Installing JS-Kit Echo on Web Teacher

When I tried out Zemanta a few days ago, I also added another new item to the blog. That is JS-Kit Echo, a commenting plugin.

Echo is a JavaScript kit. The Echo Core version is available free at this time. There are paid versions with more functionality.  I tried out the free version on Web Teacher, even though the developers offered me a premium version free when they learned I would be writing about it.

Here’s a selection of what the developers say Echo will do for your blog:

Embed it on your site – replacing your old commenting system – and you get:

  • Real-time – Watch people react to your content live – without refreshing the page!
  • Social Gestures – Echo captures the Social Gestures relating to your content including comments, likes, star ratings and more!
  • Hyper-Distributed – Visitors share your content with their friends across all their favorite social networks at once – broadening the conversation and driving new traffic.
  • Aggregated – Echo captures conversations related to your content from across the web and places them on your page.
  • Multimedia – Echo items can include safe HTML, photos, and video for a richer conversation.

Building 43 interviewed one of the developers and asked a lot of the same questions I would ask of him. If you are interested in using Echo, this is a good video to give you a lot more information. Even though it’s promotional from the developer’s point of view, you learn a lot about what Echo can do for you.

One of the nicest features I see about Echo is the way material that once was on your blog and has now moved off into networks like Facebook or Twitter is brought back onto your blog as comments. Something you post about your blog on Facebook may get a comment on Facebook. Echo brings that comment back to your blog and adds it there, too. The entire conversation about your blog post is aggregated back on your blog in real time.

Echo works on many platforms. In many cases it is plug and play. In some cases you have to paste a bit of JavaScript in your template.

Here’s the story of  installing  it on Web Teacher. I downloaded the plugin and uploaded it to the WordPress plugin directory. In my WordPress admin area, I activated the plugin.

Then I attempted to import all the old comments. That was a no go. An email to the support folks at popped up when the import failed, and I was in touch with the developers already because they contacted me when I published the Zemanta post mentioned earlier. I sent them a note about the problem.

Then I left town and didn’t take my computer. So Web Teacher sat in a comment-free limbo for several days.

When I returned home I had a PHP file waiting from js-kit support that needed to go into my wp-admin directory to make the WordPress export compatible with JS-Kit. With that uploaded, the support people at js-kit ran the import. (I was still not able to do it myself. This may be an issue for some people.)

As soon as Echo was installed and activated, it started working. The comment form changed significantly. The admin options for setting up the way you want Echo to work are on the JS-Kit site. Open an account and administer the way you want your setup to work there.

JS-Kit Dashboard
JS-Kit Dashboard

I would prefer it if there was a way to administer Echo from within the WordPress admin area. It’s a bit of a pain to have an off site account to administer it. One more set of usernames and passwords to track.

Another thing I’m not entirely happy with is that the comment counter is oddly wonky. It counts comments but not all comments. Or perhaps it doesn’t register trackbacks or external mentions. In any case, there may be comments following a post but the counter shows a zero. This post is an example.

In WordPress, Akismet still works on your comments, the best I can tell at this point. I found a lot of spammy comments on one post and then suddenly they were gone. Like any JavaScript, it does slow things down and the comments are slow to appear. It’s possible I was seeing spam before the script finished running and then it loaded properly.

That slow-down may be an issue for some people.

This is the third post on Web Teacher since installing Echo. Would you help test it and give it a good run? If you could leave a comment here that would be great. But it would help even more if you could mention this post elsewhere–perhaps Facebook or your blog–and see if Echo picks up the reference to it and brings in back here as advertised.

With your help, it will be easier to see if Echo is going to be a boon for my blog and help you decide if it may be a plus on your blog, too.