Disqus is quietly testing an interface that allows site owners to rank and give credentials and labels to their commenters. The feature takes advantage of a trend towards being able to find experts through social search.
The project is called Disqus Ranks, and it should be rolling out shortly. Disqus did not return a request for information about the timing of the rollout.
The commenting features mimic those already used internally by bigger publishers, who evaluate a user's influence by assigning badges to confirm to the network and community some measure of a commenter's significance.
Community managers who don't have their own custom-made evaluation systems will love this, because it provides them an easy-to-use social ranking system in plug-n-play format. Once the beta is released, it will show up in the interface as another feature in the menu list.
The site owner or manager can use a preferences list to calibrate from "most important" to "least important" the weight that each of a certain type of interaction has on the network or the blog.
Then, he can create custom titles for each of those qualifications and assign them to users. At Fred Wilson's blog, AVC, for example, Wilson is going with a bar theme and assigning himself the title of bartender. He assigns different types of users other titles, like regular, or semi-regular, depending on how often they visit the site and how often they leave a comment.
The new features would be an improvement over straight-up commenting, especially since social search and discovery seems to be a huge trend developing Web communities. It's no longer enough for a site manager or a publisher to make commenting available to build the community. The new move seems to be towards being able to identify experts within the blog or the network.
Screenshot comes from Fred Wilson's AVC blog