I added a basic "favorite/recommend" functionality for posts and comments to a wordpress site I'm working on.

I'm storing the total numbers of comment "likes" in a custom comment meta field (update_comment_meta). Now I would like to query and sort comments based on this custom meta key and the corresponding values in order to display popular comments.

Ideally I would like to be able to use parameters like "meta_key" and "order_by=meta_value_num" similar to WP_Query, but apparently comment queries don't support those.

Do I have to use a custom written query to the database? If so, could anybody give me an initial push as to how to approach this?

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately it's unsupported by the applicable WordPress functions for querying comments, which is primarily due to(i feel) not enough people(or anyone) yet asking for it.

I want to highlight a couple of core files here to help understand the issue.

  • First up comments-template.php, the comment_template function, it's this function that queries for comments and then adds them to the WP_Query object.

    • See Line 882
    • No filters or actions there to intercept the query before it happens, or change it.

  • Next up comments.php and the get_comments function, this time you'll find no support for custom sorts, eg. meta sorting.

    • See Line 262
    • The array_intersect looks for matches only, if it's not in that array of values you see there then it's not considered a valid order.

There is one filter in the comment template function though that will pass on the whole array of comments called comments_array (you'll see that hook in the first file i linked to on line 892).

You could loop over the array of comments that have been fetched and build a new array that's sorted based on your meta data(though you'd probably need a custom query to go fetch the meta data if you want to be as efficient as possible).

I can add an example of array juggling later if you need one.

  • Thanks for your reply. I agree that querying all comments first and then sorting them again seems incredibly wasteful and I'd rather do a direct query to the database to those comments that have the respective meta-key (and thus have received a rating) and only query the first x comments with the highest rating. I'm just not exactly sure how to go about this kind of custom query because I haven't worked with those so far...
    – ximi
    Dec 21, 2011 at 14:54
  • WordPress will already go and do it's query to fetch comments with a given post, that already occurs, you can't stop that, my point was that you could sort that result after the fact using some array juggling but you'd still have to go fetch the associated meta data for those comments(and then rejuggle that data based on the meta). It's not something i can give an example of in a few lines of code(it's specific and would require running test code - or being sloppy, i prefer the former). Once i have time to devote to expanding on my answer, i will.. :)
    – t31os
    Dec 21, 2011 at 23:20

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