RSSing Comment Conversations – I

Michele Martin of the Bamboo Project has asked in interesting question about “How Can We Facilitate Conversations BETWEEN Commenters on Our Blogs?

The post has some interesting responses…er…including mine. In some form or the other, most commentators do ‘converse’ with other commentators on a post — however it is all informal and unstructured. It is usually like, “I don’t agree with what X is saying though Y has an important argument about what Z wrote above, and my take is….” X, Y, and Z all being commentators on a post, i.e.

Christy Tucker makes an interesting point about the nature of blogs in that:

Part of it boils down to the fact that blogs really are designed more for the conversations around one person’s ideas than around each other’s ideas. Conversations that are really in-depth are often more suited to become actual posts, either on the original blog or on the commenter blogs. And blogs in general are more for parallel dialog than direct dialog;…

And I am in agreement — after all a blog is an individual’s take on topics — if there is a conversation that is to occur between many people then there is always the discussion forum. Sue, on the same post, notes an observation about what happens when a “thread” is implemented in place of comments.

RSS to the rescue?

WordPress has an interesting feature (now Blogger has it too, thought most ‘Bloggers’ haven’t implemented it), where it is possible to subscribe to a feed of the comments on a post (or the entire blog). If we go by Christy’s thought — which I completely agree with — and in-depth responses to posts are presented as posts on the commentators blog, then we have a small problem of tracking the entire conversation. What we have is a multiple posts as responses — and someone who is tracking the topic, now needs to go many places to see what people are responding.

Is it possible for RSS to become slightly more intelligent such that it tracks (a) the comments on Michele’s post, (b) the response posts to Michele’s post, and (c) the comments/responses to the response posts on Michele’s post?

As I write this, I am already imagining the load on my RSS reader — yet, am sure I don’t mind a bit of manual intervention to teach my reader where to stop.

What I am visualising is a very rich body of knowledge on that one topic/subject/thought which can be a relevant educational aid.

Guess we will have to wait for RSS 2.0

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13 thoughts on “RSSing Comment Conversations – I

  1. I would definitely use a tool like that if there was one that made it easy to follow conversations that way. Tony Karrer mentioned this idea as part of a broader discussion on tracking conversations several months ago, but I still haven’t found anything that does it well. Theoretically, something like a meme tracker should be able to do it.

    I’ve used the RSS feed from the Google Blog Search (or Technorati, if you prefer) to pick up some conversations. If the topic has a specific enough phrase, that works pretty well. Using blogsearch.google.com with a search for “michele martin” conversation brings up her post and yours, plus several others from the 31 day project. Refining the search more would get better results, of course. It’s just not especially intuitive to set up a Google search, and it’s more work than I honestly do for most conversations that tend to peak for a few days and then fizzle.

    Somebody’s gotta be working on a better way to do this tracking though. My guess is that within another year or two we’ll have some easier tools.

  2. I’m beginning to think that part of the whole conversation issue is that it depends on the topic of your blog and how many other commenters you have. If I look at blogs where commenters converse, they seem to be related to popular culture and/or politics and the conversation is often in the form of bantering back and forth with quips. There are also a LOT of people commenting so there’s numerically a greater likelihood that someone will pick up on someone else’s comments. It may be that certain blogs just lend themselves to that kind of conversation by virtue of topic and volume of visitors.

    I like where you’re going with the idea of somehow being able to tie together comments and posts across blogs so that it was tracking the entire conversation–maybe along the lines of Gmail kind of interface where you have conversations. Not sure where we’re at with that technologically, though.

  3. This whole conversation on encouraging cross comment conversations is so interesting. I use co-mment to track comments on other people’s blogs and I believe that our key is educating our readers into using it effectively.

    A classic example of a cross conversation was between Graham Wegner (Adelaide), myself, Clay Burell (Korea) and Patrick Higgins (USA) which started as a result of our different opinions on use of Ning for professional development. How it could all happen and run effectively was because I was using co-mment and he was obviously using a similar application. Often we would both be writing our responses on all the different blogs, or email each other, at the same time — we were being that efficient in our responses.

    I also know a lot of the original 31 Day Participants have not realised the potential of twitter but twitter is where we are also having many of these conversations and debating what we are reading. Twitter is also bringing good readers to my blog. If you are not using Twitter you need to realise that it is becoming increasingly important to many people’s personal learning.

  4. ==Christy:
    Well, I hope that this post becomes a bit famous amongst those that develop such software and they are able to add this as a feature and make it available to us. I’ll go through Tony’s article, perhaps a modification on the Meme Tracker may just work? I doubt if we are really a year off from such a feature – do you think so? But I think Sue has found a nice intermediate – @ comments. I have started using it and it does make sense – more so – you can subscribe to its feed

    As regards Google search, I guess a specific tagging schema may help – but then again – we are depending on human consistency!

    ==Michele:
    You are right about the topic of the blog. Politics and such, I agree takes the lead in longer (and heated) conversations. However, am sure there are other areas of interest where there are multiple comments (maybe not to the order of 200+, yet…). In any case, I guess, I believe we are referring to conversations that aren’t banter. Your comment helps extrapolate my idea further, where, we could, perhaps choose the “users” whose responses we want to see across blogs across a topic (or topics). Somehow, at this time, given your and Christy’s comment, I wish I had retained some of my programming skills from college.

    I insist that the script isn’t too complicated! :)

    ==Sue:
    Co.mment is (now) working just fine for me – just signed up. My biggest problem was that, while I was able to track my comments on WordPress blogs, my comments on BlogSpot and TypePad and such weren’t too easy to track. More so if I left a comment on a blog that wasn’t on my blogroll. Co.mment is now taking care of that problem – that fact that I can subscribe to it – is even better!

    It is very interesting that you bring up twitter (I am following you now, btw, “twitter: atulsabnis”). I have been trying hard since having read Scott Carp and his musings on Face-book, blogging and Twitter. It does seem-like an interesting tool – am yet to find a way to harness its power…er…sort of! :)

    Thank you all for a wonderful conversation – even if the technology doesn’t exist for us to manage it – what is more important is that we have the conversation! :)

  5. Yes I saw that you were following me so had already added you. The key with twitter is relates to the quality of people you are following. I am following educators who are full onto into Web 2.0 so every day are being exposed to new tools and ideas of how to use them.

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  10. As far as my understanding of RSS goes, it is only the plumbing pipe that delivers information. The way that information is collated and presented is the sphere of applications that can use technologies such as RSS, Twitter, IM, and so on.

    I think what you’re looking forward to is the vision of commenting systems that are providing increasing levels of sophistication to aggregate comments across the web, whether the comments are made on blog posts, Digg, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.

    You might want to keep a track of the best commenting systems in place today – Disqus, Intense Debate, and JS-Kit Echo.

    RSS cannot be made intelligent, it can only be made more efficient – like the latest RSS Cloud implementation. Intelligence will need to come from applications developed on top of RSS.

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