Why Subscribe to Comments doesn’t let you check the subscription box by default

At one time, my Subscribe to Comments plugin would allow you to have the subscription checkbox checked by default. This is no longer the case. I get a lot of e-mail asking about this change, so I’d like to explain it.

In short, having the box checked by default was causing people to subscribe unwittingly, as it was an opt-out thing. I was getting a lot of flak about this, because a lot of sites had enabled this option without thinking about the ramifications (even I had it enabled for a while!). Opt-out is a bad way to operate, and it doesn’t provide a good user experience. A lot of users see it as being sneaky. Obviously if you want to edit the plugin to re-enable this option, I can’t stop you — but I no longer wanted to be encouraging use of this option.

“But what if you have a user who wants to subscribe to every post?” you ask. Well, here’s how it works now. If you subscribe to an entry’s comments, you’ll get a cookie that remembers that you subscribed. And when you visit other posts, the checkbox will be checked by default (for you only). So you only have to opt-in once. Naturally if you then leave a comment with the box unchecked, your personal default will revert to unchecked. I think this is a much better solution.

44 thoughts on “Why Subscribe to Comments doesn’t let you check the subscription box by default

  1. I never enabled it by default, but had thought about it after really enjoying the similar experience on LJ. It really depends on the nature of the conversation I think.

  2. I think this is probably a better solution, although as Lloyd says, my setting the box to “opt out” was influenced by the way livejournal works (and my own inability to remember where I’ve commented).

    Lloyd, you never got back to me about what browser was hiding my checkmarks 😉

  3. Good work Mark. I toyed with the idea of switching it on by default some time ago, but gave it up as “opt-out spam”. When you upgrade the plugin, does it modify the default settings automatically?

  4. On one of my sites I admit, I have tweaked it around to be enabled by default.
    It’s a website for Teenagers, and a lot of them don’t even notice that little box to check. @_@

  5. Mark-
    you are entirely right to not allow it to be checked by default-
    however, setting it to be automatic does get your readers really going on their own community 🙂
    On my “political” site I overrode the code to make sure the people stay engaged- and no one has complained.
    I think this is one of the most important WP plugins for any site.
    Thanks again for writing it.

  6. When you upgrade the plugin, does it modify the default settings automatically?

    The option doesn’t exist anymore, and isn’t obeyed even if it were hacked in. You’d have to change the code to re-enable it. So upgraders move to the per-user opt-in solution.

  7. You sure about the cookie thing?

    I’ve checked the box and posted comments on our blog, and I don’t see new posts having that box checked by default.

    And yes, I have cookies enabled. 😀

  8. For me, I put the checkbox in a conspicuous place so that people who really want to subscribe to follow up comments can do so before hitting the “submit” button, not after. 😀

  9. I agree with your decision to do that because it is sneaky and especially if you visit a busy site, I don’t want the excess email and the annoyance of trying to unsubscribe after the fact.

  10. That’s an excellent and well-rounded choice.

    Just for information : in France, « opt-out » is forbidden and « opt-in » mandatory (well, mandatory if subscription is possible, of course ;-).

  11. I want to HUG you for this! THANK YOU. It’s been long awaited and I’m so glad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been subscribed and how much time I’ve wasted unsubscribing, sometimes several times a day. This is wonderful news.

  12. Good choice Mark. Far better to error on the side of caution when it comes to user happiness. We all get more then we need in our email boxes these days.

  13. Absolutely, not question, the right choice. Time and attention are such rare commodities. Anything we can do to *not* take it away from people is appreciated.

  14. I too allow users to ‘opt-in’ rather than ‘opt-out’ – some people are very protective over their inbox.

    I have one related, but slightly off-topic yet burning question (and I have looked elsewhere and beyond for the answer) – is your most essential and most excellent ‘Subscribe to Comments 2.1.2’ compatible with WordPress 2.5.x ??

  15. Hi
    a simple question : it’s a good to think about the users. But YOUR users are not my readers, it’s me ! And I want to have the choice on this option.

    On my blog, for example, the thing is not to be user-kindly, but to allow for strong discussion.

    So, please, could you tell me what changes i have to do to have the checkbox checked by default ?

    thanks a lot, though, for this great plugin amongs great plugins…!

  16. oops,
    i saw David Esraty comments after sending mine. David, could you explain the way you did it. I have a political blog too, and keeping everybody in the discussion is the main point, i confirm.


  17. Today I started looking for the option mentioned above in Subscribe to Comment plugin and realized that it is gone. I use your plugin on all my blogs but probably you are right – the checkbox should be left unmarked and if a reader wants to subscribe – he can do it himself.

    Good work!

  18. I think its good to have it not checked by default. If you are really a serious blogger you would not wanna do that. Yes you are right it gives a wrong impression of you.

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