Resuscitating Intense Debate

From shortly after the time Automattic acquired Intense Debate and made it part of its offering I’ve been using and recommending it as a commenting system for blogs. However during its installation in a recent project I ran into difficulties and got no response from the support team. Over recent years I’ve also been watching Disqus expand and evolve while Intense Debate seems to be dead in the water. I’ve visited the Intense Debate blog and indeed it seems that the project is for the most part dormant. I am no longer at peace recommending Intense Debate as a commenting system … and I want that to change.

With that wish in my heart I’ve asked myself how I would revive Intense Debate. I believe that the wrong way to do so would be to try and play catch-up with the competition. Intense Debate is lagging too far behind to do that and attempting to do so would cause it to lose any sense of identity. However I envision a direction of evolution that is only open to Intense Debate, one that I believe may propel not just it, but “commenting” in general in a new direction that is aligned with the WordPress vision to “democratize publishing”. My vision is rooted in my belief that many commenters are potentially closet bloggers/publishers.

I myself have public profiles on both IntenseDebate (because I also use it on my websites) and Disqus (because I’ve commented on sites that use it). The result is that in addition to my blog I have two additional “mini-blogs” – both aggregates of the comments I’ve published on the two commenting systems. This isn’t how I want things to be and this isn’t how things should be.

My blog is my only online-home and that’s what I want it to continue to be. The only other publishing platform I use is Twitter and for that I use a WordPress Plugin that creates a weekly archive of my tweets and publishes it as streamlined posts on my blog (I am looking forward to the day where I can also initiate twitter updates directly from my site). Similarly, if I publish a comment on someone else’s blog, I’d like that comment to appear on my blog (in it’s proper place in the timeline). What more, if someone replies to my comment (still on someone else’s blog) I’d like that reply to also be stored and presented on my blog.

I believe that Intense Debate and WordPress should merge:

  • All WordPress.com or WordPress.org blogs should inherit the Intense Debate (present and future) capabilities to become comment aggregators, moderators and servers (a behavior that is already partially present).
  • Intense Debate should become either a transparent routing service or disappear altogether (that depends on technicalities that are beyond me at this point).
  • WordPress needs to introduce a new post-type “comment”.
  • A theme (potentially a theme category) should be produced for “comment-blogs” – blogs that are an aggregate of comments. This “theme” already exists in a round-about way in the Intense Debate profile – it needs to be transformed into a proper WordPress Theme based on the “comment” post-type.

When the migration is ready to go all Intense Debate profiles should become WordPress blogs. With it, many “commenters” may realize that they are actually “bloggers” and have been for some time. They may find that they have unknowingly created a body of content that is worthy of publishing and sharing with others. This realization may also prompt them to further evolve and expand their online expression¬† – which would be easy and seamless since their commenting platform would now be WordPress.

With this new platform in place it would be possible to explore application and interfaces with other platforms. I would love to see a Facebook application that may draw people away from handing over and anonymizing their voice on Facebook. A Facebook application would continue to feed the Facebook stream but it would also redirect content to a self-owned blog (hosted wherever). I would also like to see an “open commenting protocol” that other commenting services (like Disqus) and publishing services (like Tumblr) would embrace to enable this form of distributed and cross-platform commenting.

I believe that Intense Debate, due to its close affiliation with WordPress (both in code and in business) is a unique position to explore this kind of integration. I believe this will catapult it into a new direction where it will become one again be a thought leader. Right now its either stagnating or dying. I believe it has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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