Thursday, May 15, 2008

Global Comments

I'm part of the problem. Minutes ago, I decided to 'Share with note' an item from Google Reader, instead of posting a comment on the site hosting the original article. In my defense, I didn't have a huge amount to say, I'd be surprised to think it was truly valuable, and I would have had to register at the site in order to leave a comment (instead of allowing, say, logging in via openid, in which case I would have). I want to be more a part of the online community, leaving comments on posts that strike me... but at the same time I am fairly lazy. So instead of contributing to the community, I contributed to the problem: comment tracking.

By not posting my comment somewhere associated with the original article, I have essentially forked the conversation. Somebody trying to keep up with the commentary the article generates doesn't know what I said (not a true loss, in the case, but the principle is there).

I was wondering a little about comment aggregation recently, and systems to keep all comments about an article (or links back to articles directly inspired by an article). I hope they develop more in the near future, and I vaguely wonder what, if any, will be the effect on sites like digg or slashdot (more on this below).

[Warning: this post gets a little rambly about now. If you've got better things to do, don't let me keep you.]

Another aspect of this commenting issue that has been on mind, as of late, is the one I mentioned in a recent post: there are too many venues to publish thoughts. I had something I wanted to say about the article I mentioned at this start of this article. I could have left a comment on the original page. I could have thought about what I wanted to say more and made a post here (and put a link in the comments on the original page). I could have left a tweet pointing to the article (but with 140 characters, some occupied by the obscure tinyurl, could I have left a tweet that would have actually inspired people to take a gamble at a url, for which they had no idea where it actually pointed?). I could have just 'shared' the item in my reader. All of these different venues are hosted by different services, and read by entirely different audiences.

What I dream about is a global interface. I don't want to have to post the same thing many times so that 'my audience' sees it. I want to post in one place, and then if I actually have an audience, have the system automatically send them a message (or wait for an rss request) that says something has been posted. And I can pick a subset of my audience for particular messages, and global reading permissions (I could choose, in fact, just a single person, with only that person allowed to read it, and have just eliminated my need for email/IM). Except my audience has the option of just being an audience when I talk about a particular topic (e.g., they could filter my posts down to those tagged with 'math' (future versions of this system handle the tagging for me, as the semantic web and natural language processing makes better progress)). And when I tell the system that my post was related to, or inspired by, some article I found, the system goes to that article and lets it know it inspired me, with a link to what I had to say.

Again, but from a reader's perspective: Instead of finding a blog I want to follow, and noticing that they also twitter, and... wherever else they post, I can just click 'follow', and get their one global feed (tailored the way they want for privacy). Hopefully this also limits duplication from people whose posts get published in a few locations. And then I notice that a particular source has a hard time staying on track, and talks about a diverse collection of things. I've only got so much time in the day and I don't care about the person's fish recipes (or whatever nonsense), so I can set it up to filter incoming messages/feeds from them based on topics/tags the interest me. Better yet, the system sorts all of my incoming traffic based on my APML data and the audience of the message (if I'm the only intended recipient, and I ignore it... that's not very polite), and soon starts tossing out things I never read (or at least dropping them in some folder I rarely check). And when I do find somebody new to follow, my system asks them for recommendations, compares against my current subscriptions and interests, and leads me to new interesting material. Instead of choosing subcategories of digg to follow, my system finds pages directly.

And we all live happily ever after...

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