I was recently invited to discuss a topic of interest on a new service called Branch. What is Branch? I'm sure they think it's more than this, but to me it appears to be a simplified version of Disqus that can't be embedded in other sites. Discussions are invite-only. Like Twitter, it seems to be about what it doesn't do more than what it does.
I didn't respond to the invitation. Instead I pondered how I wanted to respond. I decided to write a blog post. More often than not that's how I respond, because I am a blogger.
If I used it I would be breaking a rule, one that keeps me from using services like Quora and Google-Plus. I'm not going to put my writing in spaces that I have no control over. I'm tired of playing the hamster. The business models of these companies, if they become successful, keep them from being part of the web. And it's not in my interest to support what they do, that's the broad reason I don't use them. Further, I am creating an archive of my writing, over many years. And if I scatter my writing all over the place, even if these services were part of the web, it would be against my interest to do that. Having it all in one place is value, to me at least.
But every time one of these services comes along, before they've become established, there's a chance to incentivize them to give me what I want, and thereby open their services up. To give us our cake, and view us not as hamsters in a nice fun and colorful and entertaining cage, instead as citizens of the web, sentient and powerful beings who create in a variety of ways that they can enhance by combining it with other people's writing. And if other people want to be hamsters, god bless. I don't.
The technical answer is to accept contributions in the form of URLs that point to content source, which can then be rendered in their space. To the reader there is no difference. To the writer, there's a world of difference.
My writing is already available in such a format. If they would rather use a different format, I'm open to suggestions. To see how it works just view-source on this page, and you'll see a link to an OPML document. It reflects the text of this piece, before it was rendered. That same text could be rendered in any context.
BTW, people ought to take a look at a system developed at Berkman Center called Harvard 2.0 or H20 for short. It's truly different from all the discussion systems I've seen elsewhere, and I believe it's likely to work better because the ideas are very good. It was designed, as far as I know, by Jon Zittrain and Charlie Nesson.