It’s just data

Another rss feed for comments spotted

David Watson: Dave Winer is asking about a feature to do comment notification on a weblog. The dotnet guy provides an answer: subscribe to his newest comments RSS feed. Cool!

Agreed.  Sometimes the most complicated problems have simple solutions.


Yes, I know about this -- YACCS has had the ability for quite some time. But I was envisioning something easier and higher level. Count the steps required to subscribe to one comment thread. Multiply that by the number of comment threads I might be interested in. Multiply that by the complications coming from using several different implementations. Even if every commenting system supported RSS feeds, I'd want something higher level. I'd like to go to one page and see a list of all the places I'd left comments in the last day, week, month and quickly see what's new in each of them. That would be the ideal.

Sam, what's your commenting system like? Did you write it yourself?

BTW, of all the commenting systems I've used, I like the one on BlogRoots the best. It's got the balance betw previewing and submitting down just right.

Posted by Dave Winer at

Now where did Hossein get the idea of RSS for comments? (Bite your tongue, Phil, bite your tongue.)

Steps required to subscribe: 1) persuade people to add RSS autodiscovery links to their comments, 2) persuade people to stop opening comments in broken popup windows without browser toolbars, 3) click your autodiscovery bookmarklet.

Oddly enough, though, I'm currently struggling with a project to answer the question "What did Dave post today, in weblog posts and comments, and can I see this particular post in context?"

But since so many people use one form of their name one place and another elsewhere, and use different email addresses in different places, it'll need a file that says "these addresses and these websites belong to this person" too. Luckily, that's what FOAF does, which works out fine since it's a project to see if I can extract some value from the RDF in 1.0 feeds (*ducks and runs*)

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at

Hi Phil, I think the solution is going to somehowlet me use my own editor to comment. It might somehow relate to the Trackback feature of MT, I don't know much about it or FOAF, bur first I gotta figure out how it looks to a user.

I don't mind if you see everything I post, but I do mind if some of my stalkers do. That also defines some of the parameters of how whatever this is will work.

Posted by Dave Winer at

One way to think about this is that in the extreme, trackback threading has the potential to reduce the need for comment systems substantially. That is, with something like this:

http://davidwatson.org:8086/cgi-bin/mt-thread.cgi?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.davidwatson.org%2Farchives%2F000386.html

There's no need for the comments in-line because the thread runs across disparate blog systems. The problem, of course, is that such a system relies on a human protocol that is a behavioral leap for us right now - remembering to ping the trackback entry on which we're commenting. The best thing influencing this in the right direction is the fact that the MT trackback bookmarklet automatically builds the trackback ping for you.

A potentially missing piece of the puzzle is being able to start at an arbitrary tree node and traverse up or down - something that may be helped by track forward:

http://www.interalia.org/mtplugins/index.php?readme=TrackForward

I haven't given this enough thought at this point. The big problem is that such a system wouldn't likely scale to the level that Dave requires, as opposed to intra-site comment systems which don't inherit such problems.

It seems to me though that in order for this system to succeed it needs a product manager and somebody to package it in the right clothing. The biggest problem is that it's taking a long time for momentum to build since comprehending what's possible with the system is difficult and the system needs to approach ubiquity to achieve it's full potential.


Posted by David Watson

at

I've gone the RSS route for my comments for some time now (http://www.decafbad.com/recent_comments_rss.xml), but I don't have it linked anywhere, figuring it was mostly just for my own good.

I've been toying with the idea of allowing commentors to opt for email notification on new comments/replies. This is how LiveJournal works. Also I was thinking about tossing in an AIM/Jabber IM notification option, if you really really want to be engaged.

Trackback might be nice, because you can chase the pings across sites and build up a threaded conversation automatically. Additionally, since you're in control of the publication of pings to your content, I suppose you could filter incoming pings... I don't like that, but that doesn't mean it might not be useful.

Posted by l.m.orchard at

D'oh. I missed Dave's point upon first reading. If everyone published comments in RSS, or sent email, or IMs, that still wouldn't help since the comment threads are more ephemeral than news channels and one doesn't want to have to catch, sub, and track every comment stream.

The problem's quite a bit subtler than that. This calls for some sort of aggregator that can ride shotgun with tou and automatically snag hooks to your points of participathin

Posted by l.m.orchard at

Grr. Make that "shotgun with you" and "points of participation".

