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John T. Unger

Why Would You Want to Disable Comments or Trackbacks Site-Wide?

John T. Unger April 3, 2006

In a recent post, Neville Hobson compares ways that comment and trackback spam are managed on different blog platforms. I'm going to quote from it at length below because he sums up really nicely why you might want to turn off comments or trackbacks site-wide, and why it's a problem that this currently can't be done in the preferences menu for TypePad.

Neville wrote:

So high up on my TypePad wish list is item number 3 in the Comments + Trackbacks section of John T Unger’s 40+ Ways that TypePad Could Rock Even Harder list on TypePad Hacks: It should be possible to turn off trackbacks or comments for all archived posts, rather than having to do this individually for each post.


I've been getting just hammered with comment and trackback spam this last week… It's deeply annoying because the comments here are such a vital part of what I feel this blog has to offer. And it just occured to me that most of the spam probably makes it's way into the comments feed before I get a chance to delete it. Sigh…

Turning comments off just isn't an option for this blog. But I have several blogs I no longer write for which are still online in archive form. I would love to be able to turn the comments and trackbacks off site-wide for those, but currently this isn't possible from the Configure > Preferences menu for TypePad blogs.

Back to Neville:

Part of what prompted my thinking about spam today revolved around what I was able to do on my Movable Type blog to stop spam getting to the blog that I cannot do on my TypePad blogs - turn off comments and trackbacks site-wide for all posts, including historical posts.

Why on earth would you want to disable one of the principle benefits of having a blog? you might wonder. That ability for people to engage in conversation on your blog or link to what you write from their blog?

For me, the reason is simple. My TypePad blog is now an archive. I don’t write it any longer (I write here instead) yet all the posts are still open to anyone to leave a comment or a trackback link. Given that the only people now doing that are spammers, I want to stop them. The only way to do that is to disable commenting and trackbacks on posts, especially historical posts - that’s the important thing as I’m not writing new posts on TypePad any longer.

I can’t do that on TypePad, though. All I can do is choose from two settings - enable or disable comments and trackbacks on new posts:

So I’ve done that, which does not really help my situation where I want to disable those capabilities for all historical posts. My only option would be to manually change the settings on each individual post. With 1,470 posts, I don’t think so!

I recommend reading Neville's full post, as he does an excellent job of collecting links to further info and resources. In the comments there, Craig McGinty suggested a Hack that will allow TypePad users to disable comments or trackbacks site-wide, if they're using advanced templates. It's so simple, actually, that it's brilliant. I'll post the Hack in it's own separate entry, up next, but I wanted first to cover why this needs to be implemented in the basic interface for those who don't use advanced templates.

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Bud Parr says:

Hi John. You inspired me to put up a post of my own for a (admittedly cumbersome) way to shut off comments. In general, export your posts, change "ALLOW COMMENTS: 1" to "ALLOW COMMENTS: 2" delete the old posts (at your own risk), and import the adjusted posts. It is cumbersome and a control panel feature would be better, but if you need to change them and don't want to switch to advanced templates or want to be able to keep the option open for the future, this may be the way to go.

john t unger says:

Bud, cool.

I think I have an easier way… but I got sidetracked on the way to testing it because I was in the middle of another test on my "proving ground" blog. Done with that, so I'll get busy testing the comment trick and report as soon as I'm sure it's safe.

The instructions Craig posted were for removing the comments field from the template… I want to make sure it's possible to do so without losing existing comments.

Bud Parr says:

Oh, yes, Craig's may be easier, but only available to those who want to use advanced templates. Also, it doesn't allow you to either selectively allow comments or allow comments going forward. It's a great idea though, and I wouldn't have thought of it.

You shouldn't lose the previous comments because they exist in the database, by the way.

Anyway, it really should be a control panel function.

john t unger says:

Ah, yes, point taken about non-advanced templates. Maybe I should post both?

Cool that both you and Craig came up with different, equally clever solutions. That's exactly what makes the game fun, eh?

And yeah, control panel, absolutely.

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