1. Don’t you think that it falls under theme territory? It will be difficult for any plugin to provide an out of box good experience for so many themes.

  2. Thanks so much for the write-up, Jeff. You’re absolutely right, pretty much all of the issues you’ve mentioned are being actively worked on. The good news is, some of the work I’m doing will be able to go upstream to the javascript library itself.

    We have a cool internal project at UBC for which we’re developing WP-Side-Comments which means it’s going to be actively developed. Whilst I take many of your points re: options/settings, I’m going to try and stick to the mantra of “decisions, not options” as much as possible. Especially early on in development.

    The issue of theme compatibility is…tricky. I have a couple of thoughts about how best to approach this at the moment. Standard Theme Hooks is the nirvana, but for the time being, I think there’s something that we – as plugin developers – can do to make it as seamless as possible for the end user.

    Again, thanks so much.

    1. I don’t mind decisions over options, as long as the decisions are ones I would have made lol. At any rate, be sure to leave some filters or hooks to extend or modify the behaviour of the plugin, just in case we want to move the bubble to the other side of the content, etc.

      1. Yep, absolutely. At the moment, that’s kinda hard-coded in the main javascript library’s theme, but I’m going to be making as much of that as agnostic as possible. In terms of hooks, there’s already a fair few in there and it’s only a tiny plugin at the moment. There’ll be plenty :)

  3. While I can see some benefit in having comments on particular paragraphs, I wonder if this wouldn’t discourage users from engaging with the whole article before chiming in with their two cents? Of course, they can do this already, but I’d be curious to see how comments like this would affect user behavior on a news site for example. Any thoughts there?

    1. From sites I’ve read, it seems like that happens anyways. Even here at the Tavern, someone will read a little bit of the post and then leave a comment asking why this or that wasn’t mentioned to which I point out that I did further down into the article.

      I too would like to see how this system would work on a very popular news site. I think it would make it easier to see which points or subjects within the post cause the most discussion.

  4. Hey everyone, created of the SideComments.js component here. Just wanted to chime in a bit about how certain parts might integrate.

    Generally the big issue is theme integration. Making sure the comments are visible when they need to be, etc. For example if they slide over but the background is dark, the text becomes illegible.

    However, this is all relatively easily solved with theming of SideComments, which in turn, can be packaged with different WP themes.

    I’m trying to make SideComments as flexible as possible, so the idea is that with very simple changes to the theme CSS, the comment markers can be positioned in different areas and the comments themselves can even slide into view differently, etc.

    While I want to keep the plugin agnostic to any one platform, the WP community is huge and I want to do all I can to support making this interface component super easy to integrate with. So be sure to open issues or get at me on Twitter for any changes that make things easier.

    Thanks for the awesome article!!! Keep up the great work.

    1. It looks like Richard is already on the ball as he recently added a theme to his integration of SideComments. There shouldn’t be that many items that need to be changed for theme compatibility. I’m thinking the color of the bubble, text inside, the hover color, and then make the comment form inherit the same styles as the theme being used. Although I suppose that could be styled as well with each changes.

      Thanks for putting Sidecomments out there for others to learn and play with. At least one person is using it as their base :)

  5. Hey Jeff,
    it’s me, the developer of Inline Comments.
    Great thanks for your feedback on my plugin!
    I’m going to implement your suggested features and improvements.


    1. Fantastic! Glad I could help and provide you feedback and ideas for improvements.

    1. I came across Live Fyre sidenotes in my research but because it’s a service, I opted not to review it since I wanted something entirely WordPress driven.

  6. Interesting article, Jeff, thanks for sharing.

    Six years ago, when CommentPress was being revamped, we went a fair way down the road of attempting multi-theme compatibility for marginal commentary. We decided against it in the end, because of the difficulty in determining a theme’s structure and layout. As you say, it really is difficult. We also made a deliberate decision that commentary and text should be easily readable together, which is why CommentPress has a couple of bundled parent themes where comments are shown side-by-side with the text.

    In my view, the major roadblock to a multi-theme approach is that it requires Javascript-based DOM manipulation. Digress.it, which forked from CommentPress back then, took the JS-led approach. CommentPress, on the other hand, works with Javascript disabled and is thus fully accessible out-of-the-box and functional on screen readers, whose Javascript capabilities are often limited or non-existent.

