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Isso: A Commenting Server Similar to Disqus (posativ.org)
132 points by vmorgulis on Feb 21, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

SQLite backend

Because comments are not Big Data.

Yep, you got it.

Also MIT licensed.

Please go ahead and kill Facebook comments.

I strongly dislike realname policies in this day and time where a single remark can cost you your job.

Because comments are not Big Data.

I'd like to understand the significance of this. I'm extremely interested in comments as big data (to try to understand social networking patterns better from studying the structure of nested comments) and I'd like to get a handle on the opposite point of view - what is it that you prefer about this approach?

> I'd like to understand the significance of this. I'm extremely interested in comments as big data (to try to understand social networking patterns better from studying the structure of nested comments) and I'd like to get a handle on the opposite point of view - what is it that you prefer about this approach?

While this might be interesting to you it is in the best interest of the site owners and commenters worldwide that not everything they write is instantly correlatable to anyone who happens to work for Facebook or be in a position where they can somehow buy or otherwise demand this data from them.

User data can be valuable for research or even for profit in ways that doesn't harm the users but I think it should be treated like this:


I guess collection, processing and stockpiling of user data should be regulated for the benefit of consumers, moderators and world peace.

You seem to have me confused with someone else.

Care to explain?

I don't work for FB, nor am I in a position to demand big data flows from someone else. I'm just intensely curious about the dynamics of commented discussions and think it's an under-studied phenomenon. I'm not interested in making money out of it, I just want to understand how ideas promulgate and what factors drive virtual communities.

I was confused by the original post because a) I'm not sure why using SQLite makes comments into 'not big data' (is it extraordinarily hard to get statistical information out of SQLite or something?) and b) even if a blog or website is completely private, might not the owner want to analyze what's going on within the private social network they've created?

Also, I question your blanket assertion about what is or in't in the interest of other people. You seem to have taken my prior comment as an intent to exploit comment data for financial gain.


Then you might get a license from me. And if you haven't tested with the HN dataset that is where I would start.

I was confused by the original post because a) I'm not sure why using SQLite makes comments into 'not big data' (is it extraordinarily hard to get statistical information out of SQLite or something?)

No, getting data out of SQLite is easy. But I have yet to hear anyone using SQLite for anything that would be called big data in a way that makes sense. (Yes, my previous employers file share where we could upload 5GB files doesn't qualify.)

I think the comment on the website is supposed to be funny in a bitter way.

and b) even if a blog or website is completely private, might not the owner want to analyze what's going on within the private social network they've created?

I have yet to manage to think of a private website that might contain enough non-spam comments to qualify as big data.

And for small and medium size data plain SQLite is wonderful : )

What I and others are skeptical to is REAL big data, where certain companies scoop up everything they can get their hands on. This is an often dirty, potentially really harmful raw material as we have seen in articles about the moderation teams that makes sure Facebook and others stays reasonably clean.

With a little bit of processing this "nuclear waste" is also possible to weaponize. Two ideas off the top of my head:

- Facebook and others can easily name thousands of people who waste their employers time during the day.

- or post a number of people who run pseudonymous accounts for various reasons but have failed to maintain proper opsec.

Comments for your website are not Big Data (in most cases). Comments aggregated throughout multiple websites can be Big Data, but making them available is not your responsibility.

Well because it's dealing with like comments on blog posts. There's a time and place for mass scale comment backends, but most blogs are not those places, and most people ain't got the time anyways.

I also wrote a self-hosted comment-server:


Mine uses Redis or SQLite for storage, and uses markdown. The biggest difference is mine is flat. I keep thinking I should rework it to allow nested comments, and avatars, but at the same time it is nice and simple as-is..

Nested comments are now supported, FWIW.

Demo - https://tweaked.io/guide/demo/

>I strongly dislike realname policies in this day and time where a single remark can cost you your job.

Can it though? Because I see some vile comments made by people who appear to be using their real name, photo, location information on their profile.

Can doesn't mean "necessarily will". It depends on how much attention the comment attracts a lot of times, even more than on its content. Things that anyone could say in anger on a bad day or as dark joke can come back to haunt you if they happen to raise a media circus. Yet, advocating genocide can have no effect in your career if it goes broadly unnoticed. That's part of the problem.

PyCon. Two decelopers on the floor lost their job because they were overhead by someone who posted it to twitter.

> Because comments are not Big Data.

Big data is mostly used when you want to monetize those comments.

Disqus and social sign-on comments are cancer. They must be plugged. Too much Ivan all over social media these days. Zuckerberg is equally disturbing a threat and should not be trusted with his bizarre utopian language.

