Hi, this has now become a recurring problem that has us really worried and some of us super pissed. The site in question is chinaSMACK.com, which is a relatively large site with ~1 million visits per month.
Earlier last year, we started getting emails from some of our long-time commenters complaining that their comments were no longer showing up. Soon, they also discovered that their OLD comments have completely vanished as well.
We checked and sure enough, their new submitted comments were not appearing. Not in Pending nor in Spam nor in Trash. Or rather, in back-to-back testing, their comment would appear momentarily in the WordPress comments admin and then within 30 seconds to 1 minute, it would automatically disappear...by itself...like magic. We used myphpadmin and checked the comments table itself and sure enough, no trace of their comments at all.
We were stumped and could not figure out why. The only way those affected could comment was to change the name they were using when commenting (none of these commenters are registered users, we don't require registration). If they did that, their new comments would appear. But all of their old comments were gone. Since we use nested/threaded comments, you can imagine that all of the old conversations they were involved in now make absolutely no sense whatsoever. In the WordPress admin area, all comments responding to these commenters' old comments now read "In reply to ." with just a period, which is similar to what happens whenever you delete a comment that was a parent to several nested comments.
That the old conversations on old posts are messed up by this is one thing, but that they can't comment without changing their names is more baffling. What could be preventing these specific commenters (not all commenters are affected) to be unable to comment so long as they use that name? None of these people were in our moderation list or spam list or any other possible blacklist that we know of.
And now it has happened again. For example, one of the commenters that were affected last year used to go by the handle "B-Real". When him and a lot of others (but not everyone) suddenly couldn't comment under their original names and all their old comments vanished, AND we couldn't figure out why, we told them there was nothing we could do but for them to start commenting under a new name. That commenter, for example, changed his name to "2B-Real". That worked just fine until just recently when we got another email reporting that he couldn't comment under that name either. Same symptoms as last time. Sure enough, all of his old "2B-Real" comments had vanished too. Right now, we don't know who else was affected (we have a lot of commenters) but it is apparent that this problem has happened again.
...and if this happens again and continues to happen, it's going to become a really annoying problem. Again, not only is it affecting previous discussion threads, it's also literally stopping people from ever using that name to comment with again. It is completely mystifying.
1. What could cause all comments made by a certain name to suddenly vanish?
2. What could then stop all new comments made with that same name to very briefly appear but then disappear on its own within 30-60 seconds?
These names are not in our Discussion Settings moderation lists (even if they were, their comments should still appear in Pending or Spam, right?). We use Akismet and WP-SpamFree but there is nothing in them that should cause this. We have no other plugins that might affect this as far as we can tell.
There are plenty of reasons why all comments under a certain name could suddenly vanish, including someone just searching for all comments under that name and then deleting them all. But what could prevent people from using that name to post comments again? WordPress moderation lists would just flag their comments, not cause them to appear for a few moments and then disappear on their own, right? This doesn't sound like any behavior typically associated with how WordPress or the above plugins work.
We've searched Google and WordPress forums but haven't found anyone else with a similar problem. Does anyone have any ideas or help they could offer us? We would be most grateful.