Postmatic Brings 100% Realtime Commenting to WordPress with Epoch Plugin

epoch

The team behind Postmatic is aiming to breathe new life into WordPress native comments with the 1.0 release of Epoch today. The plugin was created to provide a Disqus alternative with faster loading and submitting for comments.

Epoch’s creators set an ambitious goal for themselves on the plugin’s description page:

The goal: To provide a realtime commenting/chat experience using fully native comments while being compatible with page caching, CDNs, mobile, other comment plugins, and SEO best practices.

The plugin submits comments via AJAX, which means that comments appear instantly within the conversation without refreshing the page. The experience is designed to be so fast that it blurs the line between commenting and chatting, as comments from other readers also show up automatically with the same speed. The video below shows the plugin in action and a live demo of Epoch is available on the Postmatic website.

Epoch version 1.0 boasts compatibility with virtually any WordPress theme. The plugin will attempt to integrate with your theme via one of three ways:

  • The first tries to continue using your existing comment template while still offering all the performance gains
  • The second overrides your comment template but inherits typography and colors from your theme
  • The third totally replaces your comment template à la Disqus or Jetpack Comments

epoch-theme-integration

Unlike Postmatic, which has a commercial option for additional features, founder Jason Lemieux says Epoch will not be directly monetized.

“We do not have any plans to create a commercial version,” he said. “Postmatic is our primary product, Epoch exists only to make it easier for people to move back to native commenting, and in turn to use Postmatic. Epoch will be free forever.”

Compatibility with Other Comment Plugins

Epoch works seamlessly with Postmatic, i.e. it will pop up an opt-in modal allowing the commenter to subscribe to new post notifications. Using Postmatic in combination with Epoch is not required, because the plugin was created to work well on its own. It’s also compatible with many other plugins that extend comments.

“Other third party native commenting plugins have taken a heavy-handed approach and do not support the comment template hooks built into WordPress,” Lemieux said. “This creates a walled garden in which the innovation and hard work present in existing and future comment plugins is left out.

“We decided to take a different approach. We built Epoch to be compatible with other comment plugins as much as possible. Not all are, but with little tweaks here and there they work just fine.”

Version 1.0 integrates perfectly out of the box with Postmatic, WordPress Zero Spam, Akismet, WP Markdown, and WordPress Social Login.

epoch-plugin-compatibility

“In our testing most anything that does not use a lot of JavaScript works just fine,” Lemieux said. “Things I haven’t tested but I assume would work would be anything that modifies or adds fields to the comment form (Subscribe to Comments, CommentLuv, various captchas).

“Fancier plugins that allow for comment editing or sorting the comment order based on voting would probably not be happy. We will have to make that functionality ourselves.”

Epoch is a Disqus Alternative with an Emphasis on Privacy

When Lemieux and his team created Epoch, the strategy was to address problems with native commenting in order to pave the way for more users to get on board with Postmatic.

“We didn’t set out with intentions of competing with Disqus,” he said. “However, a few months in it became clear that there are usually two reasons people were not using native comments, and we would need to address both if we wanted widespread adoption of Postmatic.

“The first is that the comment templates that come with a huge majority of themes just plain stink. Theme developers hate dealing with them. It’s usually an afterthought. So the commenting experience suffers. It is slow, ugly, and not at all fun.

“The second reason is that native commenting is extremely hard on the server. You can’t run native comments on a high traffic site. The server would buckle. A CDN won’t save you because the page content is constantly changing. For larger sites, native commenting is not even an option.

“Both of these problems are solved easily with solutions like Livefyre or Disqus, so they get installed. But it’s just selling your users down the river. Your data is not yours, ads start showing up on your site. Privacy is out the window. And really, the performance gains are minimal when the embedded comments still take 10 second to load because there is so much tracking JavaScript being queued up in the background.”

In contrast, Epoch loads faster than third party solutions and is completely private. Your commenters’ data is not farmed out and comments stay on your server.

“For the first time someone can say this: running native WordPress commenting will actually increase your site performance,” Lemieux said.

What’s on the roadmap for the future of Epoch?

Lemieux and his team hope to attract a larger community around the project, which is open to contribution on GitHub.

“We plan on aggressively recruiting others to join the project and we hope other developers will be inspired by what we have started,” he said.

“We are going to build out a small API to make it easier for other plugins to hook into some of the advanced functionality.

