Do You Care Where Your Comments Are?
The discussion surrounding the previously addressed Commenting Issues in the Blogosphere heated up again this weekend with Robert Scoble claiming that the Era of blogger’s control is over. When I asked the question: Where Do You Leave Your Comments? I only dealt with commenting on blogs:
When bloggers are quoting other bloggers and you want to comment on the issue, where do you leave your comment?
There are three different options:
1. Comment on the the original post
2. Comment on the post that quoted the original post
3. Start a new post and use trackback/pingback to notify the other two posts
However, we are increasingly using other services and social networking sites to engage in the conversation. The feature to auto-post your latest blog post on Twitter is a very popular way to promote your blog post. It also means that you may receive comments on your blog post in the form of a Twitter reply.
I notice that I reply differently on blog posts when I comment on Twitter than on the actual blog post itself. When commenting on a blog post I feel the need to sit down, reflect and spend some time on formulating a valuable comment. However, when I comment in the form of a Twitter reply I am not only limited to 140 characters but I also feel my comment is part of a time sensitive flow. This means that my comments are not only shorter but that it also lowers my personal barrier of commenting, I can write a quick and short reply.
I recently commented on a blog post with a Twitter reply suggesting some corresponding literature. The author then asked me if I could comment on the blog post also which I then did. This is the problem we are currently dealing with. Should we care where our comments are, that the conversation is increasingly scattering around the blogosphere? Should we cling onto our blog as the central aggregation point of our conversation?
Friendfeed suggests that the issues of distributing commenting in the blogosphere seems to have moved beyond control. It is the perfect tool to keep up with your friends’ feeds but it also allows you to bring the conversation to Friendfeed. The situation is getting more and more dispersed. We use centralizing features such as CoComments to keep track of where we leave our comments but the conversation is only visible to us and not to others who would like to participate.
I don’t care where my comments are, as long as I am aware of them. This is the issue that we need to address which is an infrastructural issue as Matthew Hurst from the Data Mining Blog points out:
What is being lost in the conversation is the fact that the infrastructure of the blogosphere, due to its somewhat amateur evolution process, has not managed to fix some of the serious issues that have troubled it from the past. Commenting is exactly one of those things. As the value and use of comments evolved, and as the distribution mechanisms of content evolved, little effort has been made to bring commenting along with it. What has happened, is the appearance of a number of hacks on top of the base infrastructure to get around this issue. Perhaps the exception to this is the RSS 2.0 commenting mechanism.
Do we need an infrastructural fix or should we just “give up control” and focus on the conversation taking place? Robert Scoble doesn’t care where his comments are, do you?
Anne is a New Media Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. She participates as a blog researcher in the newly found Digital Methods Initiative of the University of Amsterdam. Anne also writes about blogging and academics on her personal blog and the collaborative Masters of Media blog.
What we absolutely do not want to do is limit the ways in which people can engage with our content. That’s thinking about it the wrong way. We want to leave open as many avenues as are scalable for each of us, to allow for the least resistant barrier to entry for each visitor.
Now, what our response should be to this situation is to expand our current platforms to accept all of these different mediums. If someone comments on your post via a Twitter, how can that be roped into the conversation? What if someone drops a video on Youtube about it? How can that become integrated and a part of the experience for the rest of your community?
We’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to truly communicating with these things called blogs.
At the end of the day, bloggers are never going to succeed in ensuring their blog is the only place their work is discussed. Even if you manage to come up with some intricate way of interlinking all the comments on your post from various sources, all it takes is some guys to start discussing it in the real world (that is, completely detached from a computer and using real speech) to mess the whole system up.
Forums are probably one of the more prominent places this kind of thing happens. Often my posts will be linked to in some gaming forum, and that forum’s members will start discussing it. Sometimes it’s a dedicated threads, sometimes it’s just part of a thread.
Just let the conversation flow and chase it around if you’re interested enough IMO. :)
I want my blog posts discussed elsewhere and am happy when people do so, even if I’m not part of that conversation. The point is to get people talking, not to be getting more comments on my blog.
I don’t worry about where people talk about my posts, but personally, I leave short comments in the comments section of the other blog. If I want to comment at length, I do it on my own blog with a trackback.
@Ryan Imel: I absolutely agree with you that setting limitations is not the preferred situation. It will be interesting to see how the blogging platforms will deal with the current situation. The permalink changed the act of blogging by enabling a permanent reference link. However, the permalink might no longer be sufficient in the current era of distributed replies and content.
@Ryan Williams: I have a hard time chasing all the conversations, even though some aggregating systems try to help me deal with it. I do care, but sometimes it feels like chasing a shadow :)
The answer lies somewhere between an architectural fix and giving up control. We’re in a period of flux at the moment, but commenting applications like Disqus, as well as infrastructure innovations, perhaps using things like AtomPub to manage distributed commenting, will see us regain control, albeit in different forms and places. It’s a gap, an opportunity, and people will innovate. I disagree with Matthew Hurst’s comment that the “somewhat amateur evolution process” is the trouble with the blogosphere. It’s a strength, and the blogosphere and the Web in general wouldn’t be what it is today without that.
I only care that comments on my postings are scattered to hell and back, ONLY because it’s harder for me to participate in the conversation. I’ll spend more time chasing around the conversation to be all Cluetrain-y, OR, I’ll just say, hey, the content lives here –X and if you aren’t commenting here, you are basically in the overflow room (or the kids’ table, whichever you prefer).
Born from DIY, I find that years of things I’ve believed in and supported are changing for me.
There’re at least two ways to provide solution. One is some kind of comments collecting service, which tracks your comments everywhere and places under your name that is referenced by yout blog. The other one is to use a common commenting service that can aggregate your comments much easily.
We’re working the latter one. Both solutions have pros and cons.
Maybe the third solution is to ask each blog to publish comments RSS with some kind identifier so someone can aggregate all your comments as RSS feed.