Review of “Twitter Avatars In Comments WordPress Plugin”

Smashing Magazine recently released a WordPress “plug-in that uses Twitter to show avatars in comments in WordPress blogs”.

While I like the idea, the implementation leaves a little bit to be desired. Comments to the release post indicate that some effort is being made to address the shortcomings in the plugin code, but as yet those changes haven’t been made.

Here’s why I don’t recommend that you use this plugin just yet:

  • the Twitter API allows 100 requests per hour. If you have a blog post with 20 comments that gets visited 5 times in one hour, Twitter will cut off further requests
  • each call to the avatar display requires 2 HTTP requests on the server side (via cURL calls) and one at the client side to download the avatar. Using the previous example of 20 comments, that works out to sixty extra HTTP requests for every page load. Completely unacceptable.
  • the plugin requires that you diddle around with your theme. While that isn’t a problem with some bloggers, for the majority it is a non-starter. The plugin needs to hook into the appropriate WordPress functions rather than rely on theme changes.
  • the plugin searches for and displays Twitter avatars first, then falls back to the common gravatar we all know and love (!) then further falls back to a default image. All fine, but no choice is given to the blog owner as to preferred fallback behavior. I would prefer to be able to choose which avatar to display as a default.
  • searches for Twitter avatars are made on the email address that the commentor enters. *I* don’t even remember what email address I used when I signed up for Twitter. I would much prefer to see another form field that asks for a Twitter ID. Yes, it’s an extra field to fill out and implementing it will mean much more work in coding the plugin.

So the bottom line is that at this point in time, I don’t recommend that you use this plugin. If the changes suggested to the developer are made, though, it will definitely bear looking at again.

For more information, you can visit the release post here: Twitter Avatars In Comments WordPress Plugin.

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