WordPress Commenting Plugin Intense Debate and the ownership of comments discussion

This started out innocent enough today. I recently started to use Intense Debate for my comment moderation on this website, and quickly found out when I went to add an image link in the admin to my own comment that there is no ‘edit’ link. In WordPress, you can edit comments as needed, so I thought surely this was a mistake and / or a bug. Turns out, that is hardly the truth. This topic is targeted to those new bloggers who read this site and some things to think about when it comes to users comments.

Include a specific commenting policy in your TOS

Who reads Terms of Service (TOS) or privacy policies? Not your average Joe. But it is still crucial to have a policy spelled out on how you handle comments on your website. There is quite the raging discussion online on ‘Who owns comments’, is it the blogger or the commenter?

I don’t feel the need to rehash those ideas on this website, but here are a couple of links to do some reading yourself;

My stance on comments

I actually don’t care to dip into who I think ‘owns’ comments. But I do think that the old cliche mantra of ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (Had to do the geeky Spiderman quote) is fairly fitting.

In my privacy policy I reserve the right to edit comments. I have to. I can’t have commenters include personal information of other unknowing individuals, slandering others, etc.

But it certainly comes down to a code of morality, and editing comments to in any way change the ideas of the author is wrong wrong wrong. Sure I will edit out an offensive expletive, but changing the words of any given person can be damaging to their reputation and livelihood. If the comment is beyond reproach, you always have the option to delete it outright.

Intense Debate Logo

My suggestions for Intense Debate

I don’t know yet whether I’ll have to turn off the Intense Debate plugin for WordPress. WordPress has a great comment management system, so it is so astonishing that ID has an even more rich system of management and display, but they do. I don’t picture this lack of an ‘edit’ button as much of an issue now that I know the lowdown. However, I do think that they need to make a finer grained choice in the commenting system.

  • Allow blog owners to edit their own comments – Add an edit button for the blog owner, just like you allow the original author / guest to edit their words. You have to give trust to the blog owner, and assume they have enough sense not to change a comment’s meaning that affects responses
  • Options to allow HTML / Image inclusion – Image inclusion seems like a no brainer option, allowed approved registered users to post images in the comments. You already allow YouTube video (which I suppose is prefiltered, hence the low risk).
  • Add a language filter – A must. If you aren’t going to allow us to edit, then you have to add the filter.
  • Add feature for URL shortening – Again, if you don’t allow HTML, this is one other option to allow the user the option to add a shorter link (Bit.ly, Tinyurl) that doesn’t cause formatting issues

As far as I know, they are working on adding HTML options and a language filter to their commenting system among other things. They also allow users to edit their own comments for 15 minutes after writing.

Making blog owners agree to a TOS for usage of their system would probably be a weak filter to justify adding an ‘edit’ button, but it would solve the issue of removing their firm from the fray of the ownership debate. It’s a tough situation. I understand the ideas, but it doesn’t change the fact that I want an edit button for the 1% of the time that I need to make a change.

Your comment thoughts

If you want to rehash the main discussion, that is fine. But I am looking more for input on what options you think should be added to Intense Debate, and if you don’t use it, what options you would like to see for commenting in general. If anyone has a more current link to planned feature sets for Intense Debate and a roadmap for inclusion of some of these items, leave a comment. I also didn’t find an official word on WordPress’ policy for comment editing. If you have a link for that, drop it below.

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