Separating WordPress comments from pings and trackbacks

How comments work

First let’s look at how comments work. If you are unfamiliar with WordPress themes then it may be worth taking a look at a theme guide to get a general overview, but it’s not important. All examples will be shown using the default WordPress theme (Kubrick), and all named files can be found in the default theme directory (/wp-content/themes/default/). Note that you are advised to make a copy of any files you modify

Comments are generally only displayed on full post pages, and not on the home page or any of the archive pages. In a WordPress theme the full-post page is defined by the file single.php. Tucked away at the bottom of this file is a simple function call:

<?php comments_template(); ?>

This is where all the magic happens. According to the WordPress Codex:

This tag includes the file comments.php from your current theme’s directory.

Looking at comments.php we find a big old mess of code. Without spending too much time looking at the details of what every line does, the part that is important for this guide can be extracted as shown:

<?php if ($comments) : ?>
  <h3 id="comments">
    <?php comments_number('No Responses','One Response','% Responses');?>
    to &#8220;<?php the_title(); ?>&#8221;
  </h3>
 
  <ol class="commentlist">
 
  <?php foreach ($comments as $comment) : ?>
 
    <li <?php echo $oddcomment; ?>id="comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>">
      <cite><?php comment_author_link() ?></cite> Says:
      <?php if ($comment->comment_approved == '0') : ?>
      <em>Your comment is awaiting moderation.</em>
      <?php endif; ?>
      <br />
 
      <small class="commentmetadata">
        <a href="#comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>" title="">
          <?php comment_date('F jS, Y') ?> at <?php comment_time() ?>
        </a>
        <?php edit_comment_link('edit','&nbsp;&nbsp;',''); ?>
      </small>
 
      <?php comment_text() ?>
 
    </li>
 
  <?php
    /* Changes every other comment to a different class */
    $oddcomment = ( empty( $oddcomment ) ) ? 'class="alt" ' : '';
  ?>
 
  <?php endforeach; /* end for each comment */ ?>
 
  </ol>
 
 <?php else : // this is displayed if there are no comments so far ?>
 
  <?php if ('open' == $post->comment_status) : ?>
    <!-- If comments are open, but there are no comments. -->
 
   <?php else : // comments are closed ?>
    <!-- If comments are closed. -->
    <p class="nocomments">Comments are closed.</p>
 
  <?php endif; ?>
<?php endif; ?>

Remember that anything between <?php and ?> is a PHP function, with everything else being HTML. Looking at the code the whole section is wrapped in a conditional statement:

<?php if ($comments) : ?>
  CODE
<?php endif; ?>

This checks if the $comments variable exists (in PHP a variable starts with a dollar). The $comments variable is setup for us by WordPress and we don’t need to worry about where it comes from. If it does exist then the comments are displayed, otherwise nothing is shown.

Further inside the code we find a loop:

<?php foreach ($comments as $comment) : ?>
 
  <li <?php echo $oddcomment; ?>id="comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>">
    <cite><?php comment_author_link() ?></cite> Says:
    <?php if ($comment->comment_approved == '0') : ?>
    <em>Your comment is awaiting moderation.</em>
    <?php endif; ?>
    <br />
 
    <small class="commentmetadata">
      <a href="#comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>" title="">
        <?php comment_date('F jS, Y') ?> at <?php comment_time() ?>
      </a>
      <?php edit_comment_link('edit','&nbsp;&nbsp;',''); ?>
    </small>
 
    <?php comment_text() ?>
 
  </li>
 
<?php
  /* Changes every other comment to a different class */
  $oddcomment = ( empty( $oddcomment ) ) ? 'class="alt" ' : '';
?>
 
<?php endforeach; /* end for each comment */ ?>

This is a PHP looping construct that looks at each item in $comments in turn and assigns it to $comment (singular).

What have we learnt from all this? The most important fact is that comments are displayed in comments.php, and that a variable exists called $comments which contains all our comments and pings. This is almost everything we need to know to separate comments and pings.

14 thoughts on “Separating WordPress comments from pings and trackbacks”

  1. Hi,
    I love the concept of this plugin because it cleans things up really nicely. However, is there an easy way to aggregate the pings in one place so you can keep the conversation easy and flowing, yet as a blogger be able to see easily (without visiting every post) who has pinged your site?

    Thanks!

  2. You would need a plugin to provide that functionality. It wouldn’t be difficult to implement, and just requires querying the database to fetch all pings.

  3. JHS, it is because you put the code to display the pings after the comment form. In comments.php just moved the pings code above the part that starts ‘leave a comment’.

  4. Hey there, this is a great page. How do you change the code so it says "1 ping" rather than "1 pings" if that’s the case? Also, ever since following your directions, the no self-ping plugin doesn’t work.

  5. Jessica, you can use something like:

    <?php echo sprintf (__ngettext ('%d post', '%d posts', $pings), $pings); ?>

    This will output '1 ping' or '2 pings'

  6. i’ve activated the separate-comments-pings plugin and have replaced my comments.php file with comments.php file (taken from default folder/zip, i download from this site). but i got error:

    Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_ENDIF in /home/aufkgorg/public_html/wp-content/themes/vista/comments.php on line 144

    so, please give solution !

  7. Kevin, I had simmilar problem, find last and delete one

    John, I changed line from your previous comment, but it gives “1 posts”. Can you, please, check it?

  8. Hello there,

    First off thanks for a great plugin!

    Still I have a question. How did you get your pings and trackbacks so nice? I have used the piece of code you provided:


    foreach ($pings AS $comment)
    $display[] = sprintf ('%s',$comment->comment_author_url,$comment->comment_content); echo implode (', ', $display);?>

    But im still getting something that looks like this: […] Lets make our move… […]
    […] Lets make our move… […]

    How did you get yours so nicely like above: techathand.net, techie-buzz.com
    Just the main website name and it links to the specific article.

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  9. Now I’d love to know the code on how to separate pings from comments using WordPress version 2.7… 🙂 (i.e., when the threaded and paged comments functions are activated)