“And there are a few things that feel like they may be necessary: comment voting and a simple little like button which would be handy as a way to say, ‘I appreciate what you said, I do not have anything else to add.’ I would love to integrate that with Postmatic. I often will get a comment in my inbox and I want to recognize the thought that went into it, but don’t feel like I have anything to add. A simple little +1 would do it nicely,” Lemieux said.

The 1.0 release of Epoch is exciting news for those who have been dissatisfied with WordPress native comments but are hoping for a reason to return. The plugin is open source and available for free on WordPress.org.

61 Comments


  1. Congrats to the team. Video needs more ShamWow :)

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    1. Thanks, Matt! Yea, I had grand ambitions for that but at the end of the day ditched the cameras and just did a screencast at the kitchen table with a stock mic. Not my proudest but I wanted to get something up.

      Maybe it’ll be terrible enough that people will just use the demo?!?!
      http://gopostmatic.com/epoch

      Jason

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      1. haha, it’s all good my man. Sometimes I just want you to bust through the wall like the Kool-aid man and shock us all with your awesome stuff.

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  2. Looks great!

    Video does not load.

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  3. I’d definitely be game for getting Simple Comment Editing working with this. All I’d need is a JS event I can latch onto after a comment has been posted. Ping me @ronalfy.

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    1. That’d definitely be a cool addition, Ronald, look forward to seeing what you do with Epoch.

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      1. This is seriously awesome Ronald. Josh is reviewing it today and we’ll probably get it rolled out into 1.0.2 later this week or early next. Very impressive. I love it.

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  4. It seems that the video narrator does not feel that excited…

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    1. Alright. Sorry everyone for not bringing my jazz hands to the demo video. Sarah: I promise you a good one within a week. It will auto update the embed.

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  5. As someone who has used Epoch since its early beta release (I’ve been a very satisfied Postmatic user since February), I can attest to how slick the solution is.

    I’ve used both Livefyre and Disqus, as well as G+ Comments, and tend to always go back to native because of the issues Jason mentions here (privacy and load, especially with Disqus). But as mentioned, native doesn’t always look nice, based on the theme dev’s commitment to that area.

    Jason and the guys he’s working with on Epoch have listened to all the feedback of the early beta users, and incorporated the changes – ability to put comment box on top or bottom, ability to add social log in, and – most importantly – the ability to mimic a true native comment look and feel, while offering the benefits of other plugins.

    The video doesn’t so Epoch justice (which it looks like even Jason agrees with, hehe), but it’s pretty cool to be dropping a comment in on-site, getting notification via email, replying by email, and seeing that comment appear seamlessly on-site without the need for refresh.

    I really hope this does well for them, and would seriously recommend any WP blogger fed up with existing 3rd party options to check it out (heck, even if you use native currently, check it out and see what it does).

    /lovefest

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    1. Thanks, Danny. We’re really please with how Epoch has shaped up. It was a long and difficult development process… especially the last month or so while we were coming up with the *is-all-ends-all* solution which will work on every theme in existence. T-r-o-u-b-l-e.

      That said: Just like with other announcements we’ve made here on WP Tavern I want to give credit where credit is due. The huge majority of Epoch was developed by Josh and Dave at CalderaWP. They handled the backend and I did the front.

      Epoch 1.0 is leaps and bounds more intelligent than what I had originally pitched to Caldera. They took the concept and ran with it… bringing it far beyond what I had imagined. So. Kudos to those guys.

      I’m going to see if I can get Josh interested in doing a post on Epoch, the Rest api, and our thoughts on that possible future. He’s got some great ideas.

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      1. That would definitely be a post I’d love to see. Given the work I’ve seen them do on other plugins, it’d be interesting to see if there’s ever a way in some future update to integrate some of that stuff into Postmatic/Epoch.

        Looking forward to following the adventure. :)

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  6. You know, the WP Tavern crew really should bring Epoch on here. Now that I’ve been spoiled by it, it’s really frustrating to post a comment and jump back up to the top of the page, and have to scroll back down again to make sure it went through okay… ;-)

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      1. Right? When you consider that Postmatic now has Opt Ins, Postmatic itself, and now Epoch, it’s pretty much closed the loop on simple email list building, delivery and engagement.

        Result.

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    1. Yes, please drop the Jetpack comments with the heavy handed subscribe options and processor intensive javascript. Let’s go native. There is an issue with Postmatic in that it can encourage too many lightweight and out of context comments (nothing that a spot of moderation won’t fix).

      Another vote for Epoch at WPtavern.

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      1. Hey Alec,

        What do you mean about lightweight and out of context comments? Where have you experienced that? I’d be curious as to what you mean.

