Working on CommentsWP

CommentsWP Banner on WP.org

This post is a brief history of the CommentsWP plugin creation: how and when I came up with the idea, my general process, and the final outcome.

I have a 14-years-old site (dedicated to BuddyPress) with several thousands of comments. The vast majority of them were left by users years ago when the site was the most active. Since then its popularity declined, but I still have a lot of data left over there – its comments.

For years I was watching that number growing – with no further action. I simply didn’t know I can do something with that information – because WordPress didn’t and still doesn’t provide any tools or interfaces for that. In regards to comments, WordPress has changed absolutely nothing during the past decade.

And finally, around December 2021, I got an idea – let’s create a plugin that will analyze WordPress comments. Most likely it won’t help to revive users’ interest to my old site (the plugin will have a different purpose), but that will allow me to see some correlations and trends in what I already have in my database. I’m kind of a precision and data nerd.

And so the planning phase began.

Right now I use OneNote to store all my ideas, as it allows me to easily categorize things and store all notes in pages within sections inside notebooks. So I started to braindump everything that I wanted to see in the plugin.

First of all, I named it Comments Dashboard. Because that’s what I wanted to build – at least initially – a dashboard dedicated to comments, with all the information that might be useful for me.

I started planning various cards I want to display on that page: their position, data, type, etc. I was doing an investigation on what is available on the market (even outside of the WordPress bubble), how it works, how other comments processing plugins are displaying their data, what they are doing wrong, and what they are missing.

I came to features I wish I had when I was receiving hundreds of comments per post. And the number of pages – and my knowledge base – in OneNote started to grow so fast that I had to reconsider pretty much everything.

And first of all, I started with the name – again 🙂

CommentsWP logo on a black background

So, I renamed the plugin to CommentsWP because now I saw an opportunity to help with comments analysis on a deeper level. It was not just about comments statistics – the plugin idea was growing into a better comments management solution. And not just comments themselves – but also commenters too.

This idea evolution didn’t happen overnight, obviously. I started writing the code in the middle of January 2022. So after “rebranding”, I had to search-replace a ton of things all over the plugin, and also re-architect a lot of parts to make sure the codebase is future-proof in terms of extensibility and structure. Luckily, the main concepts: Plugin, Dashboard, Card, Filters, etc. – were left intact and I didn’t spend a lot of time on that.

During January and February, I was asking questions about what users might be expecting from a plugin that helps manage comments and get their insights. Answers were all over the place – but everyone agreed that WordPress comments management is lacking a ton of things.

Posts and pages have so much more tools available, but comments – although user generated – are so basic. So right now I have a couple of dozens of pages in my notebook with descriptions of various features, improvements, and tools – dedicated specifically to comments.

By the end of February, I was planning to make a release. I already started building RCs (release candidates) and uploading them to my own sites. That allowed me to catch some edge cases and improve the plugin quite a bit – on real sites, with real data. I guess I will write an additional post about testing this kind of heavy-data-processing plugin.

But then the war in my country, Ukraine, completely destroyed a huge number of my plans – and I pretty much paused all the development for almost the whole spring. I was like 98% ready for a release at that time.

In July I started to mentally recover to the point that my personal projects were becoming appealing to me again. And around a week ago I decided that “enough is enough”. Let’s ship what I have and deal with everything else later.

So I did some last-minute plugin tweaks, wrote a readme.txt that is not terrible, and submitted the plugin to the WordPress.org plugin directory.

The next day, without any additional feedback or rounds of reviews, my new CommentsWP plugin has been approved and released to the public.

By Slava Abakumov

// Be good, have fun, create things.

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