Probably you already have encountered the following:
- you left a comment on a blog posting, hoping to get feedback from the author or other users on your question or remark
- revisited the page after a while to check for follow-up comments
- … revisited … revisited… revisited… finally gave up on it or forgot
- discovered a few months later that an interesting follow-up had been posted afterwards, with exactly the tip or info you needed badly back then
As a commenter
Tips to follow up on your external comments:
- Look for a comments feed and put it in your reader to track further reactions. I have a separate folder “conversations” where I keep these feeds (at least for a while)
- WordPress provides a comment feed per posting by default (so it’s normally there, often without publishers knowing about it): simply append “/feed” after the url if it has a “nice” url like “/date/subject/”, or “&feed=rss” if the url is like “p=xxx”.
- As far as I know, most other blogging tools don’t have it by default, but some publishers have a comment feed for the entire blog, (typically something like /comments.rdf at Typepad) which might be an alternative, if comments are scarce. (BTW for WordPress, the entire feed is at <blogurl>/comments/feed/ or <blogurl>/?feed=comments-rss2)
- You should at least give the author the chance to contact you. If you hesitate to give your e-mail address (spam or privacy concerns), then:
- take a free junk mail address (Gmail.com probably is the most spam-resistent and the most “open” solution: you can use your pop-mail client, forwarding, etc…)
- if you own a domain: configure a catch-all mailbox and then you can make up your mail addresses freely (I do it in such a way I can tell the origin if I get spammed afterwards, such as comment.yourdomain@mydomain)
- take temporary mail addresses: Mailexpire.com, choose whether you want it to expire after 12 hours to 3 months
- If none of the above works: use one of the “web page change tracking services” like WatchThatPage.com. More of them are discussed in this overview.
- Decent blogging software provides permalinks for every individual comment (mostly the link behind the timestamp). So in case you really want to manually track your own external comments: bookmark the comment permalinks in del.icio.us or another bookmarking service. Use a separate tag and you might even republish your external comment feed (del.icio.us/rss/<accountname>/<tagname>) to your own blog.
- or use one of the discussed services
- Be nice and polite:-)
- Trackbacking is different from commenting.
- You might want to document an interesting posting for yourself by linking to it on your own blog, elaborate the idea further, recombine it with other insights, whatever. But trackbacking is nothing but a notification that you have referred to the original blog posting, is not a part of the discussion, is not a request for feedback.
- So do not simply trackback and expect the discussion to continue at your own blog, that would be like stealing the thread.
- (You might do both however, ask a question in a comment, and notify the poster with a trackback you elaborated the idea further at your own ground.)
As a blogger
Make life a bit easier for commenters:
- Provide a comment feed per posting or use a blogging tool that does it by default :-) (and if so, do not strip away the links to the feeds that are in the template)
- Even if you do have a comments feed, e-mail notification on subsequent comment postings is a good idea (especially if you have a non-geek audience unaware of rss )
- for WordPress, there’s the great “Subscribe to Comments 2.0 ”: it adds a checkbox to the comment post form so the commenter can subscribe for notifications of new postings (an unsubscribe-link is sent in every notification mail, together even with a personalised link to an interface where the subscriber can then manage the rest of his or her own subscriptions).
- Other examples: Serendipity has it built-in, Typepad has a plugin– there probably are analogous plugins for most open source blogging engines
- At least provide the possibility to leave an e-mail address, but hide or obfuscate it for spambots.
- In case none of the above exists: some suggestions for a comment answering etiquette:
- you are not obliged in any way to answer to comments. No one can claim you to do so, no one can even claim the right to have his or her comment published on your blog (or even claim you have to have comments at all)…
- … but please, if you do answer to a comment, do not assume your blog is the center of the world and the commenter will get back to it every day, so do send at least a notification mail with the permalink of your response (which makes it clear you want the conversation to continue on the blog, not per e-mail).
Some issues for a heavily commented blog:
- threaded comments might make it easier to follow the conversation (WordPress: use this plugin). Some other suggestions for the readability of comments on this great blogging design blog.
- You might want to refer to an accompanying forum for discussion. After all, that’s what forums are just better at… If a lively discussion ensues, provide a link afterwards to this topic, or if you’re a developer, there are even more creative solutions*
- As as sidenote: comment spam is a technical issue, it should not be an argument in whether or not have comments on your blog anymore. Spam captcha’s or a centralised authentication system (like Blogger’s or Typepad’s) are effective but annoying – a really great solution is Akismet.
As a service
The flaws of blog commenting have inspired some people to build services to cope with it, here two of them:
launched this weekend
an rss feed …
which is more or less the same functionality as bookmarking your comments in del.icio.us as described above, with the difference that Cocomment does store the comment text, but instead of the permalink to the comment., it stores the posting’s permalink
more promising however are visualisations like this one, that give a nice overview of where in a thread this user intervened. However, if you compare the Cocomment version of the thread with the original one, you’ll see that only registered users are included in the thread, so the usefullness will be limited to blogs frequented by lots of Cocomment users…
here the blogger has to install a plugin – and the service collects all comments on the participating blogs
any user/commenter can get a feed of his comments by simply submitting their e-mail address, no other action is required (I assume the matching is done on a hash of the mail address, I should look in the code of the plugin)
the requirement of the plugin installation will make it hard to make this solution popular I’m afraid… It can work for smaller communities of heavily interacting blogs.
- [Update] I had a look at the code meanwhile, and the plugin simply pings the Mycomments server with all the data of the comment (blog name, comment text, posting permalink…)… including the unhashed e-mail address of the commenter! There’s no way MyComments will ever get a user base this way, even if it might be set up in good faith – who’s ever going to entrust the mail addresses of all of your commenters to a third-party database??
Without doubt, this will probably just be the start of a whole range of similar services. [Update: (Drupal developer) Boris Mann mentions SXORE, soon to be launched, as a “cross-blog identity provider.] Cocomment and MyComments rely on the active participation and consent of either the commenter or the blogger, but probably we’ll see more screen scraping services in the future. Several services will try to connect up all the comments we made all over the blogosphere in a C(omment)log. The Gravatar service seems have the a head start here, since they can find all gravatar-enabled discussion threads in their referer log!