On blog comments

How do you track the conversations that go on in comments around the blogosphere? It’s easy enough to know what the actual blogs themselves are doing, after all – we have our feed readers, Google’s blog search and technorati. We have trackbacks and pings to let us know when people are linking to us on their sites. But what about the hidden conversations that are happening in the comments?

There are two angles to this. For example, it annoys me that when I comment on someone else’s blog, I am leaving content there that isn’t aggregated on my blog. I see DavePress as my little hub on the web, from which you can find out what I am doing elsewhere, on Twitter, or del.icio.us, or Flickr. I have a widget on this blog that displays the latest comments here – I’d also like one that displays my latest comments elsewhere.

This might be a fairly selfish thing to want, but the ability to do this has more practical advantages too. If we want people, whether public servants or those working for private enterprises, to engage with bloggers and to respond to them we really ought to be providing a way for those responses to be easily tracked.

Likewise, when a discussion is going on around an issue, with lots of stuff in the comments, how can that be tracked, or even found in the first place? You can subscribe to comment feeds I guess, but if you do that with every blog you’ll end up with twice as many feeds as you have already…

I think this could be a really important issue if we are to start using blogs as consultation mediums.

I suppose one possible answer is that we abandon comments altogether, and instead everyone responds to everyone else via blog entries, linking to the original.  I have read of some bloggers turning off the comments on their site for exactly this reason.

It’s a funny decision to make, actually, whether to start your own post on a subject or whether to respond in the comments. I don’t think I have a hard and fixed rule about it, maybe it just comes down to how much I have to say on a topic.

Does anyone have any ideas on how we can track comment conversations – whether our own or those we are interested in? What could change to make it easier?

7 thoughts on “On blog comments”

  1. beat me to to it – I’ve been using coComment for about a year. I originally had their sidebar widget for aggregating your content onto your own blog.

    I’m now thinking that doing something more tightly integrated with the API would be better.

  2. I use a manual system that’s simple but efficient. After leaving a comment I click a toolbar bookmarklet to delicious the page and tag it “comment”. So that gives me a tag stream I can browse back through later if I feel like it.

    This wordpress plugin for subscribing by email is cool too.

  3. I think every active blogger-who-comments feels this pain (I’m feeling it right now, so I might give coComment a spin!).

    My attitude is that it’s just a natural consequence of the call-and-response format of blogs. If you want to support real discussion then I’d suggest a forum is the way to go. After all, what is a blog but a forum where only one person can start threads and has a profile?

    Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem of potentially having all your output fragmented all over the place under different identities. Maybe there’s some kind OpenID or Google Social Graph API solution that could glue it all together?

  4. Si – thanks for your comment. In terms of my online identity I see my blog as being just that – all the other profiles and stuff are really on the periphery. I love the idea of being able to aggregate everything I do on the web on DavePress.

  5. Simon, I agree about the glue… and was hoping that OpenID rollout would make it easier to aggregate my own travels around the web. It hasn’t, so far. Would be nice if – instead of requiring an email address – a unique URI got pinged every time I used it in someone’s comment form.

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