Postmatic: Help us test a new commenting tool

June 23 2015 | arielmstallings

postmatic test

Gotta couple seconds today? We're testing a new tool called Postmatic that could potentially transform the way commenting works on the Empire. Postmatic makes it easier to keep up with blog comments via email.

Yeah, yeah: we've had a way for you to follow comments via email for years… but Postmatic makes it so that you not only get notifications of new comments on a post you've commented on, but you can reply to those comments from your email. Anyone still use LiveJournal? You know how you can reply to comments via email with LJ? This is sorta like that.

Honestly, the potential for this to increase comment dialogue is so huge that it almost sorta freaks me out. I've gotten used to lower commenting levels, and with real-time email replies posting as comments… our moderation work could increase significantly. But it'd be awesome! But it's daunting!

As with any new tool, there's a ramp up to figure out how it works, what's not working, and whether it feels like a fit. To help us test, try commenting here! Let's see what happens.

Update 6/24/2015

While there are a few issues that need attention (thanks to everyone for all their feedback!), I'm feeling good enough about Postmatic to roll it out to Offbeat Home & Life today, and Offbeat Bride tomorrow. If you have any questions or additional feedback, go ahead and leave a comment here!

  1. Fantastic! Hey, we're psyched to be here and can't wait to see how it blends with this community. Let me know if you have any questions and need anything…. I'll keep an eye here.

  2. This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been a real comment you would have been instructed to reply.

        • Aha! So if I comment on the site with an image, the image is included in teh email.

          But if I reply via email with an image, the image does NOT get posted as a comment. Testing this theory:

          Kathyro, you seeing that in your email?

          • Eep. I think I deleted that. The flood is already overwhelming. I'm not complaining particularly — I routinely "unfollow" OBE posts already with the current methodology. Hopefully Postmatic will make it a little more tailored in the future, as Jason indicated.

            I will however point out that the giant "they're in your inbox" ad/picture/suggestion in the email is taking up my inbox. It's hard to follow the thread around/below it.

          • Hey Kathy,

            Thanks for the nod. Which email client / platform are you using that is giving you trouble with the post recap featured image?


          • Inbox, by Gmail. It's also bundling half of the emails in "Updates" and half of them in "Promos," but I *think* that should be an easy thing for me to retrain on my end.

          • Gmail on most current Firefox for me. I see "

            *Jason left a reply to a comment by Valerie on Help us test a new

            1 agrees
          • Just wanted to note that the blue box is not an ad — it's the lead image on this post. The image can still be irritating or sized weirdly, but I just want to clarify that it's our image. The only reason it looks likes it's an ad is because this post is about Postmatic so the image is, well, Postmatic.

          • What happens if you need to delete an offensive post? ( And change the subject line. )


          • Ohhhh so the image will always be there?
            Getting bad feels on this.

            I use Google groups all the time and I always prefer posting there by email. But the formatting here is driving me away. I find myself thinking "Ugh. I can't follow this. I'll just go read it on the site."

            1 agrees
        • Kathyro: same as with our previous "follow comments via email" function… a naughty comment will get emailed out immediately. We might delete it a minute later, but it'll still get sent out.

          This isn't a new challenge — Jetpack's "follow via email" function has the same limitation.

          Ultimately, we can't protect our readers from every mean word on the internet. If folks choose to follow comments via email, they'll see mean comments before our moderators will. It's a dangerous world out there. Somehow, we'll survive. 😉

          • Reposting as I managed to delete the below whilst trying to edit. Also, I have not yet received an email invite (but only posted five mins or so ago).

            Eh, almost all the posts I see by email first that shouldn't be there are spammy rather than mean.
            Out of interest, how does the email notification interact with the fifteen minutes I have to edit a post? If I edit does everyone get a second email?
            Also can I subscribe without commenting? I see the 'paticipate via email' is ticked by default which is (I think) new and more helpful as sometimes I forget to tick it then can't subscribe later without making a spammy comment.
            Also, maybe you could subscribe the post submitter by default?

          • Ok, got the invite now after posting on my laptop. Back on my phone and using a different email to see if it comes through from that…although actually the participate box has gone. It was there before. Is it because it thinks I'm already subscribed?