Do we need a standard XML-RPC interface on comment systems, and a desktop comment client?

Posted by anonymous at

Funny, with regard to orchard's point about filtering incoming pings to trackback... that's exactly what I was arguing with Dave about over a month ago here:

http://davidwatson.org:8086/archives/000498.html#000498


Posted by david

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Here's another problem with using RSS subscriptions to solve this problem -- you have to remember to unsubscribe. Further, it puts the burden to remember in a place where there's little incentive to remember. But bandwidth costs on desktop aggregators are starting to become a concern for some, and only likely to be more so in the future.

Posted by Dave Winer at

quicktopic.com do this very well- they host comments either as a single chronological list or as comments per paragraph on a document, and let you subscribe to be emailed with new comments. They also track the topics you have commented in and give you a summary page showing which ones have new posts since you last visited. Very nice. See Shelley's blogthreads discussion for an example

Posted by Kevin Marks at

The easiest solution to "needing to remember to unsubscribe" is to have your software do it for you. When you subscribe to a feed, have an option to auto-unsubscribe under certain conditions. Maybe a fixed time limit (N hours/days), maybe after there is no activity for a certain time, whatever.

Auto-unsubscribe, plus an additional link (or RSS auto-discovery) on the comments page, and you've got yourself a cheap and simple tracking system.

Posted by Mark Pilgrim at

(slightly off-topic) re: Another rss feed for comments spotted --

<A href="http://davidwatson.org:8086/archives/000601.html">David Watson</A>:
<EM>Dave Winer is asking about a</EM> <A
href="http://scriptingnews.userland.com/backissues/2002/09/20#When:8:39:43AM"><EM>feature
to do comment notification on a weblog</EM></A><EM>. The dotnet guy provides an
answer:</EM> <A
href="http://www.quality.nu/dotnetguy/rss-comments.aspx"><EM>subscribe to his
newest comments RSS feed</EM></A><EM>. Cool!</EM>

The link to the dotnet guy points to an XML page. It would be a public service if RSS feeds included a CSS stylesheet declaration for formatting the RSS for browser display -- rather than having to contend with IE's default tree-view, for example. Modern browsers, even Mac IE, will render XML + CSS directly. All you have to do is include a stylesheet declaration in the head, e.g.

&lt;?xml-stylesheet type="text/css" href="http://blahblah/rss.css"?&gt;

That's all.

Posted by anonymous at

(try that without the html bits)

David Watson: Dave Winer is asking about a feature to do comment notification on a weblog. The dotnet guy provides an answer: subscribe to his newest comments RSS feed. Cool!

The link to the dotnet guy points to an XML page. It would be a public service if RSS feeds included a CSS stylesheet declaration for formatting the RSS for browser display -- rather than having to contend with IE's default tree-view, for example. Modern browsers, even Mac IE, will render XML + CSS directly. All you have to do is include a stylesheet declaration in the head, e.g.

<xml-stylesheet type="text/css" href="http://blahblah/rss.css"?>

That's all.

Posted by anonymous at

Auto-unsubscribe would be great. I want to be asked, in a popup saying "This feed (meets these conditions) - unsubscribe now, ask next week, never unsubscribe", and I want general settings (dead for x days, invalid xml for x days, I haven't clicked through or blogged an item for x weeks) that can be overruled for individual feeds, along with an "ask about this feed in x days". And a puppy.

Dave: "I don't mind if you see everything I post, but I do mind if some of my stalkers do." Ulp. I didn't realize it, but I am building a stalker's dream machine. Damn.

TrackBack as a solution: it's a great hammer, but this isn't a nail. For one thing, you have to post your comments on your own weblog, which isn't always what you want to do. Then, for it to work as notification, the final person posting in a thread would need to ping all thirty previous entries, which would be a pain and would destroy the whole threading model.

What Dave really wants: oh, my, that would be nice, but I see what you mean about a lot of work. Your entry has some embedded metadata describing how to submit a comment (a localhost link to the standard port for blogging apps? some embedded RDF?), so I can comment in my own familiar environment with no more tiny textareas. Then unless I uncheck the box, when I submit the comment through the blogCommentsAPI I also send a PubSub request, and the auto-unsubscribe logic in my comment aggregator takes over. Somebody make it happen, please.

