Echo, the company that bought Haloscan a few years ago and runs the fast comments on this blog, the main platform for discussions on this blog, will stop the service on October 1st, 2012. They have been focusing on some fancier projects involving big consumers for quite some time.
Echo: change the conversation (by discontinuing it)
I hope it will be possible to download the fresh XML backup file with all the comments before October 1st so that they may be preserved. Perhaps, someone knows a way how to reprogram a service that would make them available, or export the old fast comments to another platform.
Note that this blog has two independent systems for comments. The other, "slow comments", are run by blogger.com. So far, the slow comments represented just a relatively small fraction of the overall comment activity. If that will become the only option, the number will probably rise. You may want to check whether you know how to post slow comments.
It's plausible that I will add another system that will replace Echo JS-Kit so that we keep two systems but I am no expert.
Yup, amazon.com finally sells the new iPads...
If you find the manipulation with the XML files easy enough or if you have a recommendation what to do to make the demise of Echo, you can leave your recommendations and/or ask me for the XML backup file with the current comments. It currently has 94.1 megabytes; people such as you have said lots of interesting things since 2004 (but of course, the formatting commands occupy some fraction of the file, too).
Alternatively, we could try to convince them to donate the Echo system and software to a free group of folks – e.g. a group that you could lead – that would make the continuation of the service possible, perhaps with a different name.
If someone thought that it would be good to have DISQUS on TRF, it would still be good to find a volunteer who knows Python and who would dedicate a few hours to transfer the Echo comments to DISQUS.
Concerning technological sophistication and reliability, I think that Facebook comments are probably the best ones in the world today...
Update: June, July
During June 2012, I migrated 10,000 blogger.com comments as well as 73,842 Echo comments to DISQUS. Echo required quite some coding in Mathematica. See e.g. this post and others - about different topics - where some experiences on the transition are described.
If a user who got here by search engines needed some help with the transition from Echo, possibly to DISQUS, especially on Blogger.com blogs, I may give basic advise for $50 and try to realize the full reparameterization of the XML file and transition for $200 or so per user. It's been very time-consuming so I just can't promise help for free to anyone.