1. gabalafou

    Organized Nerd Fights: How We Hack

    Posted on August 1, 2014 by gabalafou

    It’s like 10:30 pm and I’m still in the office.

    My coworker Ted is making loops around the office on his bike while waiting for some part of his program to finish running. Inspired, Melsa jumps on hers, too.

    I’m so tired. How many coffees has it been?

    I’m wearing headphones and listening to the Slavonic Dances by Dvořák to drown out my coworkers’ chatter.

    Suddenly, they look at each other with raised eyebrows. Lifting up one side of my headphones, I hear raised voices coming from the far corner of the office. I ask what’s going on.

    "Oh, just a nerd fight," says Ted, leaning against his bike.

    A four-letter spell has been cast upon us: H-A-C-K.

    What the hack?

    hackweek photo

    I’ve been a programmer at Disqus for almost three years, and my favorite time is when we shut everything down and declare a hackathon, so I volunteered to help run the last one. The general idea behind a hackathon is that it fosters innovation and an esprit de corps in the company. This was basically our Disqus hackathon: dreaming ideas, forming teams around them, and then spending a week, July 21-25, to make them real.

    Some ideas are deemed low priority simply because you don’t have the time to properly sell it. Hackathons give you a chance to do that.

    Jono - Product Designer

    In every hackathon I’ve participated in, there are at least two projects that attack the same problem. In this one, we saw two teams both dig into our data to pull out recommendations for users. In other words, if you like to comment on Disqus (or if you’re just a lurker), how can we help you find the conversations you care about?

    The Internet is a huge place, and you’re only seeing a tiny fraction of it, but the people you interact with—the other commenters and readers on Disqus—are, after a few degrees of separation, seeing almost all of it. It turns out that this theme, how to bring the bigger world of Disqus to you, was something that nearly all of the projects addressed.

    Disqus Daily & Deq

    disqus daily

    From the data angle, we worked on two projects: Disqus Daily and Deq (we’ll be focusing on Disqus Daily). The goal was to use our data to find articles, people, Disqus communities, or even advertisements that would interest you. Let’s say you’re a Disqus user. When you open Disqus Daily on your smartphone, we look at all of the articles you’ve read over the past several days. For each one, we get every other user who has seen that same article. And for each of those users, we gather all of the articles they have seen in the past several days. From that group, we identify the users who are similar to you and recommend the articles that were in their reading list but are not yet in yours.

    One of the engineers who worked on this project, Kashif, told me he was surprised by how well this approach worked. He said the first time they got everything working, the very first recommendation the system made was a blog post written by a college friend that he didn’t even know had a blog. “I’m never surprised like that when I go on Zite,” he said.

    Summario

    If we’re going to link you to a conversation that we think you’ll be interested in, what exactly would we show you? Would it be a comment on that thread from someone you follow? That’s probably not enough for you to decide if you’re actually interested in clicking through to the discussion. Thus, the Summario team built a scraper that visits pages that use Disqus and pulls the metadata: headline, summary, keywords, images. Voilà! Summation in seconds.

    Homeception

    Homeception

    Homeception was inspired by our work at disqus.com/home, a fairly new product we hope will become your hub for compelling conversations. The “ception” part refers to the way we bring the home feed into a sidebar next to the comments section. Imagine you are new to Disqus and for the first time ever, you favorite a conversation by clicking the star.  The star then floats up and over across the page while the home feed simultaneously slides in from the right, catching the star and placing it in your profile.

    What’s next?

    Now that hack week is over, a different kind of hacking begins—the butcher shop kind. We take the ideas and the projects we’ve worked really hard on and we hack them apart: we take the pieces that we like and can incorporate, and throw away the ones that we can’t do anything with. No hack project emerges intact into the outside world. They are proofs of concept, tokens of our ingenuity—and totally worth staying late at the office.

    Or in the words of FAKE GRIMLOCK: “HACK DAY LIKE SKETCH. IT NOT FINISHED PRODUCT. BUT IT CONTAIN DISCOVERIES THAT LEAD TO IT.”

  2. rogupta

    New Certified Partners: DataSift, Temboo, X-Cart

    Posted on July 17, 2014 by rogupta

    The list of Disqus Certified Partners continues to grow. This past quarter, we welcomed three additional companies offering integrations that serve Disqus publishers, developers and marketers:

    image

    DataSift is one of the leading social data platforms, with more than 1,000 customers in 40+ countries. Their intuitive interface and APIs enable easy aggregation, filtering and extraction from the billions of public social interactions on top social networks. DataSift will be a certified distributor of the Disqus content firehose. They will allow brands, media companies, institutions, researchers and many others to simply access and analyze the rich, public conversations happening across millions of Disqus communities everyday. To find out more, contact DataSift here.

