It was not meant to be. I had high hopes for Intense Debate but the drawbacks outweighed the positives in our case. I was really looking forward to a few of the features that I thought might bring more interactivity to the blog and encourage readers to have meatier discussions. As you notice below, we have turned off Intense Debate and gone back to the original comment form. Below is a list of the some of the features I was really looking forward to and our experiences with them.
I would like to preface this discussion by saying that I screwed up the install by adding this blog onto the wrong account and that added to some of our woes. The account bug that followed (we received some help via the support email) was caused by my fat fingering.
- Better overall look and feel of the comment section of a blog: I liked the look and feel. The AJAX interface is spiffy and quite versatile.
- Commenter reputation: I really like this feature and this was one of my top priorities for installing ID. I like it and it worked well. Add this to “last post of commenter” and it is a killer feature to give good commenters some free publicity.
- Comment voting: Useful for readers who want to join the discussion. Also very useful to determine spamminess of a comment. I found it to add to the community feel and found myself looking for votes on comments in hot posts.
- Social commenting: I saw a bunch of people use various types of profiles to log in and comment. I think this feature added interesting bits of information about commenters and might have prompted more readers to comment. I cannot say for sure. I had trouble staying logged in because of my fat fingering and caused myself some headaches.
- Reply to comments by Email: Useful feature. Did any of my readers use it? I have no clue. Did I use it? No.
- Automatic folding of threads: Does it work? Yes! Does it have the desired effect? No. On Weblog Tools Collection, automatic comment thread folding meant that a lot of relevant comments were overlooked by readers who ended up saying the same things over again and missing much of the conversation. It just did not have the right feel.
- Comment synchronization with the blog: We were able to roll back to the default commenting system because of this feature and are thankful for that. But the comments on hot/active posts were not quite at par with actual activity on the posts. This lack of real time updates resulted in less comments and conversations.
- Ability to add polls to comments: Cool feature in concept, barely used in reality. A relevant poll added to a hot post might get a few results but readers don’t use that kind of interactivity unless they want to come back and check the results, which is often not the case. Can be done with a plugin.
- Better spam filtering and moderation features: ID adds the ability to use their own filters in addition to Akismet. But I found these to be cumbersome and Akismet not as responsive. I can’t quite explain this gripe but I can say that too many comments were ending up in moderation and not enough of the ones that I marked as spam were then treated as spam on subsequent attempts. I don’t think the WordPress feature that allows previous commenters’ comments to be posted without moderation works with IS. Blacklisted words did not appear to work as well as I have come to expect them to work. There is also no way to “remember me” on the ID login page, which is annoying. Having to add co-authors on as admins of the blog on ID meant they got bugged with all the Spam and also meant that they had to be registered users. These reasons were probably the most annoying to me and my fellow authors and resulted in us backing out.
- Ability to record video comments: Cool feature but not used at all on this blog. I see some video comments on TechCrunch but our readers just did not care.
- Better comment curation for multi-author blogs: There is no way to send moderation emails to individual authors (which is a pain for multi-author blogs) and the moderation emails were just unfamiliar and not easy to get used to. Again, not fast enough in moderation and approval of comments.
In addition to the good and the bad above, I also received some disturbing feedback which suggested that some people would not comment on a blog that runs Intense Debate. I have no such qualm and would really like to hear from folks who feel this way. Why this angst?
In conclusion I have to say that I think Intense Debate was a mixed bag for us. If you are not thoroughly used to the WordPress comments system and do not have tens of thousands of comments, it is worth a shot. The ability to roll back is fantastic for buyers’ remorse and I think there is a lot of potential.
UPDATE: And deactivating the plugin was not enough to stop it from acting upon incoming comments. Comments were borked since ID was deactivated yesterday. The plugin files have now been deleted and that seems to allow comments to flow back through. Sorry for the trouble.