Popular commenting platform Disqus, which recently raised $10 million from North Bridge Venture Partners and Union Square Ventures, is adding support for a feature that’s both nifty and familiar: mentions within comments. It may not sound particularly sexy, but it could actually help foster better discussions in comment threads (more on that in a bit).
If you’ve ever mentioned someone on Twitter you’ll be right at home with Disqus’s implementation. Start typing a comment, then type the ‘@’ symbol whenever you’d like to tag someone — this could be a user who has left another message in the comment thread, or a user who hasn’t participated. The convention is very similar to the ‘@reply’ system popularized by Twitter, and a small overlay will pop up with autocompleted names drawn from both Twitter and Disqus. Tagged names appear with a gray box around them in the published comment, which looks nice.
But this isn’t just for show. Disqus will send the tagged user an email notification (if they have a Disqus account) or a Twitter @reply (if they don’t), informing them that they’ve just been mentioned in the comment thread. And that’s important — it gives you an easy way to invite someone to comment on a thread that you think they’ll be interested in or knowledgable about. Depending on how mentions are used, there may even be an expectation that the person tagged in a comment comes and leaves a reply of their own (in other words, you can call people out).
Facebook, which now competes directly with Disqus via its Comments social widget, will probably add its own version of tagging in the future (Facebook’s main site has offered name tagging since late 2009). Update: Livefyre, another competing comments system, has also offered mentions using your social graph for around six months now.