        When participating in conversations with Postmatic (from email, that is) I do sometimes check myself and think *is what i’m about to say worth emailing to the other people that have subscribed to this conversation*? Is that what you are getting at? That commenting becomes so convenient and therefore people tend to do it with less forethought? Let me know what you’ve experienced.

        One of the things I mentioned in my interview with Sarah for this piece is that we’re thinking of building functionality into Postmatic (and Epoch) to be able to reply with just a +1 (from email) or by clicking a like button (web) as a way to say *I like what you said* without triggering another series of emails. Would that interest you?

        Jason

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      2. I guess because of the thoughtful and intelligent moderation/censorship on your blog, nobody writes there any more, so you now want to censor everyone on here by proxy.

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  7. YES YES and YES again! thank you! the (once beloved) comment part needed this!

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    1. I concur, mate. Since installing Postmatic, my comments have doubled and often tripled. This connection between Epoch and Postmatic is slick, yet even without using Postmatic, Epoch is pretty damn cool. :)

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    1. Wow! Thanks, Peter. That’s a huge compliment. I’m glad you like it. I’ll let the cat out of the bag on that one though: We built our site using Make by The Theme Foundry. We were happy with the results and even more happy with the amount of time it saved us. I’d like to do something more bespoke someday but for the sake of getting our site out the door Make worked nicely.

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  8. Disqus went from being a great convenience to being the bane of commenting options. Epoch looks fantastic. Look forward to trying it out.

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  9. Hi, Jason – This looks like a great (and much needed) commenting plugin. Thanks for making this and providing it for free! On the speed of Epoch and making it close to a live chat experience – I’ve been waiting for something like this, it’s like a dream come true. If I can suggest a future feature for your consideration: Provide an option for displaying the most recent comment at the top, essentially flipping the order of comments upside down. Also, place the comment box at the top of existing comments (rather than at the bottom below existing comments). From my experience commenting on news sites (like the Washington Post, for example), “most recent comment at the top” makes the experience very chat-like. Now, replying to a commenter’s comment will work the same way as it always has. Just a suggestion for your consideration. Otherwise, this looks awesome and I’ll be giving this a try.

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    1. Hi Kevin,

      You;ll be glad to know that Epoch has an Ascending and Descending option for both these suggestions. :)

      From the admin settings description:

      “Should comments be shown in ascending or descending order? Descending puts the latest comment and comment form at the top of the comments area. Ascending does the opposite.”

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      1. Thanks Danny! Awesome. I’m looking forward to trying this plugin.

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      1. Jason – Thanks. And Kudos to you and your team for innovating on WP native commenting – it’s time that commenting is fast and fun again. Also I am someone who really prefers to own the comments, so this is great. Can’t wait to try Epoch out!

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      2. Thanks, Kevin for your kind words. It feels great to be recognized for what we do. I hope Epoch rocks for you.

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  10. I’d like to see something which allows us to offload our comments onto another server. This would allow you to keep your primary server ready to handle a massive load of static pages, wiithout having to worry about your comment system bogging down the page loads.

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  11. Hi jason, how do you see epoch and wp discuz in term of difference?

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    1. Hi Leo,

      For me, as a former user of wpDiscuz and a long-term user of Postmatic and the Epoch beta, it boils down to a few key differences.

      – Epoch is much lighter than wpDiscuz, due to using/offering a lot less features. While wpDiscuz has a ton of stuff in the backend for front end use (votes, share, brand styling, etc), Epoch keeps the choices simple: do you want it to mimic your blog typography and colours, or do you want to use Epoch styling (that kinda reminds me of wpDiscuz). Also, do you want the comments newest or oldest first, which dictates where the comment box goes. And that’s it.

      – Now, this may be different since I haven’t used for a while, but Epoch’s real-time update is much more effective than wpDiscuz. With wpDiscuz, if I have real-time switched on, and someone posted a comment while I was typing one, my comment box would refresh to let the new comment be posted, and I’d lose my comment text altogether, and have to start again. With Epoch, as you see in the video, you post and it simply appears, no reloading. Like I say, though, wpDiscuz may have addressed this since I stopped using earlier this year.

      I was also having some issues with commenters saying they couldn’t post, as they kept seeing the Ajax loading icon (much like the little loading circle of doom that Disqus seems to be prone to).

      For me, I far prefer the simplicity of Epoch, which can be coded to suit your style, etc, with some CSS. The fact is’s open source on GitHub too is encouraging, as that really opens up w world of possibilities.

      Hope this helps!

