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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Comments Vampirism and the Segregation of Communities

The last few days have been interesting experiments in the nature of social networking and social networking sites. I mostly write my mid-length articles on my blog, which gets syndicated to FriendFeed and Facebook. The problem is, the two communities are mostly disjoint, and each has their own comments mechanism and database, so the two never meet.

Take for instance, my recent blog post on Politics. It has 1 comment on the blog proper, two comments over at friendfeed, and two comments on Facebook. And none of them talk to each other. Might we have had a more interesting discussion if somehow everything went into one comment database? I'll never know, but I know for sure I'm irritated at having comments split between my blog and 2 social networking sites with no ability to consolidate them or having them indexed by Google, unlike the comments on this blog!

What's good about comments on the social networking sites is that I never have to moderate them (or at least, I haven't had to do so yet), since they only get written to by my friends. The blog itself does get semi-frequent bouts of link-spamming, which is why I have moderation turned on, but what I really want is a service that will consolidate all the comments together in one place and allow a true conversation to take place, regardless of whether you're coming through a social network or through a Google search. Let's think a bit about what features such a service would have:

  1. Multiple moderation modes: I'd be happy to leave Facebook comments unmoderated, and moderate Friendfeed entries after the fact, but the blog has to have comments vetted since it frequently gets spam.
  2. Comment mirroring: all the comments from one social network or the blog would get mirrored to all the other social networks. That way, a conversation can happen between folks who aren't signed onto the same social networks, with my blog as the common link. Conversely, if I delete a spam entry, I want all the networks to mirror that deletion as well.
  3. Identification: I would like to be able to see, "Hey, so and so replied to me from Facebook --- he must have a Facebook account, and I forgot to add him to my friend list, so I'll go do it now."

I'm sure there are other nice things to have such as threading, direct messages, etc., but since I don't run a high traffic blog, just those 4 features would make my blog more useful to my friends, and go a long way towards having real conversations on the web be interesting. Of course, with Facebook's policy of running a walled garden, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for someone to implement this.


ChiaLea said...

Hmm... well, once Wave's up and running, might be able to do something like what you want with that.

Piaw Na said...

Not as long as Facebook doesn't give me an easy way to extract comments from their walled garden!

Unknown said...

Communities have been disjoint forever. First there was UNIX write (local), the talk/ntalk (cross machines). IRC allowed people to join in groups, but then people started creating separate IRC servers and chatrooms with very similar topics. To make things more complex, user friendly apps came along, like ICQ, MSN chat, Yahoo Messenger, Google Chat. New apps like Trillian allowed people to sign into all of these chat services without having to download separate apps, but they didn't consolidate the disjoint groups of people.

The current state of forums is not very different than the chat forums. Usenet was one attempt to globify all the forums. But as it grew to an unmanageable size, different communities started to filter out groups (e.g. alt.binaries.*). Web forums became popular, and people started joining Yahoo groups. But then Yahoo groups grew to an unmanageable size, and a bunch of smaller independent and niche groups started popping out (many are powered by the same PHP discussion boards).

Pehaps in the past, people tried to consolidate a bunch of chat apps and consolidate forums (merging Usenet with Yahoo Groups). In the end however, rather than merging, one of them gains so much more popularity that it renders the rest less useful (e.g. kids have no idea what Usenet is these days). Right now, a bunch of people use DIGG, Slashdot, Google Reader. They have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, and a bunch of other social platforms. Yes perhaps it's a mess now and people really want just one unified view of the world. However, if history repeats itself, I think it'll just be a matter of time before one platform is so popular over the other that it's probably not worth the trouble to consolidate them.

Social platforms rise with popularity, and they diverge in time. Merging/integrating hasn't been a norm. I guess that's just the way things are.

Piaw Na said...

It doesn't bother me that communities are disjoint. It bothers me that *readers of my blog* aren't aware of each other, and can't respond to each other's comments!

Doug Orleans said...

I commented via "Share with note" on Google Reader... and of course I didn't even know there were 4 comments on your blog until I happened to click on the link. This is insanely broken.

Piaw Na said...

I can't tell you how frustrating it is. I know nobody will even try to address this --- neither friendfeed nor facebook wants anyone to leave their walled gardens.

Doug Orleans said...

To start with, you could add a comments feed. (I.e. a single feed that has comments from all posts.)

You would think that at least Blogger and Google Reader could play better together. Where's the corporate synergy?

Piaw Na said...

According to blogger, there is a comments feed, but I have no idea how to even get to it!

Otto said...

The comments feed for this post is right here:

Also, look into BackType.

Unknown said...

Backtype doesn't solve my facebook comments problem.