    There a other, more subtle complexities that the JS approach may struggle with. Consider the comment permalink, for example: I can see no way to share a link to a comment on:
    In CommentPress, comment permalinks just work. Here’s a link to a comment on a page:
    And here’s one to a comment on a multi-page post created with the quicktag:

    Another problematic example: what happens when you print your page? In CommentPress, although the comments are no longer marginal, they are listed by paragraph below the text. Try print-previewing any page on the CommentPress site to see this.

    In addition, a Javascript-based approach not only make theme compatibility difficult, it makes plugin compatibility equally difficult. The CommentPress approach makes it compatible with BuddyPress activity streams, enabling more architectural integration with WordPress to achieve social peer-review systems and class-based commenting such as:

    In the end, I agree wholeheartedly with Nick Haskins when he says “There comes a point where just has to be in a theme, or in an ecosystem around said plugin.” This is exactly the CommentPress approach.

    1. @Christian I think the scope of SideComments.js is to mock the medium.com inline comment features and I think this module is not too far from it. But surely this plugin doesn’t fit every kind of site depending on its thematic.

      But you can check that we can put links in comments just like in the basic WordPress comment form (check the 3rd paragraph).

      1. Hey Pierre, I didn’t intend to be critical – I’m happy there are people exploring this issue – I was hopefully adding to the conversation with examples that support Jeff’s basic contention that integration of marginal commentary into a theme is by no means a trivial task, even if you control the theme.

        By “comment permalinks” I meant URLs that you can share to point me to a specific comment on your demo.

    2. Thanks for bringing up and sharing CommentPress. How difficult is it to theme CommentPress so it matches the style of the site versus being black and white? Any example of large websites using it?

  7. Interesting or possibly ironic as a side note to this discussion of side notes is the fact that this blog/site has apparently shifted to wordpress.com commenting after abandoning its own elaborate commenting system combining several plug-ins. I know this because a “related posts” link above shows me to the 2011 (ancient?) thread describing WPTavern’s former commenting system (which displays quite poorly now).

    Perhaps more directly relevant: the system used by Project Syndicate might be an interesting reference point. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/j–bradford-delong-argues-that-the-us-will-face-a-dangerous-world-unless-the-federal-reserve-fulfills-its-global-role I don’t see a credit for it anywhere, so I’ll presume it’s their own, not some 3rd party system. I like it better than Medium’s, though it is in some ways similar.

    Maybe it would be easier simply to add whatever JS bells-whistles regarding direct annotations on top of WP native commenting system. Could even be implemented via CSS w/o JS, or with JS only for aesthetics. In short, I wonder why it doesn’t work as well to have 3 main choices for blogger: below-only, side-only, both-below-and-side, and then a user-option to show “annotations/in-line only,” “general comments only,” or “both annotations and general comments” in whichever location.

    1. You’re right, this site did switch to the comment system in Jetpack but I don’t think it compares to what I originally had setup, as described in the post you’re talking about. I miss the old comment system. By the way, thanks for saying the post is broken, I’ve since updated and fixed it.

      I want to see how the release of bbPress 2.6 which will have the ability to replace the WordPress comment system with bbPress replies plays into the idea of side comments or just comments in general.

  8. I finally got around to testing this plugin (WP Side Comments), and decided to build in support into some of our themes. It’s a great little plugin. I created a support topic on this, but it seems the user has to be logged in to even comment. Not sure what’s up with that.

    1. @nphaskins thanks for your interest! Actually, I first followed the SideComment.js script which needs a defined user to post a comment. But, when I’ll have some time, I will add this feature to allow unlogged comments.

    2. Hi @nphaskins,
      why have you decided to use WP Side Comments (and not Inline Comments)?

  9. Hi Jeff,

    Inline Comments (v1.1) now publishes comments in place without a page reload. You simply install the newest version of “WP-Ajaxify-Comments” and activate Ajax in the options panel of Inline Comments.
    You would be amazing if you add this information to your article and inform your readers of this fixed issue.

    Best regards,


  10. David Anderson

    lol I randomly happen across this post and do a double-take when I see one of my very few comments on Medium in the first screenshot..

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