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      1. Thanks a lot for your explanation Danny. I agree with you on ajax loadin icon, if you enable the partial comment load, it seems to be upset. Nonetheless wp discuz was better option than disqus before epoch is out, and it works well with wptouch as well. I shall give epoch a try to see if it’s compatible with wptouch as well.

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      2. Oh, completely agree on wpDiscuz over Disqus, no contest. My preference for Epoch is it very much ties into my “pure blogging” direction I’ve been moving in the last 6-12 months, and ties in perfectly with my use of Postmatic.

        wpDiscuz supports Postmatic, so that’s always there as an option. :)

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    2. Hey Leo.

      WP-Discuz has done a great job with their plugin which is very similar to Epoch. When we first started development on Epoch WP-Discuz was released and we almost didn’t move forward with Epoch at first.

      I think I can break down the differences between the two, which will illustrate why we felt there was still room for Epoch in this space.

      1. Performance and server impact
      Epoch is built for speed while still being kind on the server. The big differences here are:
      – Epoch doesn’t even load the comment area until the user gets near the bottom of the post.
      – Epoch is called using either a script tag or iframe (depending on your configuration) so the comments area is not even loaded as part of the initial page. This makes it compatible with CDNs and/or Cache plugins.
      – Epoch is sneakily smart about polling the server for new comments (for auto-updating) and even when doing so sends a tiny request with a payload of a few bytes.

      2. Compatibility with other plugins
      WP-Discuz and others like de:comments aren’t built on the native comment loop. They entirely replace it entirely. This has huge advantages for the developer and ensures a completely consistent experience across all sites. You know it’s going to work exactly as advertised. It’s a complete package. The sacrifice for the users though is that those plugins are not compatible with other legacy and future commenting plugins. If you want to use something like WP Markdown with WP-Discuz you’d have to request that functionality and see if it gets built. Epoch takes the opposite approach. Not that one is better than the other in this regard. It just depends on your needs.

      3. Integration with the theme
      WP-Discuz injects itself much like Disqus or Livefyre into your theme. It totally replaces any comment styling that may have come with your theme. It is noticeable and doesn’t quite blend in. When you hit a site running WP-Discuz… you know it. Which, for some, may be fine.
      Epoch has 3 different ways it can load into your theme:
      – The first does not touch your markup or style at all. It just adds the performance gains. This works in very few themes but when it does you’d never know Epoch was installed.
      – The second replaces your comment template markup with our own but still uses some of your css. This results in a comment area that still uses the colors and typography of your theme and in general works really well. It is especially cool because using this option you can take advantage of our mobile template. it’s quite nice so we’ve made it be the default setting.
      – The third is the nuke it option: we inject our own markup, as well as our own css, and do not inherit *anything* from your theme. This is for people that really truly hate their theme or have a theme that didn’t come with a comments template. It looks quite nice on all sites but still a little out of place and dull. It’s a nice option to have if you need it.

      As you can see, I need to get to work on the documentation for Epoch. I’m doing so now and this comment was a very good start!

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      1. Well explained Jason. In regards to comments follow up, wp discuz do have subscription feature which notify users by email. Does epoch only work with postmatic for comment subscription?

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      2. Nope! Epoch works with any comment notification system. We’ve tried it with Postmatic, Subscribe to Comments, and Subscribe to Comments Reloaded.

        But, really… even the free version of Postmatic supports notifications *with* replies so I’m not sure why you would run those other two ;P

        Jason

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      3. I was one of the early beta tester of postmatic. I believe you or other people in your team did takeover my site for a while but the experience wasn’t smooth and I opted out, and I understood you might be busy during that time to respond but now it seems stable I’m gonna give it a try again. Thanks Jason.

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      4. The most reliable native subscribe to comments feature we’ve found (we’ve tried them all and even written helper plugins for Subscribe to Comments Reloaded) is Satollo’s Comment Plus. Comment Plus has the bonus of giving you optional single image upload for commenters as well (very nice for design oriented or even fitness sites).

        Comment Plus isn’t free but at $10 for an unlimited developer license, it’s really donationware (rather than commercial pricing). We’ve generally found Satollo’s code very reliable and easy to extend and Stefano has a lot of experience with email (Newsletter Pro author).

        I look forward to testing Postmatic and Comment Plus head to head on client sites. I prefer native generally but my experience with Postmatic as a user has been good. Offering Epoch to the community is a fantastic gift. May Epoch put many stakes into the heart of Disqus.

