Hot Buttons: Make Room for Debate on Your Blog

Out with the Halloween candy, in with the ballot boxes: today is election day across 50 states! All over the world, in fact, falling leaves seem to inspire the urge to cast votes. From Norway in September to Tajikistan later this week, this is the season for lively political discussions — and what better place to hold them than your blog?

Today, we’d like to show you some of the best tools to encourage the exchange of ideas on your own WordPress.com site.

WordPress.com is already home to some of the best political blogs around, from Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish to Time‘s Swampland. Others, like Dave Pell’s Next Draft, collect the best commentary from around the web and deliver it daily to curious readers.

Many politicians and political organizations choose WordPress.com for their official sites, and every possible viewpoint is present on the grassroots level, too.

Anarchist Oregonians, gay conservatives, progressive geographers? Check, check, and check. News from Wales and commentary on Syria? But of course. And you’re sure to stumble on political science blogs of every imaginable flavor.

Whichever issue or region you’re interested in, you’ll find a community already discussing it — and eager for new perspectives. Just look up your favorite topics in the Reader, or check out WPrightnow, our current events-related tag for the latest commentary. Whenever you’re ready to voice your own opinion, your blog is there — your very own, custom-made soapbox.

Designed for debate

You’re full of ideas, and want to create a forum for lively discussion. What can you do to make your blog more engaging for visitors?

First, make sure you reach your target audience. Connect your blog to your social networks and activate Publicize to make your blog visible across platforms. Don’t forget to tag your posts to maximize their reach within the WordPress.com community.

Next, channel your interactions on other platforms into your blog. Why send your readers elsewhere to watch a presidential address or stay up to speed on the latest polls?

With our revamped Media Explorer, you can discover YouTube videos and tweets that resonate with your interests, and embed them directly into your post. Or get the discussion going with a clip from, say, the Colbert Report: our Hulu Shortcode will do the heavy lifting for you.

Are you a politically-engaged Twitter user? With the Twitter Timeline Widget you can integrate an interactive feed into your site’s sidebar, allowing your readers not only to read your tweets, but also to favorite and retweet them (and reply to them, of course). Your blog has enough room for as many 140-character messages as you wish.

Keep the discussion going

If you blog about politics, you know that it’s inevitable to touch on controversial issues from time to time (though if you disagree with someone, why not use a bit of humor to keep things positive?).

That shouldn’t stop you, though, from engaging with your visitors. You can tweak your blog’s comment settings to fit your needs, and set (and enforce) a comment policy to foster respectful interaction.

You can also consider highlighting readers’ contributions in the Recent Comments Widget, and show your spirit of community with a blogroll focused on your niche. Or go one step further: why not truly open up your blog to others’ voices by inviting another blogger to write a guest post?

Tools to help you make a difference

Some of our popular features can be particularly useful for an armchair pundit, class president, or — why not? — future senator:

  • Bring voting into your own blog and make it more interactive by creating a poll. Then, once the results are in, why not write a post about them? It’s a great conversation-starter.
  • Integrate the political events you follow — primaries, speeches, fundraising drives — into an embeddable Google Calendar that you can then feature on your blog.
  • Make your presence known on your own site, and every time you leave a comment elsewhere, with a Gravatar. You can be creative — sport your Guy Fawkes mask or a Lincoln-like chin curtain to make a (visual) political statement.
  • Are you championing a cause, leading a politics-oriented student club, or organizing in your community? Consider welcoming your visitors in a static home page.
  • If you’re ready for a real adrenaline rush, take a look at the P2 theme. It features in-line comments which pop on the page in real-time, and includes a posting form on the homepage for truly spontaneous blogging.

Speak your mind, start a conversation, make a difference: the stage is yours.

If you’re interested in keeping up with what’s abuzz in the community — from a collection of top reads to publishing news and bloggers in the spotlight — subscribe to WordPress.com Weekend Reads, which we’ll deliver right to your inbox.

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Posted by WordPress Guru