Migrating Disqus from WP to 11ty

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So I recently ported my 14 year old blog from WordPress to Eleventy.

I had been using Disqus for comments for years, so I didn’t want to lose them, even if I ended up using a different solution for the future (or no comments at all).

Looking around for an existing solution did not yield many results. There’s Zach’s eleventy-import-disqus but it’s aimed at importing Disqus comments as static copies, but I wanted to have the option to continue using Disqus.

Looking at the WP generated HTML source, I noticed that Disqus was using the WP post id (a number that is not displayed in the UI) to link its threads to the posts. However, the importer I used did not preserve the post ids as metadata (filed issue #95). What to do?

Getting the WP post id

My first thought was to add the post id to each post manually, but use a HEAD request to my existing blog to read it from the Link header, possibly en masse. My second thought was, if I can use JS to get it, maybe I can include Disqus dynamically, through JS, after it procures this number. Then I remembered that 11ty can handle any number of different data sources, and combines them all into a single data object. If I could build an index of slug → post id as another data file, I could add a post id via JS in the 11ty config.

My last epiphany was realizing I didn’t need any HTTP requests to get the post id: it was all in the exported sitemap XML, just unused by the importer! Indeed, each <item> included a <wp:post_id> element with the post id and a <link> element with the URL. I tried to open it in Chrome so I could run some JS on it and build the index, but it complained of parse errors. When I fixed them, the tab crashed under its sheer size.

I needed to remove non-relevant data, and I needed to do it fast. All I really needed was the post id, the slug, and the containing <item> element. Since this did not just contain posts, but also other types of content, such as attachments or custom blocks, we also needed to retain <wp:post_type> so we can filter these out. I copied the XML over to a separate file, and run a series of find & replaces in VS Code:

  1. ^(?!.*(wp:post_id|wp:post_type|</?item>|</?link>)).+\n (regex) with empty string
  2. \n{3,} (regex) with \n (to remove empty lines)
  3. wp:post with post to remove namespaces and make the XML easier to handle
  4. https://lea.verou.me/ with empty string and </link> with </link> to keep just the yyyy/mm/slug part of the URL

Then added <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?> at the top and wrapped everything in a <root> element to make it valid XML.

This resulted in a series of <item> elements that looked like this:


At this point, we have exuahsted the capabilities of find & replace; it’s time for some JS!

I opened the file in Chrome and ran:

copy(Object.assign({}, ...[...document.querySelectorAll("item")]
	.filter(item => item.querySelector("post_type").textContent === "post")
	.map(item => ({ [item.querySelector("link").textContent]: item.querySelector("post_id").textContent } ))));

which copies JSON like this to the clipboard, ready to be pasted in a JSON file (I used wpids.json):

	"2022/11/tag-2": "3531",
	"2023/03/contrast-ratio-new-home": "3592",
	"2023/04/private-fields-considered-harmful": "3599"

Some cleanup was still needed, but this was basically good to go.

Adding the post id to the posts

To inject a wpid property to each post, I added a blog.11tydata.js file with the following:

module.exports = {
	eleventyComputed: {
		postUrlStem: data => {
			return data.page.filePathStem.replace(/^\/blog\/|\/index$/g, "");
		wpid: data => {
			return data.wpids[data.postUrlStem];

Linking to Disqus

We now have the post id, and we can use it in our template. Adapting the code from the Universal Embed Code, we get:

{% if wpid %}
<div id="disqus_thread"></div>
     *  https://disqus.com/admin/universalcode/#configuration-variables

    var disqus_config = function () {
        // Replace PAGE_URL with your page's canonical URL variable
        this.page.url = 'https://lea.verou.me/{{ postUrlStem }}/';

        // Replace PAGE_IDENTIFIER with your page's unique identifier variable
        this.page.identifier = "{{ wpid }} https:\/\/lea.verou.me\/?p={{ wpid }}";

        var d = document, s = d.createElement('script');

        // IMPORTANT: Replace EXAMPLE with your forum shortname!
        s.src = 'https://leaverou.disqus.com/embed.js';

        s.setAttribute('data-timestamp', +new Date());
        (d.head || d.body).appendChild(s);
{% endif %}

That’s it! This now works and displays the Disqus threads correctly!

Using Disqus on new posts as well

Note that as it currently stands, this will not display the Disqus UI on new posts, since they won’t have a wpid. Even if I switch to something else in the future, Disqus is better than nothing meanwhile (for me – many people would disagree: switching to no comments at all seems very common when people switch to a SSG blog).

So, new posts don’t have a wpid, but they don’t need one either. As long as we pass some kind of unique identifier to Disqus, we have a comment thread. The easiest way to do this is to use the post’s path, e.g. 2023/preserve-disqus for this one, as this is guaranteed to be unique.

We also want to be able to disable comments on a per-post basis, so we need a way to do that.

So instead of dealing with wpid directly in templates, I added another computed property in blog.11tydata.js:

disqus_id: data => {
	let wpid = data.wpid;

	if (wpid) {
		return `${ wpid } https:\/\/lea.verou.me\/?p=${ wpid }`;
	else if (data.disqus !== false) {
		return typeof data.disqus !== "string"? data.postUrlStem : data.disqus;

Note that this allows us to pass a custom identifier to Disqus by using a string, disable it by using false, or just get the automatic behavior by using true or not specifying it at all. The custom identifier can be useful if we want to change the URL of a post without losing the comments.

Then, I updated the template to use disqus_id instead of wpid.

What’s next?

I don’t know if I will continue using Disqus. It’s convenient, but also heavyweight, and there are privacy concerns around it.

However, I’m not sure what I would use instead. Any third party SaaS service would have the same privacy issues. Not necessarily now, but quite likely in the future.

I’ve looked into Webmentions, but the end-user experience does not compare to a regular comment system, and it seems like quite a hassle to implement.

Utterances is a really cool idea: it uses GitHub issues as a backend for a comment system. Having myself (ab)used the GitHub API as a storage backend many a times (even as early as 2012), I can see the appeal. This may be a viable path forwards, though I need to verify that GitHub Issues can be easily exported, so that I’m not locked in.

On a similar vein, I really loved Gisqus seems great too: It’s like Utterances, but uses GitHub Discussions instead of Issues. What holds me back from switching to it is that Discussions cannot yet be exported, and I think portability is important here.

People don’t even really use comments much anymore, they post on social media instead. I would have loved some way to simply collect the discussions about the post from various social media and display them underneath, but with API prices getting out of control (1 2), that doesn’t seem feasible.

If there are any options I missed, please let me know in the (Disqus, for now 😕) comments!