar to the following.
We can see that the email is a notification that there has been a new comment on the post and offers links to Approve it, Trash it or Spam it.
This email also shows another aspect of comments: if you leave your settings so that unregistered users can post comments, you may well end up with hundreds of spam comments. On the above blog the moderator needs to either disable this kind of open comment making in the Discussion Settings or install some anti-spam plugins. There is another chapter detailing anti-spam plugins.
Approving, trashing or spamming comments
If you want to take action on a comment that is posted to the site or held for moderation you should visit your Comments page on the Dashboard. Navigate there by clicking the Comments link in the lefthand menu of the Dashboard.
If you have comments that have been previously approved or are awaiting moderation, they will be listed on this page.
On the above image you can see that the comment waiting for approval has a pale yellow background. When you hover over the comment you are presented with the following options: Approve, Reply, Quick Edit, Edit, Spam or Trash.
Approve is used if you want to publish the comment on the post. Reply allows you to respond and then approve the post easily. Quick Edit and Edit allow you to alter the comment before approving it.
You may not be sure on the difference between Trash and Spam. If the comment is not appropriate but clearly written about your post, rather than an automated commercial message, then you should use Trash. If it is spam and you have the Akismet plugin, using the Spam command here will help Akismet become more effective at recognising future spam.
To change how comments are managed across the whole of your site you need to make changes to your Discussion Settings. Navigate there by clicking on Settings link on the left hand menu of your Dashboard.
Then click the Discussion link to view a summary of settings for Comments and Pingbacks (we will explain that more in a bit).
Here you can see a breakdown of the settings which determine who is allowed to post, whether or not email notification is sent and what has to happen before a comment appears on the live site. The above settings seem pretty good if you have some kind of protection against comment spam and are able to check you site fairly regularly. See the section on anti-spam plugins for more information.
Disable comments across your whole site
This can be useful if you want to use your WordPress website as a static website to showcase a project or to share information that doesn't need public feedback. It may be that you prefer visitors to contact you privately via email or are unable to check your site regularly to moderate comments.
If this is the case simply untick Allow people to post comments on new articles.
Then click Save Changes at the foot of the page.
Enable or Disable comments on individual posts
Discussion Settings on each individual post can be overridden if you need to. The Discussion box can be found towards the bottom of the screen when you add a post or page.
If the Discussion box is not visible, then click the 'screen options' tab near the top right of that page, and tick the appropriate tick box.
Pingbacks and Trackbacks
Both Pingbacks and the older system of Trackbacks are ways of letting other bloggers know that you have linked to their posts and made a comment about it. Posts can display these pingbacks as a way of showing the waves your post is making on the internet.
When this is working well, it is a great way of seeing conversation about the ideas in your post spread. However this process can be abused creating pingback spam. Sites which have no interest in your content may link to your site in order to generate a pingback message on your post and in your Dashboard.
If this becomes a problem and you are not very interested in pingbacks then the easiest solution is simply to disable them.
This can be done on a site wide basis by unticking Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks):
You can also override your default settings by altering the Discussion settings of individuals posts. To do this, untick the setting Allow trackbacks and pingbacks on this page.
In the Discussion box the trackbacks and pingbacks links to a page with more information about comments, trackbacks and pingbacks on the Wordpress Codex site: