Conversations about blog posts are increasingly taking place on Twitter in addition to the comments section of blogs. Due to this trend, over the last six months we’ve seen lots of blogs integrate tweetbacks into their comment sections. Building on the trackback concept, a tweetback searches Twitter for links to specific blog pots and displays relevant tweets in the comments section of your blog.
I’ve had a variety of clients request this feature over the last few months, so we’ve spent some time figuring out how to get tweetbacks working in our core platform, Drupal and WordPress.
For Drupal, we did an exhaustive search for tweetback modules back in February and didn’t find any that work, so we developed our own custom module. We are currently fine tuning the code we wrote and hope to release our Drupal tweetback module to the open source community in the next few months.
For WordPress, there are quite a few tweetback modules to choose from. We tried a handful of the plugins with mixed results. I’m posting a quick review of our experience with each in the hopes that it saves time for others hoping to implement tweetbacks on their blog.
Before I dive in, please note that we did not test all of these plugins exhaustively. In my mind, the point of plugins is to quickly add functionality without involving our development team. So if I couldn’t get a plugin to work within an hour or so, I chose to cut my losses and move on to the next one instead of spending time debugging.
Tweetbacks and Tweetsuite by Dan Zarrella
As far as I can tell, Dan Zarrella was the first to build a tweetback plugin module for WordPress back in January.
Disqus is a third-party commenting system that can actually take the place of your WordPress commenting system. I’ve written about it before, and use it on my personal blog. I’m a fan of the product, and when I saw Disqus was adding social media reactions to its feature set I was anxious to try it out.
We decided to install Disqus on our own ImpactWatch blog as a way of testing out tweetbacks and giving the the system a full test drive before recommending clients start using it. Unfortunately, the tweetbacks feature in Disqus worked correctly for exactly one day and then mysteriously stopped and never got working again. Disqus has also periodically had performance issues that have caused our blog to load slowly. Disqus recently acknowledged that they are having some significant problems. Despite my fondness for Disqus, we will be uninstalling it from ImpactWatch this week and go back to WordPress comments, with Backtype for tweetbacks (see below).
I’ll probably loop back on Disqus in a few months and see if they’ve gotten their act together. At this point, I simply can’t recommend the service.
Last week, we gave Backtype Connect a try here on The Bivings Report. The installation of the plugin went smoothly and tweetbacks started showing up pretty much immediately. While the service definitely misses some tweets (probably due to people using some obscure URL shortening services), it seems to capture around 90% of relevant tweets. It is definitely the best and most consistent of the tweetback services I have looked at and would be the one I would recommend at this point.
Note that I did not look at Tweetbacks by Yoast or Intense Debate, which is a service similar to Disqus that includes tweetback functionality. If you have used these plugins, please post about your experience in the comments sections. Please post if you think there is another service I should look at.