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      5. Hey Alec,

        Postmatic (and Epoch) both using native commenting. They are just comment plugins that layer on top of the native comment system. You can see a bit of how it works at http://gopostmatic.com/technology.

        You can enable image (and more) attachments with Tom McFarlin’s Comment Images plugin. It sadly does not work with Epoch yet but is a good solution for stock commenting setups. I will be harassing Tom shortly about updating it for Epoch compatibility and we are also looking at MediaEmbed for even simpler audio/image/video/whatever support.

        And. Man. Thanks for the kind words and support!

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      6. Hey Leo,

        We’ve hit comment depth so I’ll reply to you up here.

        Sorry you didn’t have a smooth experience with our early beta. I don’t see record of much in our support system. If you still have a question or concern please do submit it to support@gopostmatic.com.

        I was just checking out your site. So. Hungry. Beautiful job!

        Jason

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      7. Hey Jason, I’ve trouble running the plugin and already sent the email, have you received it? 3 days and no response yet.

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      8. Hey Leo,

        We’re getting caught up on Epoch support today. We decided yesterday that we are going to handle all support directly via the repo on Github and are in the process of moving tickets from aug 1-3 over. I’ll be in touch later today.

        Jason

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      9. wpDisquz is really problematic in terms of performance. I’m looking forward to trying Epoch.

        As Epoch is compatible and plays well with native comments, you may wish to try Epoch with our Thoughtful Comments plugin which adds front end moderation (in context) and advanced moderation tools as well as – tada – really powerful comment caching (creating blocks of 100 comments to reduce queries).

        We programmed Thoughtful Comments to use all the native hooks as well so Epoch and Thoughtful Comments should be compatible.

        PS. Quick caution: there’s some recent compatibility issues with our comment caching and memcached so for the moment please don’t enable comment caching on a memcached server (we’ll fix the issue next week).

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      10. Cool idea, Alec. I just tried it and the two plugins are *close* to working together. There is some javascript to work out. We’d love to see them get together!

        I’m not sure the cacheing would ever really work (nor be necessary to be honest).. but those front end tools would be mighty nice. Be in touch!

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  12. Thanks so much for this!

    Now wonders if some kind of thing can be added that would tell other plugins, like subscribe to comments, to NOT send but on notification per X amount of minutes / comments.

    I’m looking forward to testing this out with p2 / p3 theme or similar for team discussions, but imagine anyone signed up for comment notifications may get hammered with emails if this works as I am anticipating.

    @ Ryan Hellyer – I think offloading the comments to other server will be much easier when the rest API is in core (coming soon from what I gather, for better or worse)..

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    1. Hey Steve,

      Epoch doesn’t have anything to do with comment notifications. That would be up to the notification plugin you are using. It is compatible with them all, though.

      Postmatic does have built in comment notification throttling. Not exactly as you describe but we are moving in that direction later this autumn.

      Jason

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  13. “The first is that the comment templates that come with a huge majority of themes just plain stink. Theme developers hate dealing with them. It’s usually an afterthought. So the commenting experience suffers. It is slow, ugly, and not at all fun.”

    Hola. Just plain stinks? Hmmmm. Mine doesn’t, fortunately. I and my readers are pleased with my WP native comment system. It works well. Many readers have commented on how pretty and colourful my comment system is and remarked that they’ve never seen one like it before — most comment systems are drab/dull gray — which I’ve appreciated. Chau.

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    1. I hear you. You’ve certainly put work into making comment template work for you (i checked out your site) but sadly, a lot of theme developers do not. Good for you.

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  14. I am a proud and happy user of the Postmatic/Epoch combo. It really is what the future of WordPress commenting should be – and yes, it should be deployed on WPTavern.

    In fact, I’m sure if Jason is selling, but I’m also of the opinion that Matt & Co. should consider and acquisition to put Automattic’s resources behind and to embed this power of into WordPress.com. This should be the standard commenting functionality of WordPress as a whole.

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  15. /me wonders if this would mesh with buddypress / activity updates, groups, etc. Might be a nice mixin with BP.

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  16. 2 Questions ?

    1- Can you install “Epoch” without installing “Postmatic” ?

    2- It looks very easy for someone to post spammy comments… How do the post moderation setting work? Or do we have to use another existing plugin to moderate spammy or automated comments.?

    Thanks!

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    1. Yes, you can install Epoch without installing Postmatic. As for spammy comments, it uses the native comment system in WordPress so whatever you’re using to address comment spam now will work with Epoch.

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    2. Right. The moderation system in Epoch (and Postmatic) works with whatever your current flow is. We have a good guide available on our support site.

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