Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

DavePress comments powered by IntenseDebate

I’ve just moved the comments on this blog to the IntenseDebate system. It adds quite a bit of functionality to the comments, including threaded discussions (which are part of the new version 2.7 of WP, but I haven’t upgraded just yet…) and the ability to rate comments as useful or not (assuming you are logged into an IntenseDebate account).

If you have an account, it also means that you can keep a track of the comments you make on other blogs that use the IntenseDebate system, which also produces an RSS feed. The other useful thing for blog owners is that while the comments are hosted by IntenseDebate for the purposes of their services, a mirror of them is still held in your WordPress database, so you switch back to a more traditional way of doing comments without losing anything.

I still think there is an opportunity for a more open way of tracking comments around the web – at the moment the solutions are either tied into everyone using the same service – whether IntenseDebate or something like CoComment – or people doing their own thing, like Steph Gray who tags the blog posts he comments on with a certain keyword in Delicious, the feed from which he then republishes in his blog sidebar.

Anyway, I’d appreciate any feedback you have on my use of Intense Debate here on DavePress.

Akismet now has stats!

Akismet is a plugin for WordPress (and a few other platforms) which helps combat the problem of comment spam. That when ne’erdowells come on your blog and post nonsense comments in the hope pick click the links in them to buy some viagra, or invest in a Nigerian lottery winning syndicate.

Dealing with this stuff can be a pain.

(I have often wondered how people who run blogs or forums about the uses of bedroom-performance enhancing drugs, or genuine Nigerian investments, manage their spam. How do you decide what is and isn’t?)

Akismet makes it easy by checking your comments against a central database, which records what everyone who uses the system has marked as spam, and then removes it from view. So, no alerts telling you that you need to deal with a new comment – if Akismet thinks it’s spam, you don’t need to know about it.

You can still check the quarantined list for false-positives though, if you want. Sometimes the service works a little too well.

Anyhow, I upgraded the Akismet plugin today here on WordPress, and was surprised to see a new tab on my admin panel for ‘Akismet Stats’:

akismet stats

And once you click it, it makes pretty interesting reading! There are graphs and tables of data. Well worth the upgrade just to see what causes spikes in your comment spam.

Tracking conversations

Sounds like Fav.or.it is going to solve the issue of bringing my comments back to my blog, better than Co-comment does (which seems borked at the moment?). From Mike Butcher at Techcrunch UK:

Fav.or.it is tapping into some powerful ideas floating around right now. ReadWriteWeb reckons the conversation has left the blogosphere and leading entrepreneurs like Loic Le Meur want the conversations back on his blog, which he owns, not DIgg/Twitter/ etc. FriendFeed is trying to do this, but it’s basically just another platform owned by someone else, not your blog.

Conversation Tracker will show what posts you have commented upon before and now have replies that you may want to respond to. To date, fav.or.it is still the only service out there that sends comments back to the source of the original content.

CoComment

At some point in the near future, I promise that I will blog about something other than blog comments. I mean, I know it’s good to find a niche, but that one is a little specific even for me. Anyhow, when I mentioned before that I wanted to be able to track the comments that I am leaving on other people’s blogs, and maybe display them on DavePress too, so that people  who read what I write here can get involved in the conversations I have elsewhere.

CoComment

One service suggested by a couple of people was CoComment. I’ve just signed up for it and will be testing it out over the next week or so. It certainly seems to offer most of what I want to achieve. After the ubiquitous signing up process, you download a FireFox plugin, which doesn’t seem to do a lot at first glance. What it does, though, is change the appearance of comment boxes on blogs and other social media sites. Take this example, where I visited the comments on Jeremy’s blog:

Comment box

You can see that it has tied the comment box up with my CoComment account. What this hopefully means is that my comment will be associated with my presence on CoComment, and listed when you visit my profile there. Excellent.

CoComment also offers some widgets to insert into your blog sidebar, which show the latest comments I have been making, which is more or less what I was after. They also provide an RSS feed of my comments, which could be more useful – maybe a daily posting like my del.icio.us links would be nice. Even better – take the RSS feed and post new comments I have made to Twitter, thus widening the potential circle of conversation even wider.

So, CoComment looks like it will be good stuff. I will report back once I have used it for a little while.

More on comments

Following my last post about blog comments, a couple of posts have popped up in my feed reader about the topic. Firstly James Cridland ponders what makes him decide to leave a comment on a blog, or use his own blog to respond:

First, this reply is going on a bit, and it would be quite difficult to leave this in Martin’s blog comments anyway. (Because I’ve used more than one link here, it probably would be regarded as spam, too). A reply in my blog affords me the space to reply.

Second, by my blogging here as a reply to Martin’s post over there, it means that those that read my blog are aware of Martin’s posting. If I’d have just posted on Martin’s blog, nobody would be aware of Martin’s posting. The extra addition of Google Juice, etc, also is a good thing for both of us.

Third, this is just as relevant a posting as many of my others here; if people really want to read my witterings here (as apparently quite a few do), then it’s probably just as useful to them to read this reply.

Length of response is definitely an issue for me when deciding whether to comment or post. The second point is also an important one, I think, especially in terms of the visibility of a conversation.

John Naughton also picked up the theme today, answering those that have wondered why he doesn’t allow comments on his excellent blog. His three reasons are that he lacks time to moderate and answer comments; that his blog is predominantly a resource for capturing his own thoughts for his own purposes, rather than being a  conversational  exercise; and finally John quotes a Dave Winer post:

Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.

Interesting. I’m starting to think that the ideal situation would be that everyone has their own blog, and we respond to one another using our own platform, and don’t use comments.

The trouble is that not everyone has, or probably ever will have, their own blogs. So those that actively want feedback have to make the facility available – no matter how unsatisfactory it might be.

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?