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I launched The New Leaf Journal Guestbook on June 27, 2020. It served us well for just shy of 15 months, but I decided to proverbially close and discontinue that version of the Guestbook on September 24, 2021. In this article, I will briefly explain why I decided to close the Guestbook and what it means for The New Leaf Journal going forward. You will also find links to our full Guestbook archives – preserved on the Internet Archive for posterity.

The Story of The New Leaf Journal Guestbook

We launched The New Leaf Journal without including comments sections on individual articles. I decided not to allow user comments for a variety of reasons – including my not wanting to deal with the spam that comments sections bring and my not wanting to include comments along with content.

Logo for The New Leaf Journal Guestbook.
The logo for our (temporarily, at least) defunct Guestbook. Victor V. Gurbo added the text to a scan of a book cover from Project Gutenberg.

My disfavoring in-article comments did not mean that I did not want to encourage reader engagement. After a bit of research, I settled on implementing an old-school guestbook with the Gwolle Guestbook WordPress plugin. The idea behind the Guestbook was that readers could stop by to say hello, leave general site comments and questions, as well as comments regarding specific content.

Sadly, the Guestbook was lightly-used throughout its existence. Some of that was my fault – I only added a section beneath articles linking to our guestbook page in early 2021. But, nevertheless, it did not seem to resonate much with readers, even as we attracted many times more visitors than we did in our site’s earliest days.

The Final Days of the Guestbook

While I like the guestbook in concept, I was already thinking about discontinuing it in light of its light usage. My determination was hardened when I received a contact form submission from Merle Hall, who had provided multiple incisive comments to our Guestbook in the past. The comment notified me that it was impossible to submit to the Guestbook. I investigated and found that the issue occurred for me, too, when I was not logged into The New Leaf Journal.

Since I had already been thinking about discontinuing this version of the guestbook, I was not inclined to devote a great amount of time to figuring out why non-logged-in users could not submit posts. I poked around a bit and found no easy answer. The one lead I did find when reading through the plugin’s forum was that the plugin requires JQuery to work. As of late June, The New Leaf Journal site does not use JQuery. While I am not entirely sure if that was the issue, it seems like a possibility (feel free to tell me via the Contact Form if you have reason to believe that I misdiagnosed the issue).

After mulling it over, I decided that this was as fine a time as any to retire our first attempt at a Guestbook. I archived all of our Guestbook pages on the Internet Archive and formally uninstalled the plugin and its databases.

Praise for Gwolle Guestbook

Lest anyone misconstrue my decision to uninstall the Guestbook as a negative review of the Gwolle Guestbook plugin, I state for the record that I think it is a very good plug-in and well-worth considering for WordPress sites with which it is compatible. Had we received more engagement, I may have made more of an effort to see if we could continue to accommodate it at The New Leaf Journal. Gwolle Guestbook has a small footprint and is light on system resources. Without any special configuration, it blends in well aesthetically with most site themes. Furthermore, the developer offers a relatively cheap paid version of the open source plugin for those who need extra features (we used the free version).

For those who are interested, you can find the Gwolle Guestbook on its WordPress plugin page.

Read Our Guestbook Archives

Although we did not receive a great number of comments, the Guestbook comments that we received were good. Furthermore, we have one article – authored by Victor V. Gurbo – that was prompted entirely by a Guestbook comment.

My reply to the Guestbook comment that prompted Victor’s article.

In order to preserve our Guestbook comments, I submitted all three pages of our Guestbook to the Internet Archive. You will find links to all three pages of the archive below:

Thank you to everyone who posted in the Guestbook. I offer special thanks to Merle Hall for several good Guestbook comments and for highlighting the technical issue with the Guestbook – you can see the last would-be Guestbook post here. Special mention to Seirdy for providing me with very valuable information for my alternative search engine review. Finally, I also want to recognize our most-prolific Guestbook poster, Chris from the Minds social network where I maintain a profile.

What Now?

I am not providing a direct replacement for the Guesbook at this time. Instead, I invite readers to send questions or comments via email. We provide a handy on-site Contact Form for this purpose. Furthermore, the bottom of every article by me or Victor V. Gurbo contains our respective author boxes. If you look closely, you will see that there is an email button for each of us. You may also contact us directly in this way if you have a comment or question about one of our specific articles.

If you are interested in or amenable to having your comment published or discussed in some form, feel free to let us know in your message.

Finally, I am aware that we still have links to the Guestbook in many articles. I will try to redirect those links to our on-site Contact Page.

What About the Future?

I plan to re-implement a way for readers to get in touch with us regarding New Leaf Journal content in the future. If and when I implement a new solution, I will not only write about it at The New Leaf Journal, but also update this article to ensure that if you find this article after the fact, you will have access to the most up-to-date information about communicating with The New Leaf Journal.