Six Apart, which makes the Movable Type blogging platform and hosts the consumer blog sites Vox, TypePad, and LiveJournal, is releasing a new and very interesting update to its professional-level Movable Type 4 software: Integrated forums.
There are other forums tools for sites and blogs (see Jive Software, for example), but the Six Apart product, called the Movable Type Community Solution, is the first that I know of that integrates this tightly into a blogging platform. With MTCS, users logged into the blogging platform for commenting will automatically have a login for a site's forums, and they will be able to manage their posts and monitor their feedback from a single location for all their activity on a site.
In an upcoming release, users will also be able to denote "friends" on a site and track the activity of those users. BoingBoing, a Movable Type blog, is using an early version of this feature.
However, since Movable Type is software installed separately by each blog publisher, MT blogs don't by default get linked social networks. If there are users you've marked as friends on BoingBoing, and they are also on Huffington Post, you'll have to mark them as friends again. Cross-site friending--and the rise of a de facto social network for blog readers--will come as Movable Type improves its login procedures. (But see also: MyBlogLog.)
Other social features in MCTS include voting and ranking, or "Digg in a box," as Six Apart VP Anil Dash described it to me. Dash also showed me a new administrator's control panel for the MTCS forums, so moderators don't have to do all their work in the forum's authoring environment.
I'm intrigued by the new integrated forums in Movable Type. Forums are hugely useful sources of information and community on many sites, but they are rarely well-integrated, easily managed, or indexed well by search engines.
The only bad news to this story is that the Movable Type Community Solution will cost about $10,000, on top of your Movable Type 4 software license. Dash hinted that we might see hosted versions in 12 months or so.