I Own My Data, Dammit

Micah had a very encouraging article last night about two commenting social networks, Disqus and Intense Debate. It was all about listening to your customer base and making trajectory adjustments as needed to ensure you’re meeting real needs, instead of just assuming your business model has everything mapped out for you and you know exactly how to execute on your vision.

The discussion over Disqus and Intense Debate has been an interesting one. Particularly perceptive readers may have noticed me playing around with both of these services a few weeks ago in the wee hours of the morning. If you didn’t notice, never fear… it was only for a minute before switching back to my default WordPress comments.

So here’s the thing. I met Intense Debate, and perhaps Disqus, at Blog World Expo. At the same time, I met SezWho, a competitor. Each of these services offer a “social network” around commenting. But what set them apart was in who owned the data.

I use the word “own” loosely here. What I mean is, “Where is the comment data being hosted?”

There’s legitimate reasons for this. One example of why it is important for me to own the data is in the case of a legal issue or subpoena. Very relevant concern. At b5, there were several times where the Police called us asking for data about some random person on some random blog who was a person of interest in some random crime. In all cases, we could not give up data without a subpoena. When provided, we cooperated. When we were not served, we didn’t relinquish data.

This is pretty common and the bigger a property (or in b5’s case, group of properties) get, the bigger the target that is on your back.

In the case of Intense Debate and Disqus, none of this data is controlled by me. It’s controlled by them for a variety of reasons. SezWho did not host the comments which was a big selling point for them.

In the case of blogs, there are many things that can be done via mashup that doesn’t place any kind of liability on the site owner or blogger. However, in the context of comments, that is actually content.

In order for me to use Disqus or Intense Debate here – both of which I’m interested in using as it adds some nifty functionality to the blog – I need to host the content and control the styling. Without that, it’s a no-go.