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at

<i>The easiest solution to "needing to remember to unsubscribe" is to have your software do it for you. When you subscribe to a feed, have an option to auto-unsubscribe under certain conditions. Maybe a fixed time limit (N hours/days), maybe after there is no activity for a certain time, whatever.</i>

That works. Another idea. Have a way for the source to say "this feed is never going to change, everyone unsubscribe now."

Posted by Dave Winer at

Phil, I'll buy you a puppy.

Posted by Mark Pilgrim at

With regard to phil's hammer vs. nail comment -> understood. There are limits, which is why I phrased my opening statement very carefully.

Another hammer and nail -> what you describe with regard to pub-sub would not be difficult to build on top of Jabber. Most of the necessary bits are there already in one form or another.

Posted by david at

With the added benefit that Jabber gathers up your messages while you are offline, doesn't it? (I really need to look into it someday.) PubSub's fine for people who are on 24/7, but I used to sometimes turn off the computer and go outside for days at a time. How hard is it to do a Jabber bot that would send out notifications and listen for replies saying "Piss off"?

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at

perhaps this is an overly simple solution, and i'm missing something but:

why not just have each RSS item carry an element regarding comment count. something like <comments:count>N</comments:count>. as long as my aggregator takes note of this the first time it collects this item, on each subsequent digestion of the feed, all it has to do is compare the last comment count to the new comment count. if they differ then there are new comments, and the appropriate icon could be displayed, perhaps even show you how many new comments their are.

Posted by justin klubnik at

That's a great idea for people using non-guid-aware aggregators on feeds produced by systems that rebuild the feed when a comment is added (I'd add comments:countURL for use in feeds from people using things like Blogger+YACCS (not that either one actually supports that)), but it doesn't solve the whole problem, since I might be interested in comments on a post that's no longer in the feed (thanks to a flame war, my most active thread for the month is going to be on a post from last November), or I might only be interested in the comments on one particular post, not in comments on other posts or even the other posts themselves.

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at

Again, responding to Phil re: jabber...

Yes, jabber does store messages received when you are offline. And yes, jabber bot is relatively simple to do:

http://jpb.sourceforge.net/jpb-hp/index.html




Posted by david

at

This is why I inquired about having unique identifiers being added to items within feeds. The thought being that your aggregator would be able to, perhaps, leverage that data as a way to 'reach back' to the source and learn more about what or where to look for more information. Ben's trackback is a great step in that direction.

Using it within web pages also allows a browser-side applet to detect how to start looking for more data which it could then in turn hand over to your aggregator (which may or may not be local).

As for insults, why is it that anyone disagreeing with a certain someone's perspective has you branded a monster or a stalker? If one can't refute the position, then attack it's author?

Posted by Bill Kearney at

I've hacked up a script that will convert the javascript comment counts produced by an RCS into an RSS feed:

http://dev.myelin.co.nz/commentmonitor/tracker.py

You can use that to get a feed for the comments for *any* weblog. It doesn't put the comment text into the RSS, but it will let you know when new comments are posted, which is the important thing.


Posted by Phillip Pearson

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May I remind anyone talking about an XMLRPC interface for comments, that discussion has been done on the subject over January-February-March on the weblog-devel Yahoo group. We were actually discussing about a much broader subject: a standard complete Weblogs API.

Also, there's an XMLRPC weblogs API already devised but still waiting for implementions: http://wasabii.org
If half of the "big guys" over here weren't running after recognition like chickens with their heads cut off, it could just be implemented and used (and improved with helpful feedback).


Posted by michel v

at

Summarizing the Simple Solution to Comment Tracking and Monitoring.

This is a summary-so-far and for posterity to a on-again-off-again discussion that he been on going for nearly a year -- comment tracking and monitoring. The bottom line is there is no need for a new web app and it doesn't have to be that difficult.... [more]

Trackback from tima thinking outloud.

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RSS for comments

Thoughts on subscribing to comment threads via RSS.... [more]

Trackback from dive into mark

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MTEntryAuthor considered harmful

If you are just merrily producing RSS 1.0 with the default MovableType template without ever having given it a close......

Excerpt from phil ringnalda dot com: MTEntryAuthor considered harmful: Comments at

Treating Feeds as Customers

On RSS Aggregation and Customer Relationship Management... [more]

Trackback from Monkeymagic

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