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.
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