Using the Comments Application

Ellington’s commenting system is the core component of user interaction on a Web site powered by Ellington. The roots of the comment application are based on Django comments, which makes it extremely powerful and flexible, as it can be used on any object in Ellington. Some of Ellington’s more popular applications that utilize the comments application are news stories, events, and weblogs.

In addition to the basic comment field, each comment in Ellington has a content type, object id (for permalinks to individual comments), site, and user fields. These fields can be easily visualized by reviewing a comment through the administrative interface (the admin). While the admin is not used for comment moderation, it is useful to see what comments are composed of.

Comment Moderation

When a user posts a comment, it is readily available on the site. There is a specific permission set for comment moderators that needs to be assigned. Comment moderation does not require access to the administrative portion of the Web site, so comment moderators do not need ‘staff status’.

Since the launch of our Moderation Queue, comment moderation should not be done through the admin. Rather, comments should be moderated through the Moderation Queue. Read more about the Moderation Queue.

To create a comment moderator:

  1. Click the Groups link in the administrative interface.
  2. Give this group the permission ‘can delete comment’.
  3. Go back to Home, and then Users.
  4. Select the users desired for this permission.

Comment moderators group members will be able to remove comments that violate your site’s terms of service. Hosted clients also have the optoin af adding an email address to the Ellington’s ADMINS list. These addresses will receive email notifications when a comment is posted by a Rookie or Sketchy user. Contact Ellington Support to add addresses to this list.

Licensed Clients can modify the settings file in each site, adjusting the MANAGERS section.

MANAGERS = ADMINS + ((FirstName LastName', '[email protected]'), ('FirstName LastName', '[email protected]'))

It is also necessary to specify the group id of the comment moderators group in the COMMENTS_MODERATORS_GROUP setting. The easiest way to find the group ID is to look at the URL in the administrative interface. The number at the end of the url is the id for that group.

Addressing Spam

Any and all websites will occasionally find their comment forms receive posts from spammers. Comment spamming is a relatively common internet phenomenon, and while we here at Ellington understand that these comments can be frustrating, they can often be easily addressed by a comment moderator. Programmatic restrictions to comments such as Akismet and Captcha’s can work to limit or inhibit spam comments, but also work in the same manner to reduce the ease of use for a legitimate public users’ interactions with your site.

Read more about implementing Akismet and/or ReCapthca here


Once ADMINS email addresses are in place and a comment moderators group is created, ADMINS will begin to receive notifications from Ellington when users make comments. The first types of notifications will be for rookie user comments (on a new site). Rookie users in Ellington are users who have posted less than 10 comments. Ten is the default value, and can be changed by modifying the COMMENTS_FIRST_FEW setting in the main settings file. The purpose of rookie user comment notification is to track trends among first time commenters. For the most part, comment moderators can get a feel for the type of attitude a user will bring to the content of the site. If the first three posts contain content that is deemed inappropriate, comment moderators can take further action.

Here is an example e-mail of a rookie user notification that would be sent:

Subject: [Django] Comment posted by rookie user

Body: This comment was posted by a user who has posted fewer than 5 comments:

Posted by [username] at 2008-07-30 14:31:05

Here the body of the comment would appear for quick reading.[year]/[month]/[day]/[storyslug/#c[comment id]

Another comment related user designation is the sketchy user. Sketchy users is a general term for a group that is setup for the sole purpose of having every comment posted by a user belonging to this group to be e-mailed to ADMINS. Once a user is no longer a Rookie user, comments are no longer e-mailed unless flagged by another user. Different organizations may adopt a different workflow, but it is often a popular choice to first mark users as sketchy users prior to banning them.

Here is an example of a sketchy user notification that would be sent:

Subject: [Django] Comment posted by sketchy user ([username])

Body: Posted by [username] at [date] [time]

Here the body of the comment would appear for quick reading.[year]/[month]/[day]/[storyslug/#c[comment id]

(This would be the permalink for the comment)

The final type of notification an ADMIN would receive is a flagged comment. When users click the “Suggest removal” link and confirm their suggestion, an e-mail is sent. Here is an example of a flagged comment user notification that would be sent:

Subject: [Django] Comment flagged

Body: This comment was flagged by [username of person flagging the comment]:

Posted by [username] at [date] [time]:

Here the body of the comment would appear for quick reading.[year]/[month]/[day]/[story slug/#c[comment id]

(This would be the permalink for the comment)

Banned Users

When users act in a fashion that requires comment moderators to ban a user, Ellington has a unique approach that has proven over time to be extremely effective. Banned users, by their nature, tend to want to cause trouble. Banning them normally has no effect, because as soon as they find out they’re banned they’ll create new accounts and start posting again, leading to a sort of “whack-a-mole” situation where the same user keeps popping up again and again under different accounts. There is no solution to such a case, aside from erecting barriers to participation so steep that other desirable users are also driven away.

What Ellington does is create sort of an illusion. The banned user can still log in and can still post comments. They will even continue to see their comments show up on the site. But the comments will not be visible to any other user. This leads to two things:

  1. The banned user’s antics no longer annoy other users.
  2. The banned user, instead of realizing he or she has been banned and trying to evade it, instead is led to believe that other users are simply ignoring these comments and, deprived of the attention and responses most such users crave, eventually gives up.

Banning a user is very simple but it does require staff permissions. In the Change User page of the admin, select the “Banned Users” group, and click the Save button. Once the user is a member of the banned users group, all of their comments are no longer visible to others.

How does the public comment?

Public users have the option to post a comment to most Ellington objects including stories photos and audio clips. Ellington’s comment post form includes a wysiwig text editor at the top of the text box. Users can use these tools to format their comments. The formatted text will appear in a preview box below the comment box.

Comment forms are also oembed enabled, which allows users to automatically embed content from other sites by using a URL. A placeholder for an embedded object will appear prior to posting. Once the comment is posted, users will see their embedded object.

Threaded Comments

Users have the option to post replies to existing comments or to post a brand new comment. To post a threaded comment, users can click the “reply” button

Instead of a full wysiwig editor, users will be able to give standard text responses to any comment posted.

The resulting comment is indented from the rest of the comment thread, allowing public users to have a streamlined conversation as well as posting their reaction to Ellington objects.

Social Commenting

Users also have the option of posting their comments to Facebook and Twitter. See our Social Commenting documentation for more information.


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