Introducing Last Comments

I am finally releasing a gadget called Last Comments that I have been working on for use with Blogger blogs. Some time ago, I became interested in having the most recent comments made to my blog show up in a gadget. Blogger Buster had already produced one called Recent Comments that I was happy to use. However, I began to compare Recent Comments to commenting widgets (a.k.a. gadgets) used on other blogs and felt that it could be better. Thinking it wouldn't be too hard, I set out to create a Blogger gadget myself, and Last Comments was born.

Last Comments contains many features that I had originally dreamed of having, including the ability to mimic the recent comments widgets on Scienceblogs.com and Wordpress blogs. In order to comply with Google's policy on request caching (when you ask a server for some information), Last Comments will show new comments after a 60 second delay from the time of posting, which is much better than the hour-long waits I was used to. I hope that will be sufficiently fast for most people.

Perhaps the part that I like best about Last Comments is its ability to show comments in their original form with bolded, italicized, and linked text, but other parts I like are its almost complete freedom over what content is displayed from each comment and its capacity to display custom text links. More goodies are its ability to float left for interesting results in horizontal spaces like the page header and footer, and the ability to show a background image in the separator bars above comments.

Last Comments works fastest with short feed requests (10 or fewer comments) and simple display lists (see the Last Comments User Manual on this blog for more information about those). Display lists that fetch post titles take longer since post titles are not included in the full comment feed and so those have to be fetched separately. Because Last Comments implements Blogger skins like the popular Recent Comments, extremely long URLs associated with the blog may cause Google to return an error rather than the gadget, but this should not affect most people. I considered having people set up the skin themselves to overcome this rare problem (it usually happens when long image URLs or display lists are used), but for now I think this will be easier. The customizable display list itself may look arcane, but it stems from attempting to circumvent the issue of URL space since simple checkboxes and lists use up too much URL space even when not being used.

If Google accepts this gadget, it should be published in the directory in about two weeks. Until then, feel free to add it on your own if you like.

I will use this blog entry as a feedback forum for Last Comments. I tested it successfully with Firefox 3, Safari 5, Opera 10, Google Chrome 5 (and 6!, which I am posting from now), and Internet Explorer 8. Internet Explorer does not show rounded borders or a transparent background on the separator. The gadget may also not display correctly on older versions of Internet Explorer (specifically, the floating ability will probably display as non-floated). Please leave any feedback on this post for now or send me an email at aratina.cag3+lc at Gmail. Otherwise, enjoy!