            Edit to add…but seem to be able to edit fine here, was just fat fingered before…although clicking save doesn't take me back to the home page so wasn't sure I'd managed it successfully to start with.

          • And what happens if I reply to a post by email that is already maxed out in terms of indentations/replies, as I have done here?

  3. Test from email.

    I’ve gotten 3 invitations to “continue the conversation” – is that expected?

    • Hey Kathy,

      I just noticed that in the logs as well. It's not entirely expected, no.
      Very sorry. We're looking into it. Ariel – we think we know what caused this (it was upgrading midway through your first batch of invites sending) and will be in touch directly.

      Sorry everyone….

  4. guess I'll try this out . . . I got email invites, but I didn't ask for them. I thought I'd try directly this way.

  5. Hm, from the email: "As a subscriber to Offbeat Empire, you'll receive new posts or comments directly to your inbox as soon as they are published."

    Does that mean that as soon as a new blog post is published on the Empire, it's sent directly to my email? If so, is there a way to turn that off and just automatically subscribe to replies to my comments by email?

    I'm one of the few but faithful RSS readers, and while I know I'm not the target audience and I totally support anything to help the Empire stay profitable, I'd love to find a way to make this new service work for me too.

    • Oops, that was my fail when I edited the message template — Postmatic offers emailing-new-posts as a function, but I have it turned off because we already do RSS-to-email via Mailchimp. I just failed to edit that text out of the message that I pushed out.

      1 agrees
      • Wagh! Suddenly flooded with emails, 7 in the last two minutes, and it's really confusing to figure out where in the various threads those comments belong, even with the "context" help.

        I'm willing to hang on and let the kinks work out, but my first impression is that this seems overwhelming, and a popular post (The OBH child-free one, for example!) could easily flood out everything in my inbox.

        • I agree. I put a filter on the incoming emails, but it's a little hard to get used to and to follow. I do like this reply feature, though.

        • You know what's really amazing is Postmatic throttles — give it a second and you should get a message telling you that emails have been put on hold out of respect for your inbox/sanity. It's clever.

        • Totally agree on that child-free post, Valerie! I stepped away from my email for a few hours, came back to a hundred new comments. Thank goodness for gmail's threading feature.

          • Ooh, actually on that child-free post the little context thing Postmatic gives would have been amazing.

          • I can't believe you guys were following that post via email. I couldn't even follow it via browser after a while because it got so difficult. Thank god for Megan….

          • Right. So, the conversation is throttled at the point that it starts taking off: The first time the post gets more than 6 comments in an hour it is marked as *hot* and we pause your subscription automatically. You came into the conversation a little late for it to happen on this one.

            Since this is a test post it is a little unusual. See how it works moving forward.

            In version 2 we have an even cooler feature for throttling: we'll notice if you stop opening the emails and pause you automatically based on that.

          • *In version 2 we have an even cooler feature for throttling: we'll notice if you stop opening the emails and pause you automatically based on that.* Ooh! [?]

          • Oh interesting! So the throttle is for the THREAD, not per user.

            Also, pausing when recipients stop opening their emails!? Mind blown.

          • Correct. It's per post, not per user. It's not a bulletproof system because the limitation is this:

            We notice a post is getting traction and pause the subscription because it's going to be a long conversation. If at that point (or when you wake up or whatever) you rejoin the conversation you are essentially saying *yea, i'm in this for the long haul* because throttling won't happen a second time. We only do it once per post (as to not be annoying). Of course you can unsubscribe from a post at any time with a simple command…. but still.

            Not perfect at all but we're on a ton of sites and it seems to work well enough until we get 2.0 out the door later this summer.

          • Define "stop opening their emails" — is it checking the HTML content download from their (your?) site? Otherwise I can't see how it would know I opened the email.

            Hmmm… that's a creepy little tidbit I never thought about…

          • Yep – it would use the standard open-tracking tech that everyone uses these days… which can be disabled in most email clients.

            If a user does have open-tracking disabled in their email client we would fall back to simpler emails/hour system or something.

