I don’t understand why anyone who blogs would not have some sort of “Latest Comments” widget in the sidebar, but it appears that quite a few don’t. I wonder if they realise that this might be why they don’t get as many comments on every post as they might like?
I find that on sites without a comments widget the discussions on older posts just wither away as new posts take the sweet spot at the top of the front page. With a comments widget, people can see that a discussion is ongoing on a post they’ve already read and perhaps commented on, and are encouraged to check those latest comments and maybe add more to the discussion. Without a comments widget, they have to want to revisit that post they’ve already read just on the offchance that new comments have been added. How many of the readers are going to do that?
Sure, they could subscribe to the blogs Comments RSS feed, or maybe just the specific Comments feed for that post if they are tech-savvy enough, but how many do? I generally don’t follow comments by RSS, the option just doesn’t appeal. If someone like me who follows hundreds of Posts feeds by RSS isn’t generally going to click on a post’s Comments feed, how many others do you think are going to do it?
In WordPress, the default Comments widget is pretty basic: a simple list of commentor names & gravatars (optional) that doesn’t show how many comments a post has in total and can show a maximum of 15 comments. I prefer a bit more information about comments (although obviously on this very new blog I don’t have that many comments to display yet).
I’ve long been fond of the plugin for Brian’s Latest Comments (plus widget), but for ages that wasn’t being updated. I’m glad to discover that it has been updated after all, in July 2009. I’m normally a bit leery of plugins that aren’t in the official WordPress repository, but I’ve liked and used earlier versions of this plugin for over 3 years, so I’m not about to stop now. As you should be able to see in the sidebar, it shows the post-title of the most recently commented posts, the total number of comments for that post and the latest 5 comments on the post.
More Comment Encouragement: I’m also a big fan of the Subscribe to Comments Plugin for helping keep discussions alive. This is an old plugin, hasn’t been updated for yonks, but still works perfectly well up to WP 2.9. The additional plugin Subscribe to Comments Now! adds the necessary code to your comments template to include the option for people to subscribe without commenting, so you don’t have to add it manually.