Over the past few months there have been a number of posts about how aggregators like FriendFeed are causing bloggers to "lose control of the conversation". Louis Gray captured some of the blogger angst about this topic in his Should Fractured Feed Reader Comments Raise Blog Owners' Ire? where he wrote

While the discussion around where a blog's comments should reside has raised its head before, especially around services like FriendFeed, (See: Sarah Perez of Read Write Web: Blog Comments Still Matter) it flared up again this afternoon when I had (innocently, I thought) highlighted how one friend's blog post from earlier in the week was getting a lot of comments, and had become the most popular story on Shyftr, a next-generation RSS feed reader that enables comments within its service.

While I had hoped the author (Eric Berlin of Online Media Cultist, who I highlighted on Monday and like quite a bit) would be pleased to see his post had gained traction, the reaction was not what I had expected. He said he was uneasy about seeing his posts generate activity and community for somebody else. Another FriendFeed user called it "content theft" and said "if they ever pull my feed and use it there, they can expect to get hit with a DMCA take-down notice". (See the discussion here)

Surprisingly [at least to me] these aren't the only instances where people have become upset because there are more comments happening in Friendfeed than on their post. Colin Walker tells the the story of Rob La Gesse who signed up for FriendFeed only to cancel his account because his "friends" on the site preferred commenting on FriendFeed than on his blog. 

I suspect that a lot of the people expressing outrage are new to blogging which is why they expect that their blog comments are the be all and end all of conversation about their blog posts. This has never been the case. For one, blogs have had to contend with social news sites like Slashdot, Digg and reddit where users can submit stories and then comment on them. A post may have a handful of comments on the original blog but generate dozens or hundreds of responses on a social news site. For example, I recently wrote about functional programming C# 3.0 and while there were less than 10 comments on my blog there were over 150 comments in the discussion of the post on reddit.

Besides social news sites, there are other bloggers to consider. People with their own blogs often prefer blogging a response to your post instead of leaving a comment on the original post. This is the reason services like Technorati and technologies like Trackback were invented. Am I "stealing the conversation" from Louis Gray's post by writing this blog post in response to his instead of leaving a comment?

Then there's email, IM and other forms of active sharing. I've lost count of the amount of times that people have told me that one of my blog posts was circulated around their group and a lively conversation ensued. Quite often, the referenced post has no comments.

In short, bloggers aren't losing control of the conversation due to services like FriendFeed because they never had it in the first place. You can't lose what you don't have.

When it comes to FriendFeed there are two things I like about the fact that they enable comments on items. The first is that it is good for their users since it provides a place to chat about content they find on the Web without having to send out email noise (i.e. starting conversations via passive instead of active sharing). The second is that it is good for FriendFeed because it builds network effects and social lock-in into their product. Sure, anyone can aggregate RSS feeds from Flickr/del.icio.us/YouTube/etc  (see SocialThing, Facebook Import, Grazr, etc) but not everyone has the community that has been built around the conversations on FriendFeed. 

Now Playing: Lloyd Banks - Born Alone, Die Alone


Tuesday, June 24, 2008 5:01:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I bet the next thing will be people complaining because people using feed readers don't see their adverts... If people don't like others using the facilities that they provide to syndicate content then why provide it in the first place?
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 7:28:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
charge it to the game. :)

Rent a town hall and sound system and recording equipment if you want to control your conversation. oh wait, people would still talk about your stuff over dinner, and your ideas may spread many times over by the attendees taping of the events.

Just because people were able to "control" their conversations in the past (or people were able to "control" the stuff that comes out of their heads), means that that was the correct way of operation, even then, only that it was possible to do so :)

Time to stay ahead of the game, and figure out how to pimp out what exists to their benefit, if they care enough, that is...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 11:24:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The only thing I dislike about comments moving away from a blog is when you lose the author's voice. Often a conversation will turn into "Well, what I think he really meant was..." and discussing around conjectures and assumptions is really a waste of time. I like the author to be there to be able to either defend or explain his points.

Other than that I really like the concept of more unified areas for discussions like FriendFeed, mostly because the notification system in most blog commenting systems either doesn't exist or gets fragmented. I'm still a HUGE fan of NNTP and newsgroups, because it's easy to track conversations, to get notifications and quickly cross-reference other posts across various people, plus you can use a wide variety of clients vs. being locked into either a certain blog system's e-mail notification process or bulky non-standard forum software.

I think the commenting issue, in terms of tracking, notifying and discoverability, has yet to be solved for RSS. Even the commenting aspects of RSS aren't well implemented by many feed providers and I don't see a really solid, NNTP-client quality level of support in feed readers for managing, tracking and searching comments.

For example, now that I've posted this comment I'll probably forget about it and any conversation around this will get lost. There have been several comment threads over the years that I basically set off due to a comment but wasn't there to read any of the great followups.
Sunday, June 29, 2008 7:36:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I've been using CoComment for a while. It aggregates on-blog comments from across the web into a comprehensive view. Among other things, it allows me to see when an old comment thread I commented in springs back to life.

I don't much care for the CoComment Web UI (far too clever for my taste), but it does work reasonably well, as does the Firefox plugin (although highly customized blogs sometimes give it fits).
Michael R. Bernstein
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