Migrating from Disqus to giscus


9 September 2022

I’ve long wanted to ditch Disqus as the commenting system on this blog, as it is bloated, adds a lot of extra and unnecessary links, and generally looks noisy.

I’ve been using Disqus for more than 13 years, largely because it was the only available solution at the time I added comments. To make Disqus interface a little cleaner, I disabled all the advertising and as much of the other noise as possible, but it still looked like something from mySpace (for those of you who remember the 20th century).

But now there are several alternatives, and I’ve opted for giscus which is very lightweight, is built on Github Discussions, and is open source with no tracking or advertising. The other system I considered was utterances which is also hosted on Github, but uses issues rather than discussions. Consequently, comments on utterances can’t be threaded (with replies to previous comments). Also, giscus appears to have a much more active development team behind it.

The first step was to set up giscus on my blog. With quarto, this simply requires adding a few lines to the _metadata.yml file in the relevant folder. Here is what it looks like for me:

    repo:  robjhyndman/robjhyndman.com
    repo-id: "R_kgDOH5G3Uw"
    category: "Announcements"
    category-id: "DIC_kwDOH5G3U84CRUp9"
    mapping: "pathname"
    reactions-enabled: true
    loading: lazy
    input-position: "bottom"
    theme: "light"

Then I needed to set up giscus on the Github repo that hosts the website (robjhyndman/robjhyndman.com). The instructions on the giscus website make it very simple.

The last step was the hardest – how to migrate 4000 comments from Disqus to giscus. Here I followed the nice blog post of Maëlle Salmon to download the Disqus comments as an xml file, and wrangle them into a tibble. Then I needed to use the GraphQL API for Github Discussions to generate all the comments on the Github repo. Fortunately, Mitch O’Hara-Wild came to my rescue (as usual), and helped with some of this code. The resulting code is here if anyone wants to try to do the same. You will need to change some specific details in lines 9-13. Everything else should work as it is.