by Kevin on September 24, 2008
For a long time, commenting has been simple, and one-sided. Unless you added a host of other plugins on your blog, you had to reply to comments using traditional methods, such as the at sign, or creating separate posts simply to share your thoughts on what your visitors had to say. This results in a tedious process for both you, the blog administrator and anyone else that tries to use the “social” aspects of your blog.
WordPress 2.7 was expected to make commenting easier, with a “reply to” feature within the back end, a feature that many bloggers were looking forward to – well, since the day blogs were “invented”. The acquisition of Intense Debate, is a move that may further advance the way you interact with other bloggers, as the WordPress team has proven determined in pushing out features, including Gravatars (images that represent yourself), Akismet (the anti-spam system that was pioneered by the WordPress/Automattic team), and bbPress (a simple and secure piece of forum software), to name just a few.
So, why did Automattic choose Intense Debate over other services, such as SezWho, Disqus, and JS-Kit?
The prominent reason is simply due to the fact that the creator of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, grew to know the team better than the others, thus making it an easier decision when it did come time to acquiring one of the services. The interface, coding (PHP and MySQL), and features available were also much more convenient should the team decide to integrate nearly all the features into WordPress.com/.org.
- Comment threading will be included in WordPress 2.7, while reply-by-email will be integrated into their hosted service, WordPress.com.
The Future of Intense Debate
On the blog of Intense Debate, it states that a.) the service will revert back to private beta state, meaning you won’t be able to use the service unless you have an invite code or already have the plugin installed on your blog. The service will be moved over to faster, more reliable servers during this process.
The second reason b.) explains that the service will become available on many more blogs. More users will be signing up to gain access to the profile (ultimately making comments an easier process on all WordPress-powered blogs).
Finally, c.) there will be a more closely-integrated system, with Akismet and Gravatar a part of the Intense Debate system — after all, they are all connected to one another through comments.
- Changes in ownership will not affect users of different blog systems.
Features of Intense Debate
If you are worried that Automattic will port the entire system solely over to WordPress, then you are incorrect. In fact, they may be opening it up to more blog systems, much like they did with Akismet and Gravatar. Instead, many of the features, which are listed below, will be integrated into future releases of WordPress, or as stand-alone plugins that will help you build your blog through the use of a more complex commenting system.
- Comment Threading - The dialogue of the comment section is improved through the use of comment threading – you no longer have to follow the maze of new comments, instead you are able to reply to individual comments, with indented replies at different levels.
- Reply-By-Email - This feature allows blog owners to reply to comments even when they don’t have direct access to their blog, through use of any email address.
- Importing and Exporting - They have a powerful set of importers and exporters, ensuring that you will never lose a single comment.
- Commenter Profiles - These profiles help communicate your brand across to people who routinely visit your website properties. You are able to have a single user profile and comment history at your fingertips.
- Reputation Points and Comment Voting - Every user has a reputation attached to their identity, displayed whenever they make a comment. The reputation serves as a quick way to view people who leave quality comments, rather than a large number of them.
- Moderation and Blacklisting - You are able to moderate comments using the tools provided; opt to have comments automatically deleted that contain “spam” keywords and phrases, or moderate those that may be spam.
- Widgets - Using widgets, you can display your blog’s comment stats, the most recent comments made, most popular posts, most recent comments you’ve made, and more.
- RSS Readers and Tracking - Intense Debate comments have been integrated with Google Reader and Bloglines, making it even easier to read and post comments directly from your RSS reader.
- Twitter - Whenever you post a comment with IntenseDebate, you also have the option to send a Tweet on a post-by-post basis, letting your followers know that you’ve commented on a post.
- Other Features: FriendFeed integration, OpenID support, HTML formatting, Gravatars included as part of the comment system.
Simply taking a look at the features listed above, it is quite obvious why WordPress chose this comment system over others – it is feature-packed and contains functionality that more than ten other plugins would still fail to create a complete package.
Hopefully the Automattic team will be able to pull this feat off, without having a complete overhaul of the system, stripping out the features that are currently intact. I don’t know the specifics on how the integration will take place, whether you need an additional plugin, an options area within the back end, etc., so I can’t judge how users will react to the new feature, assuming that changes to their theme will need to be made.
However, in the end, I feel that this was a rather smart move on the part of Automattic – as this will benefit more than just WordPress users, but blog users of other systems, who can tap into the set of features.
Taking a look at the growth of the four main services combined (Disqus states that they are the largest third-party comment system currently on WordPress with 5% of all websites using it), all have seen month-over-month growth between 10 and 167%, with year-over-year growth up to 2,500% – ensuring that there is a strong demand for this type of blog tool.
External links to resources and news posts that were mentioned in the post above.