CommentLuv Plugin Hits The Quarter Million Downloads Milestone

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CommentLuv has now been downloaded from the official WordPress plugin repository over a quarter of a million times! OMG, can you believe it’s been that many? I can’t and I’m the one who made it! haha

Who’s downloading it and why?

There seems to be a constant steady stream of daily downloads happening from lots and lots of new and existing bloggers and it makes me wonder, where do these people read about CommentLuv? what made them download it?

Perhaps you can answer in the comments.. I do no advertising for CommentLuv so how on earth did you find out about it and what made you install it on your own site?


History of CommentLuv

© Photographer: Netfalls | Agency:

A quarter million downloads is a pretty decent number but, how did it all start? Here’s a brief history of CommentLuv

I wonder if I can…?

The development of the plugin and supporting site started as a little hobby project, the original plugin was just a simple ‘I wonder if I can’ type of deal when I first started dabbling with php and WordPress. All it did was try to grab your last blog post from the url you supplied with your comment. It didn’t do this until the comment had been submitted and it did it with the internal WordPress feed fetching routine.

The Problem..

The problem with that was if your blog was slow to load or you didn’t have a feed url included in your header, it wouldn’t be able to find your last blog post and even if it could, you would have to wait for it to do the fetching after you clicked submit and before you saw the result of the submission.

It sort of worked but it was confined to only fetching the latest post and if it couldn’t fetch it, there was no error message to let you know why. There wasn’t even a way to tell it which feed url to use to fetch your posts so if you were one of those people that have comments or gallery feeds listed above your posts feed, it would fetch from that instead.

It wasn’t too bad because I only wrote it for myself to run on my FiddyP blog as a way to automate a reward for commenters.

Why write it at all?

For the lulz! Mainly because I wanted to see if I could and also as a way to link to my friends blogs without having to maintain a blogroll which is a right pain when you’re as busy a person as I always am.

My first version worked ok with comments that linked to standard WordPress blogs and people started asking me if they could have a copy. At around the same time some guy released a blog service called blogrush which I thought was a bit of a rip off, it was supposed to increase your traffic by showing your posts on other peoples blogs in a widget. You would put a widget on your own blog and for each pageview of the widget you would get a pageview of your posts on someone elses sites. Of course, everyone jumped on the bandwagon because of the hype surrounding it.

All, that is, except me! to my cynical eyes it was immediately obvious that the only winners would be the already established blogs that had lots of traffic. I wrote a post on FiddyP explaining 7 Reasons why I don’t like BlogRush

Release it Release it!

Because of BlogRush and the visitors to my blog who wanted a copy, I decided to sit at my desk and produce a publicly available version in the form of a WordPress plugin, a plugin that would reward the readers who matter most to a blogger – that’s those that leave comments. It was (IMHO) way better to link to your commenters than some random dudes posts in a blogrush widget who already happened to have a gazillion hits.

That was around the latter part of 2007 and for the next few months to a year, I constantly tweaked and improved it so it worked with more types of blogs and it got better and better.

The only issue was that it was being installed on so many shared hosting servers where the host had issues with the feed fetching routines coupled with the fact that a lot of commenters on the blogs that had the plugin installed didn’t have proper header links to their feeds so I ended up with squillions of comments from blog owners and commenters demanding to know why their last blog post wasn’t being shown.

My own server was on pretty good hosting so I came up with a way for users to register their url along with their feed url so when they commented, their feed was remembered from last time and they nearly always had their last blog post shown with their comments.

Luvved the luv!

Commenters loved it because they could have a deep link to their blog posts along with their comment, blog owners loved it because commenters loved it and, it gave them an easy way to see what their community was talking about on their own blogs. Visitors loved it because there was something more interesting and click worthy about a titled link on a comment than just the commenters name.

Everybody luvved it, except people with blogs that weren’t on the WordPress platform. Blogger and TypePad users wanted in on the action too.

Along comes AJAX

Clean it up with AJAX

Then I learned AJAX. My main motivation being to find a way to make a javascript only version so more than just WordPress sites could feel the luv and AJAX looked like it might do the job. Cue much scratching of head and swearing at the screen and I did it, I learned how to use jQuery to fetch data from a remote location and display it on the page! woot!

I released a javascript only version for Typepad and had a working version for Blogger using the Haloscan comments system (Later updated to Echo).

I even managed to make one for ExpressionEngine and some clever dude ported the wordpress version to work on another platform which I’ve long since forgotten about.

They came, they went

The Typepad version died when they changed their comment system, my free trial had run out so I didn’t have a way to test a new version. Never mind, they charged for their blogs and didn’t give me any money so I abandoned it.

The Haloscan version got updated to Echo compatible but then they went the way of the pay only model and I abandoned that too. The nice folk at Echo did talk to me about providing a premium version for their premium customers but I wasn’t really interested in going in that direction, it would have taken all of my time and I had a job at the time (still do!) that couldn’t be ignored.

Another reason to abandon those versions were because the support required to keep free bloggers like blogspot owners happy was immense. I don’t know what it is about free blog platforms that attracts people who really have no business being allowed on a computer but a large number of them expected everything to be free

and because they hadn’t gone through the learning process of installing and fixing a blog that was hosted somewhere that cost real money, they were generally impatient, rude, aggressive and just not worth my time.

