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Feb 26, 2009

Comments at Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Connect, Disqus, ... What's New?

Swipe through the marquee to see what happens!

A blog or website has so many options for inviting user participation. Options crowd pages, confusing visitors with the many options. What works? What is the future?

Comment Update

Traditionally, a page invites user comments. 99.99% of pages gain no comments. Too many comments are simply spam. When the 0.01% does get comments, there are so many that few reads them. 

It's broken. (Ed: the notes for this blog is officially off!)

Many options allow sites to capture textual interaction. Here are the choices:
  • Forums bury comments inside databases - often inaccesible to robots. Thousands of forums still have private conversations among a few members. The majority provides flypaper to unsuspecting search engines - providing antiquated knowledge. Craiglist is an example.
  • Groups send comments to each other via email digests. There is so much group email that the content is often ignored.
  • Bookmarking - like Digg, Stumbeupon, Reddit, Yahoo Buzz, and dozens of others, share comments to the communities at those sites. Essentially, these are review sites for articles. If an article gains fans, it may surface as a top article to be read by millions. Note that fame is fleeting - as a few of our articles have achieved momentary fame.
  • Social Networks - like Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn, allow users to show status, and their friends comment on the status. Blogs and websites can send page feeds into social networks, thus allowing friends to read and comment on articles inside the social network. Comments become part of the social network.
  • Open Social and Facebook Connect widgets allow visitors to comment at a website and feed the comment to their friends inside the social network. This requires the visitor to sign in, grant permission, and submit - a confusing process.
  • Google FriendConnect provides a comment widget. Unfortunately, Google does not have a significant social network for sharing. Thus, each sitebuilds its own - a time intensive process. Disqus serves a similar function.
  • Twitter offers innovative sharing with their social network. Scobleizer talks about one method that changes commeting below:

Doing comments first on Twitter with Twickie

OK, so, what is the tool I was using earlier in the evening to get lots of responses from my Twitter followers and copy and paste them into my blog? Chris Pirillo’s Twickie.

How does it work?

I ask a question on Twitter.

People respond...

Thank you for participating. I’ll try other questions soon, I don’t want to overdo it.

Essentially, the problem is the same - either too little like nothing, or too much creating pure noise. Piles of comments at Craigslist, Digg, Stumbleupon, Twitter, and the like essentially serve no-one.

Working Models

What's working? Here are a few ideas.
  • Shared comments wins. Closed comments, specific to a site, only works for the top sites. New websites need to look for other models.
  • Facebook authenticates users and friends. Thus, the feed is primarily chit-chat among real friends. As many users have expanded their circle to include apps, fans, and essentially strangers, the personal feeds become noisy. Facebook responded by isolating robotic and app feeds to separate tabs. More options would help maintain the conversation stream among friends.
  • In contrast, Myspace has uncontrolled noise among strangers. Their original model was emerging musicians and their fans. It has expanded to prostitutes, emerging starlets, and other promoters - creating a rapid stream of spam for every user. Not surprisingly, Facebook has advanced beyond Myspace - while is latter is stuck in neutral.
  • Each page at Techcrunch, the leading tech blog, has become an open conversation pit. In the early morning, people fight to react with the first comment, thus gaining the highest visibility. Recently, they added Facebook Connect so that visitors can both post and share their comments with their Facebook friends. 
  • Open conversations are hard to manage, breaking out with profanity and shouting. Overall, it's still a great place. Lesser sites like ReadWriteWeb, Venture Beat, and GigaOM have less conversation. Cnet's closed, restricted commenting has few participants.
  • Gawker, a leading social news blog, has an interesting approach to comments. Members are monitored, evaluated - before given permission to post in public. It's a wonderful way to assure that visitors are actually reading the content before posting replies - informed comments. Thus, the comments crowdsource true value for each article. 
  • Twitter's 140 character microblog has gained incredible growth. The open commenting allows anyone globally to share with anyone else. Open has helped Twitter grow, but the noise level per participant has grown as well. Millions tweet. Who's listening?
Toward a New Model for Comments

A new model shares open comments, exploits the popularity of Twitter, and surfaces the common discussions among Twitter users on a common topic. Here is the Twitter stream on twitter, itself.

Click the like, tag, dislike buttons; and join the conversation. Note the realtime results when you refresh the Twitter stream to see your photo on this page. Try it.

Whether new TV shows, old shows, emerging starlets/jocks, or the President of Albania, you're be surprised at the global, relevant conversations that surfaces. 

Sites that have deployed this new commenting/guided search/informed chat model include:
Many more sites are coming...


Commenting has changed from closed posts to open, shared conversations. Tweet your reply, now.

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