MCEngine – The micro-comment engine

MCEngine is a plugin for wordpress that adds paragraph (and more) level comments to your blog post.  It also allows users to share snippets of your post so they can (micro)comment on your comments elsewhere.

It’s great for:

  • Leaving corrections and clarifications on any blog post or page.
  • On a news site or blog you can let your users suggest other areas of interest and investigation or just be more selective about what they comment on.
  • Document annotation – each post could be a chapter of a book or document.

Features:

  • Jquery based integration of the comment form which slides in and out of view
  • Limit MCEngine by category.
  • A printer friendly version of the page that shows MCEngine comments
  • An HTML option to hard code links in to your code so that comments are not lost when you edit copy
  • Select who can see comments and who can comment on posts or pages
  • Respects blog and post level comment settings
  • A select and share option that allows users to select text on screen and share it using email, Facebook or twitter or to email you, quoting the text they select.
  • A winerlinks mode.

You can download the latest beta version (0.5) and give it a try

Instructions are available in English

Not just paragraphs.

MCEngine will add a comment link to the following tags *

  • Paragraph tags: <p>
  • Lists:<ul>, <ol> and <dl>
  • Tables: <table>

You can also use the custom [shorcode] mode to add a comment form where you want it.

What is this HTML mode?

In basic mode, MCEngine, will dynamically add comment links to your post when it’s displayed. It counts each tag and then adds the link. So your first paragraph would be MCE comment form one, the next MCE comment form 2 etc. That’s fine for static content. But what if your users add comments and then, one day you decide to edit the post? If you delete the first paragraph the relationship between comments and content is lost.

MCEngines html mode adds unique, custom classes to your content when you save the post. This ‘hard codes’ the comment hooks in to your content. No matter what changes you make the comments and content stay together.

Html mode also offers a custom class, MCE_no, which you can use to turn comments on or off in your editor.

Select and share?

Often your users will see a line of text or quote and want to share that with their friends or followers. They may even want to ask you about it. MCEngine has a select and share option that displays a little pop-up window next to any selected text with options to share. They can tweet (complete with a link to the post), share on Facebook, email the selected text to a friend or email you with a question.  It uses a nifty Jquery plugin by Aakash Chakravarthy **.

Oh, and if you select text and then open the comment for that paragraph MCEngine will pop your text in the comment box for you as well.

Winerlinks?***

Winerlinks are paragraph level permalinks. Named after Dave Winer who implemented them on his blog.

By adding a link to the end of each paragraph MCEngine has a kind of winerlinks functionality by default – each link is a permalink. But MCEngine allows you to turn off the comment part of the system whilst leaving the links in place. If you use HTML mode to create your posts the the links will be proper permalinks.

Why MCEngine?

A few years ago I wrote a little plugin called Feedback by Paragraph (feedbackBP). It added a little link at the end of each paragraph in a post which, when clicked, popped up a comment box so you could comment on parts of a post not just the end. Why?

This plugin was written to help me feedback comments on blog posts to my journalism students who use wordpress as a base for their online publications.

It was based on an idea I saw at http://newsmixer.us which allows users to comment or ask questions on a particular paragraph. The creators of newsmixer are looking to turn the thing in to an API with a wordpress plugin which would be cool but seems a little way off.

The closest plugin I could find is one called marginalia (http://marginalia.cc/) which looks very nice but doesn’t seem to play well with WordPress 2.8. So I’ve written Feedback by Paragraph to fill the gap.

One of the great things about developing a plugin is that you get the occasional reference in your logs as people install them. I’ve seen a number of interesting sites as a result. But the best feedback comes from comments and from trackbacks for the occasional mention the plugin gets.

I had a bit of free time and thought it was time to dust of feedbackBP and see if I could tweak it. One thing lead to another and the result…MCEngine.

I hope you find it useful and if you spot any problems then please let me know.

* “what about <img> or <blockquote> tags andy?” WordPress wraps this content in <p> tags anyway. With MCEngine a user can comment on each paragraph of a quote by default

**Aakash’s jquery plugin is also available as a stand alone wordpress plugin. So if you just want that pop-up functionality then it’s worth a look.

***Like the sound of Winerlinks? Try Daniel Bachhuber’s cool Winer links plugin . It will work with MCEngine but if you only want winerlinks you might want to use it instead.