    image

    Temboo’s programming platform provides normalized access to 100+ APIs, databases, and code utilities to give developers all the power of the web without the learning curve. Their “Choreo” library contains 2,000+ cloud-based, task-specific code components that can be tested live in a browser, and put to work in projects with their SDKs, for multiple programming languages. In their words: “Disqus is an excellent fit in our Library, and we’re happy that their social functionality is available to our users. They range from university professors teaching application development to professional developers building enterprise-level networks of connected services and devices. And for them, the ability to integrate the discussion and community capabilities offered by Disqus is key to programming in the connected world.” You can take a look at Temboo’s Disqus library here.

    image

    X-Cart is one of the most popular PHP e-commerce engines, powering over 30,000 online shops in 111 countries of the world. Last year, X-Cart merchants processed over $2B in sales. Disqus was chosen as the comments engine for X-Cart’s own web-site, and later was added as a free integration extension to X-Cart’s flagship product “X-Cart 5” to let merchants and their online shoppers enjoy flexibility and power of Disqus on their web stores. Click here to check out their Disqus extension.

    As always, if you work for a company or know of a third party service that would be a good candidate for the Certified Program, apply or let us know below.

  3. michaelgcalvert

    Taking Online Gamers Offline To Meet in Real Life

    Posted on June 12, 2014 by michaelgcalvert

    I’ve been a gamer my entire life. It started with Super Mario Bros, then Dungeons and Dragons through primary school, Magic cards in high school, and Starcraft during college. The best part of a game community is the social interactions with other gamers. Sometimes online, and sometimes in real life. We tested a hypothesis a few weeks ago wondering if people could take an online community offline for a day — as it turns out, they do.

    mr-destructoid

    Our second Disqus IRL event was held in Brooklyn, NY in collaboration with Destructoid.com. They’re an indie community of passionate online gamers, with vibrant personalities and an arsenal of memes. Community is something that Destructoid holds dear. It’s what makes them unique in comparison to other game sites out there. It keeps their threads fresh, funny, and entertaining (sometimes creating a discussion thread that’s more entertaining than the actual post).

    We had over 125 button mashers show up to the event! Most of our guests were from New York, but we did have visitors magically appear from as far away as Philadelphia and Boston. And once people started to arrive, it was on like Donkey Kong.

    game-tables.jpg

    As members of the community know, A DTOID party ain’t no party without Jonathan Holmes & Conrad Zimmerman, the hosts of “Sup Holmes?”. Jaws dropped when they arrived (sadly, this was not caught on camera.)

    jonathan-conrad.jpg

    We invited eight talented, local New York game developers to share their shiny new games for the first time with the public:

    Holy Wow Studios and Simple Machine debuted new games specifically for the event.

    Everyone that attended received a special DTOID themed gift bag that included a Destructoid Game Night USB drive (pre-loaded with demos of the games debuted that night), game art, backgrounds, and music from This Week In Chiptunes. We also tossed in some Disqus stickers, Destructoid-green jelly beans, and a bottle opener.

    10369528_307010482797032_148323588_n.jpg

    As the day progressed we chowed down on delicious tacos, enjoyed several tasty beers, and play-tested a bunch of brand new local games from the 8 developers we invited. We ended the night with a 30-player Street Fighter 2 tournament, on a 400 inch wall, narrated by a sports announcer. (Which by the way, Jonathan Holmes won after proclaiming he was terrible at the game.)

    Screenshot 2014-05-30 15.26.05.png

    The winner of the tournament received a custom 3D-printed arcade cabinet (that you can load pictures on), along with a couple Kid Robot Street Fighter 2 figurines and other swag from Gamechops and Zen Monkey Studios.

    As the night came to an end everyone was having fun, getting to know one another, smiling, high-fiving, with an occasional thumbs up thrown in. There was definitely a deeper bond created amongst active commenters, and new friends meeting for the first time. It was exciting as a long-time DTOID member to see conversations come to life that I normally would only see online. Community is important no matter where it lives. It builds a loyal audience that keeps people coming back both online and off.

    the-boys.jpg

    If you want to learn more about how Destructoid uses Disqus, check out this video.

  4. steveroy44

    Disarming Engagement: A Recap of Our Internet Week Event

    Posted on May 21, 2014 by steveroy44

    Engagement means many things to many people. Probably too many things in the publishing and advertising worlds. So this week in New York City, we hosted an event at City Winery that brought together some of the best minds from the industry to unpack the hyperbole and load up on straight talk. The question we wanted to answer was: do we measure what matters? This is a recap of the discussions we convened.

    Voices from the Park

    How many conferences and many more articles about measuring content success ever include the views of actual readers? Few to none. So the week before our event, we hit the streets of New York City asking people, “What does engagement mean to you?” Here’s what they had to say, and how we started off the morning. (Warning: unscripted and 100% organic cat pic reference included.)

    “Paywalls Are the Opposite of Engagement”

    We were fortunate to then feature a lively Q&A between Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Mashable’s Christina Warren. In a wide ranging discussion, Fred expressed an unambiguous view that “paywalls are the opposite of engagement” and stressed the need for publishers to foster sharing and commenting.