            There are of course privacy ramifications and it would be something admins could configure on their own site…. we haven't thought through it thoroughly but love the idea of it….

  6. It would be nice if I could toggle between all replies to a post and just the threads I've responded to. Sometimes I'm too busy being an opinionated jerk on the road to follow all the other loud-mouth jerks the entire commentary.

    1 agrees
    • RIGHT? When Jason from Postmatic first emailed me, my response to his pitch was this:

      "If I'm understanding correctly, this essentially FINALLY makes WordPress capable of what LiveJournal was doing 15 years ago… is that accurate?"

      The answer is yes.

      2 agree
      • Yeah, I hopped in to add my two cents that I've been using LJ since . . . well, since it was invite-only and I know it was before 2002?

  7. Yay, testing a new comment system sounds like a fun thing to do on my day off! I'm in.

    • So, since all of the replies have slightly different titles, gmail does not seem to be grouping the replies to this post as one conversation. Instead I have 18 conversations. Changing the way the titles of e-mails work (making them all one title for a post) would make it work better in gmail but I don't know if that is possible. Right now I'm finding the conversation very difficult to follow via e-mail and it is just serving as an alert to coming back over here and check on comments.

      3 agree
      • This one is hard to nail down. For higher-commented sites/posts having a generic subject that lets gmail figure out how to group the conversation does make sense.

        For lower activity scenarios having some context about who is replying to who without having to open the email is better.

        In general though we do see that once you start participating in conversations with Postmatic gmail figures it out a bit and start grouping. I'm switching to my gmail address for the remainder of this conversation to keep an eye on it.


  8. Do I reply to my reply through email or does it start a new thread? I guess I'll find out right now!

  9. Oh, but there will be no more "this"-ing unless you take the time to go to the page and "this" things you like, right? Otherwise, these comments already seem a lot more lively than many typical comment threads (with notable exceptions, of course).

    2 agree
    • Oh yeah: Postmatic is really cool, but it's not cool enough to enable using our proprietary THIS! function via email. 🙂

        • The THIS! button is a custom plugin developed by @jmdodd, my former developer. It's technically called "I Agree With This" and uses AJAX/form submission to allow non-logged in users to like a comment.

          1 agrees
        • I didn't mean to! I was trying to say that there's no way a third-party plugin is magically going to support some custom code @jmdodd wrote for me 4 years ago. 😛

          • Ariel,

            We've been looking for a plugin of that variety: *hey, this is cool – i don't have anything to add, but you are cool* that we should integrate with. Our users often get an email notification which resonates with them but sending back a full reply feels silly. It's an itch we'd like to scratch.

            I've been keeping an eye out for a leader of the pack in that space but haven't found one. Have you seen any others that have a wide adoption?


  10. Checking other ( random ) formatting via email.

    This is italics but my client thinks it’s text.


  11. It looks pretty good to me!
    I will definitely use it on my phone and maybe my desktop too.

  12. Pemcat, I'm going to respond to your questions in a new comment, as we'd already reached our longstanding 5-replies-deep max up above:

    Out of interest, how does the email notification interact with the fifteen minutes I have to edit a post? If I edit does everyone get a second email?

    The tools are totally separate I don't think they'll interact at all. my understanding is that if you edit your comment, no additional email will be sent. This is the same as it's been with our previous "follow by email" tool. Side note: Ajax Edit Comments (to tool we use for comment editing) is old as the hills and unsupported, so I can't promise how long it'll stick around. It could die at any moment.

    Also can I subscribe without commenting?

    Nope, I asked earlier today. 🙂

    I see the 'paticipate via email' is ticked by default which is (I think) new and more helpful as sometimes I forget to tick it then can't subscribe later without making a spammy comment.

    That IS new, and a setting I have control over… it risks feeling spammy (since people have to notice to uncheck) but I feel like it might be worth it for the increased engagement, since everyone always forgets to check the box.

    Also, maybe you could subscribe the post submitter by default?

    The tool has a built in function for that for staff editors, but not for guestposts. I think that might be asking more than some guestposters want… especially since some of them are anonymous.

    Great feedback & questions!!