I'm a big fan of Isso, and have been running it on my (not at all notable) blog for a while! I do however wish that the commenter icons were customizable (e.g. Gravatar, Facebook, etc.). There have been Github issues open for it since 2014, but nobody seems willing to put in the effort to implement it. :)

Yeah. I'd like this too, but I'm not holding my breath as the developer comes across as a bit of an arrogant arsehole.

When I first set up isso, I had a hell of a time getting it configured and running, following the pretty poor official documentation. So I visited the Github repo to ask for help but, after seeing the dev's condescending attitude to other people in difficulties, I thought better of it and [fortunately] managed to muddle through by myself.

Can you be more specific? I don't mind the accusation, but peope on the internetâ„¢ have often different expectations of what a software should or should not do. There is no such thing as the perfect productâ„¢. It is all about tradeoffs.

In your FAQ page you appear to be more "opinionated" that Gravator should also be considered harmful and does tracking, which cuts entirely against what you see as the point of Isso.

So you tell them to go use Disqus if they need Gravator since they're basically stating they don't care about anti-tracking.

You then also state that someone else should do the work of integrating with Libravator.

It reads a bit gruff and asshole-ish.

On the other hand, TANSTAAFL and either someone should pay you or do the work to do the Libravator integration, and it does seem very odd to pick up Isso and then want to use an avatar service that also does tracking.

Presumably those people hate Disqus for other reasons, but it certainly doesn't have to be your concern.

I'd probably write the same kind of tone in a FAQ entry as well, because if its being given away for free then the flip side is that users on the internet shouldn't be demanding assholes and want things for free that you have zero interest in providing for free, and I think you make your position reasonably clear.


I can't be more specific at this remove, as it's a while since I set Isso up. But I found the documentation pretty unhelpful in places and, when I visited Github to chase up on some of the issues I was having, I came away with the impression, from your replies to existing issues, that your reflex position was to "blame the user" [in pretty grouchy language, in some cases], rather than to accept that your documentation could have been clearer.

Not, at least as per my experience trying to get Isso working and interacting with the developer for the first time: https://github.com/posativ/isso/issues/305. Spoiler: He helped me get Isso working!

Unfortunately it is a policy decision to not use gravatar or Facebook. But a phenomenal tool.

I agree. It should be a choice opt-in for the user to use Gravatar or not.

Can you please share how you set up Isso with Hugo? Thanks.

If anyone is reading this, I found Isso pretty easy to set up on localhost. (1) Installing Isso was a breeze; their documentation is top-notch -- https://posativ.org/isso/docs/install/ (2) I then updated my Hugo theme to support Isso -- https://gitlab.com/kaushalmodi/hugo-theme-refined. I use this setup for my work-blog where I serve the blog+comments from my work machine. Now I only need to get a hosting server so that I can do the comment serving for my public blog.

I've been scouring for a solid replacement for Disqus for my company's blog (https://blog.elasticbyte.net). We are currently using Ghost and Disqus.

Isso looks nice, especially like the code blocks and backtick support. However, social login is a must have. The ability for anybody to put a name and email is bound to be a spammers delight.

Genuine question which I think should be on the site's FAQ:

Why should I use Isso over Disqus?

Maybe if you don't want links in your comments surreptitiously hijacked by Disqus and used to try and generate ad revenue:


That blog doesn't ring true.

They've had the program in place for years (~2012) and it is opt-in. Author didn't seem to contact Disqus to see if this was a mistake or intentional, and doesn't mention if the domain had the Revenue option enabled. He just says 'I remember once clicking an unrelated option about showing inline ads, that should have been good enough'.

Seems like a senseless ragequit.

I doubt I enabled this and I just checked and my disqus comments also go through this.

S/He does link to a complaint on Disqus's forums about it. So, it does seem to be taking other people by surprise too:


Disqus is going to start forcing some blogs to either ad-support or get a subscription: https://blog.disqus.com/advertising-will-remain-optional-for...

If you want to own (and control) your site's comments, then Isso is for you.

It is that simple. :)

Your server, your data.

Disqus is offering you a free service for a reason: they want to make good use of the data that your site comments contains.

They also want to hi-jack the community that you have built around your site - or rather: what Disqus has fooled you into believing that you have.

You shouldn't if you are happy with Disqus. Isso is an open source, self hosted alternative.

Yes, but what advantages accrue to the person using it? It's become fashionable for people to identify which boxes they tick in a single sentence when describing their product, but this is basically preaching to the converted. For people who are not already exercised about always preferring an open-source option (ie potential new entrants to the OSS community), it's worthwhile to provide positive reasons to use it, because otherwise you're limiting your potential take-up from the outset.