    Six in Under 60

    The centerpiece of our event featured six lightning talks from industry leaders who are doing engagement right. Each speaker was given no more than 10 minutes to present a case study, impactful insight or brief story about how their organization is learning to respond to the content needs of audiences and customers.

    A quick rundown:

    • Ro Gupta of Disqus shared some history of how we’ve evolved our ad and core product metrics to include time spent as a true measure of user value. (Did you know that every month, Disqus captures a trillion seconds of attention through online discussion?)  

    • Jacqui Maher of The New York Times talked about backing up journalistic intuition with data and how the Times looks at repeat visits as a key success metric.

    • Romy Newman head of digital advertising for The Wall Street Journal shared a case in point that demonstrated how clicks don’t measure the full value of advertising content, especially when a brand marketer is looking to build awareness or communicate an idea.

    • Hilary Parker of Etsy gave a talk focused on what Etsy has learned through A/B testing, stressing the importance of informed experimenting to increase user engagement and conversions.

    • Don Steele who heads up fan engagement at Comedy Central presented his “Anatomy of a Conversation” about how real communication with real fans has fostered the growth of the Comedy Central community.

    Time Spent and Premium Audiences Are Not Mutually Exclusive

    To close out the morning, I moderated a discussion with Tony Haile, the CEO of Chartbeat and Jay Lauf, the publisher of Quartz. Quartz has very effectively positioned itself as a high-end business intelligence brand where the advertiser proposition is about reaching a premium, executive-level audience. Chartbeat has popularized the notion that publishers should be looking to monetize time spent reading in alignment with the way marketers buy time on TV and other media platforms.

    So I teed up a central question. What matters more: who is reading or how much time is spent reading? (Spoiler alert: both.) Check out the discussion for yourself.

    Thanks to all our speakers and please share your thoughts and questions below.

  5. nudelzrulez

    How Paleo Food Made Strangers Into Friends

    Posted on May 13, 2014 by nudelzrulez

    We had a hypothesis that needed testing at Disqus — would people that love to talk about their interests online, do the same in the “real” world? As it turns out, they do. And with vigor.

    Online communities are our focus at Disqus. But to the average person, they may not be the most approachable or natural space to convene and connect. So we wanted to explore ways to tell the story of our communities by putting them in their natural, off-line environments. Think of movie buffs at a premiere of an indie flick. Or car fanatics at the local car show.

    This past weekend we hosted our first Disqus IRL event in collaboration with Michelle Tam (and her husband, Henry Fong). Together they run the popular Paleo food site Nomnompaleo. When Michelle and I first chatted about hosting an event for her online community members, we weren’t sure how it would play out. Would a bunch of strangers really be able to hit it off? We decided to say, “Screw it, FEED THEM AND THEY WILL COME” (I’m paraphrasing a bit here.)

    We gathered up 20 guests (via a giveaway on Michelle’s blog) for a family-style dinner at the gorgeous Cookhouse, in North Beach, San Francisco. The lovely and talented paleo chef Diane Davidson, of Cast Iron Kitchen, prepared recipes from Michelle’s book. The only thing left to do was test our hypothesis, and get our little group of paleolithic eaters together in real life!

    Most of our guests were from the Bay Area, but we were lucky enough to entice people to come from as far as Park City, Seattle, and Los Angeles. And once people started to arrive, it was obvious we were onto something.

    These people were excited. One woman literally squealed when Henry offered to sign her Nomnompaleo cookbook. I thought glasses might crack when eruptions of laughter periodically tore through the room. I’m not a Paleo eater myself, but after seeing people make instant, enthusiastic connections, I considered converting then and there. I wanted to be part of the tribe.

    One of our guests, Kim, summed it up best when she said, “It was really surprising at the time (but not so much in retrospect) how passionate we all were about Paleo cooking and Michelle’s blog. It was neat to connect with people in real life over a shared interest.”

    Sitting down to dinner only fueled the discussion further. As each dish came out, people exchanged recipe tips and resources on where to find good takeout Paleo food. (Along with a little lamenting over why the recipes didn’t taste this good at home.) At one point, Lisa, one of the guests, said, “I was so surprised to see fish sauce and ghee on the counter, but then I remembered where I was — it’s awesome.”

    Much like Kim, I was initially surprised by how easy it was for people to strike up a conversation. But it soon became clear that whether people were online or off, a good community is a good community. And that means people from all walks of life sharing the same interest, getting together to share an experience and talking to whoever they’re next to with ease. Another guest, Jill, said “I knew the Nomnompaleo followers had to be a good crowd, but I had SO much fun and have some new connections.”

    One of the original promises of the Internet is the opportunity and ability to connect with people who love the same things you do. This is the core of our mission at Disqus. And for the first time in the real world, the Nomnompaleo event delivered these same connections in spades. The only thing sweeter than playing Paleo Matchmaker were the Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme we had for dessert.