Paid platform bloggers were also a pain, they’d paid a premium to someone else to have their blog or comments system so of course they expected to receive premium support for it. Problem was, I wasn’t getting any of the money so I didn’t respond well to the demands they , um, demanded. :-)


The advantage to learning AJAX was that the WordPress plugin got a massive makeover, now it was possible to fetch more than 1 post and do it while the comment was being typed so it gave an immediate response that allowed the commenter to see that it had worked and, as long as they had registered at the CommentLuv support site, they could choose from any of their 10 last posts.

I improved the plugin some more and created a new site to support it that allowed people to register their feed urls so they could get 10 posts returned when they commented.


Then along came IntenseDebate and Disqus. I asked on twitter which platform to code for and the response was clear. I should code a version for IntenseDebate, which was lucky because Disqus uses an iframe for the textarea which is a minefield for javascript and IntenseDebate was written by and for the wordpress folks so it had a decent plugin api that uses hooks and filters just like I was used to with WordPress.

That version, thankfully, is still working. It isn’t as feature rich as the WordPress version but again, it’s on a free platform so sue me if I don’t feel like spending my time on something that wont pay even a penny towards development.

Better, bigger, more

Around the early part of 2009 I commissioned a seasoned development team to code a new multi user site to become the hub of commentluv along with a new and improved API to control the fetching of posts. That started well and after seeing how it was done, I completely rewrote the API from scratch. Not because it wasn’t any good, it was an excellent bit of coding. It was because I wanted to be fully conversant with how it worked without having to rely on someone else every time I needed a change.

The multi user side of the blog was intended as a way of providing users with a wordpress blog that had commentluv already installed, I figured people might like that. They did, too much!. I ended up being bombarded with spam blogs and bots creating link farms and the server suffered. I am still cleaning up the mess now, the site regularly gets over taxed by bots trying to create blogs so I switched off the function to allow sites to be created here. Even premium ones, it’s just not worth the trouble or expense.

From one server to another

The new site needed a new server, I’d already gone through shared host, semi dedicated (which is still shared hosting but just with less users per server) and own dedicated which, let me tell you, if you don’t know about configuring a server and applying patches or even what to do with your log files, is a big bad nightmare waiting to happen!!

I ended up having to get a fully managed, tip top dedicated machine provided by UKFast. It started fine, it got busier so I had to upgrade the RAM. It got even busier, so I had to upgrade the RAM to the maximum the server allowed. It was so successful that they asked me along to answer some questions on video about the site and my experience of their server.

None of it could have been done without the super awesome fantastic deal they gave me for the server and subsequent upgrades (and my incessant demands that the sales guys promises about having 9million hits a month would be no problem if I came aboard were honored).

Making money?

Along the way as upgrades happened and things started to cost more money than I can explain away to the missus as ‘it keeps me off the streets’ , I’ve tried to introduce things that earn some dollars. Advertising was first and that started the ball rolling, albeit very slowly. Thanks to a good few regular advertisers that took care of things for a while.

Next came buying credits for additional links and default links. That took bloody ages to code and at first I thought was going to be the saviour of ComLuv but has turned out to be a very small earner. Never mind, next idea please!

Featured sites! ooh that’s gotta do well eh? um, nope! haha another ‘in principle, it should work’ idea.

Next idea.. This is what I wanted to avoid, going premium. It’s always been in my mind and given the time and if I had no commitments like business, family and rent, I’d love to do it! as I see it, there’s no other way to step up the earnings enough to

a) earn enough to pay the server upgrade
b) earn enough to pay me to spend the time away from other paid work to do this instead

So, what’s next?

Finally, at long last, we’re here. I’ve condensed an awful lot and missed off some trials and tribulations but in essence, that was the history of CommentLuv and until now. The question begs to be answered, what’s next?

Well, the server is at maximum capacity. The hits coming in to files, images, pages and api now exceeds 10 Million per month. Double figure millions is just a ridiculously large number and to move the site and plugin further up will take more than a skip and a jump. Seriously, the next level of server will cost more than a thousand dollars a month in fees and require much more attention to code and docs and such than I am currently able (or willing) to provide.

I’ve got some test code that works that would take all the pressure off the server and move all the fetching and processing to client side scripts. It’ll make the entire choosing of last blog posts much sexier too. I am itching to do that but to do so requires a complete rewrite of the plugin code and probably the supporting site too which, with a business to run and job to do, is impossible right now if I want to continue to earn enough money to buy biscuits to dunk in my tea :-)

If things work out nice next year with a partnership deal I’ve been working on over the past 6 months, I may be able to get some days away from the takeaway each week to code for luv again but, the next version aint gonna be free. There’s too many users and too much data being sent to and fro to be able to continue the free-for-all without having to seriously consider a way to monetize it.

In it’s current state, CommentLuv will continue to run as it is until I find a solution for scalability. It might require a partnership or even (gosh!) selling the site to someone but, the luv will still be all around for 2011 at least (I think/hope). Please be patient, I am literally running at full capacity myself with very little time spare to give to this ‘hobby’.

wow, that post took far too long. Sorry for going on and on!