This is an Open Source and self-hosted alternative to Disqus.

It is not a product.

And, as such: doesn't need to market itself.

Use it if you want to. Or not.

I wanted to use it, but couldn't make it run - I am not a Python guy, so I went for HashOver (PHP) instead. Not because HashOver is better, it's not, but because I need to be able to modify/fix the software, and I know PHP better than Python.

But I still believe that Isso is the best self-hosted and open source Disqus alternative in existence.

This. I wonder what makes people feel like they're buying FOSS packages and that the people kind enough to release their code for no material returns have to somehow lure them into using it, while it's all about sharing and improving together.

I browsed their website & github and have yet to find an answer to your question

I guess one reason is that this is open source but really when I just wanna implement a commenting system that works I'd rather go with the one thats quickest to implement and gives me the most features.


I explored this for my static website (hosted on github), Didn't fit my needs exactly. So I started building one in flask and mySQL recently: https://github.com/singhjaideep/flask_comment

I'm curious about why you have a static website hosted by someone else, but then host your own comments? Is there some advantage to keeping the comments separated from the content?

Static hosting is pretty much free, then the comments can go on a cheap server.

I looked into using Discourse to do something like this, but they refuse to reduce their memory usage (2GB minimum required, I think)

Exactly! I host my blog for free on github, and the comments on free account from www.pythonanywhere.com.

care to elaborate what features isso was missing?

Actually I wanted something even more simpler. No usernames, avatars,emails,threading, none of that. I just wanted the simplest way to add comments, and to keep spammers out, that it. I feel isso is more useful for blogs that have a ton of comment interactions. FYI I agree that comments are not bigdata, I should have used sqlite as well..

(about alternatives) "Juvia, written in Ruby (on Rails). No threaded comments, nice administration webinterface, but... yeah... Ruby."

coming from a Python project...

Don't worry about Juvia. Project has been dead for years..

I'd like something similar (either a service like Disqus or self host like Isso) but for reviews.

I tried to set this up for my site, because Disqus takes two hours to load and I don't like the centralization aspect and all the bloat they're adding. However, I stumbled first thing on the "host" parameter. It doesn't seem to like the subdomain I've set up for serving the comments, and it's obviously not getting served on the top-level domain, so I don't know what it expects.

The documentation doesn't mention much there, so I'm afraid I'm stuck. Has anyone managed to set this up? I'll open an issue with them to improve the docs.

A host can also be a subdomain. I'm using Isso on my personal blog for reference: https://blog.posativ.org/. It works exact the same way as for a top-level domain.

Worth mentioning for simplicity's sake, a "subdomain" is a domain, same for a "top-level domain". The period marks simply add another level of terms to a namespace on its left-hand side, usually in an already existing domain's namespace. A domain can have any number of terms that someone wants; it only needs a reachable nameserver, which ultimately the root-level operator controls. To illustrate this, you used to be able to go to http://to/ with the help of any up-to-date ICANN DNS record keeper, but that record got deleted or something (though @to email would still work, as shown in your terminal with `dig to` vs `dig mx to` or `dig any to`).

Right, I managed to enable it for https://www.stavros.io/ in the end, but I did see some weird crashes that I can't reproduce now. Maybe I had omitted the protocol and it didn't like that?

Regardless, it works quite well now, thank you!

I use this for my static site. I like the lack of social login and gravatar, personally. Requiring or preferring a web of networks just to leave a comment is getting kind of crazy.

Can you please share your setup?

I was able to set it up successfully. Details -- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13713507

What about spam? Disqus has some sort of filter for that, right?

Spam was (suprisingly) never a problem with Isso. Had it on my blog and after >2 years and nearly 800 comments there was never a single spam comment.

"...most Python developers use the Python Package Index to get their dependencies. ... easy_install is one tool to mess up your system. Another package manager is pip." hmm TIL?

My main issue with Disqus is not ideal indexing for SEO. Unfortunately for what I have seen you guys didn't solve that problem :(

So this wouldn't work with a static blog generated by something like Hugo, right?

It certainly would... as long as you're hosting the comment backend somewhere -- which might defeat the purpose of going with a static site generator in the first place (if your purpose was to only host static files).

This is exactly the issue I encountered. I run a pelican static blog on github. I just host my comments as a simple flask app on www.pythonanywhere.com Code here: https://github.com/singhjaideep/flask_comment

Update to self.. nope, it works! -- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13713507

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