    • I'd have thought being subscribed by default would be a useful feature for guestposters precisely when they WERE anonymous as that's when the submitter might not want to comment (and therefore have the option to subscribe otherwise).

      I mean, if they get an email asking if they want to subscribe to comments on a post they don't have to click yes, it's still a choice. And I guess no one apart from them knows they are on the distribution list, right, so it's still anonymous?

      Even if they are anonymous they probably still care about the content they submitted and might want to see what people say even a year down the line without having to actively go and look to see if any activity has occurred (as can do on old posts, from the facebook page or just random browsing).

      I personally don't find the "subscribe" option being ticked by default at all spammy – all I have to do is not click on the link to activate and nothing further happens.

  13. I am so excited to try this. I just may, in fact, have my email open… waiting… already. lol

  14. I will try this out. I kind of alternate between not wanting to miss out and being flooded by too many emails, so I will have to remember I can turn it off…

    • Yeah, you can reply at any time with a quick "unsubscribe" and stop getting notifications if they get overwhelming.

      (And I hear rumors that one-click instant unsubscribe is maybe in the works too.)

  15. Hey so these comments went everywhere fast. So I'm sorry if I'm redundant here 😛

    I would love a feature (and maybe it already exists /gasp!) where I can choose to subscribe to all comments on the post OR just subscribe to replies to my comment.

    Does that make sense?

    (PS, I'm on mobile Chrome currently)

      • All Postmatic comments go through our usual spam filtering. Your comment wasn't moderated because it only had 4 links, and I have our moderation filters set to auto-moderate at 5 links.

        1 agrees
  16. Are you worried that people replying from their inboxes will detract from your page views? Now that people don't have to come to the page to make reply comments it seems like you will be missing out on a lot of clicks.

    Also, when I gave it a shot I noticed the reply name was my email name instead of what I usually use to comment on here. Is there a way to avoid that?

    • Great questions, and thanks for bringing them over here.

      Are you worried that people replying from their inboxes will detract from your page views? Now that people don't have to come to the page to make reply comments it seems like you will be missing out on a lot of clicks.

      I'm not too worried about it because while we lose a few pageviews, we gain two things:

      1. Advertisers look at comment counts as a sign of engagement. Even if I lose a few hundred pageviews a day, I'm gaining a key engagement metric that attracts advertisers. (Also, a few hundred pageviews out of a few tens of thousands isn't worth losing too much sleep over.)

      2. High comment counts lure in what I call "drama meerkats"… it's basic social psychology! "Oh, 75 people are talking about this? What's going on! I want to see! Now I feel the need to weigh in with my own comment." In this way, we might not even lose any pageviews at all… because the few we'd lose from people commenting via email are gained by non-commenters being attracted by the comment counts to follow the conversation.

      When I gave it a shot I noticed the reply name was my email name instead of what I usually use to comment on here. Is there a way to avoid that?

      This is something I don't know the answer to. Maybe Jason from Postmatic can weigh in on that when he's back from his vacation next week.

      • Me? Vacation? Bahahahahahaha you doubted the planets aligning against me by having our support person be out for the week. Ok, i’m on semi-vacation but happy to answer this while at the pool watching my daughters be adorable. It’s a good week.

        When someone leaves a comment and for the first time ever becomes a _user_ of Postmatic we create a little profile for them. If they chose to leave their name in the comment form we’ll use that as their username. If they just put in an email address, we’ll generate a username based on whatever comes before the first character of punctuation in the email address: becomes jason. 

        Knowing what kind of ship offbeat*.* is running i’d say the best way to get your name changed is to request it from the powers that be. It can be modified in WordPress.

        • I never noticed an option to choose my username.
          While I certainly appreciated the simplicity of making a comment (not having to follow through to the page and fill in the required fields), I'd definitely prefer to not have my first and last name from my email address being used.

          • Nope, there's no way to choose your username — it's automatically generated from your email. In this case, your email happens to be your first and last names, so that's the username that was automatically assigned.

            I've manually changed the display name for your account. While this certainly isn't something that scales for me to do for anyone, since you're a longtime reader and a frequent commenter, it makes sense in this case.

Comments are closed.