Blog comments. Once the only social network, the way we conversed among blogs, wikis in the pre-twitter, pre-facebook era. It was, really, where the interaction happened.
Now, thanks to Google providing the link bait incentive, blog comments are the honey pots for bot gibberish; Akismet snags some 10,000 spam comments per week on this site.
But they are still rather important in Connected Courses— nothing, absolutely nothing, motivates someone new to blogging, reflecting in their own space than getting feedback. Especially when it comes from a person they do not know. It cracks open the “why” of what may appear to be pointless blabbering.
We seek to be hear, to be acknowledged. Blog comments do that in a simple, but effective way.
There is, and has been, for a long time a desire to be able to “track” comment activity. Because they exist elsewhere on the web, and are formatted, stored in variable formats, there is really no simple means to track one’s comments elsewhere.
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Have you ever posted comments or questions on articles and blogs and then forgotten where you’ve left them? By tracking your conversation with coComment, you can see all your comments on one page and get notified. You will never miss a response, and will always be part of your online conversations!
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People, especially me, are too fallible for that.
I was intrigued when I saw Gordon Lockhart’s tweet:
— Gordon Lockhart (@Gordon_L) September 19, 2014
It was something he had done previously for #rhizo14 What I did not realize that I learned from reading his documentation was that Blogger provided RSS feeds for comments- for some reason I thought that only WordPress had that feature.
He’s put it into motion for Connected Courses- see the results at http://iberry.com/cc.htm
What it does well is that it allows you to see somewhat the conversations happening on the distributed blogs of Connected Courses, like a high level scan. If I understand his approach, he is taking the feeds from all WordPress and blogger sites, and checking the posts for having a “ccourses” label/tag and matching the comment feed action to the posts (some python magic).
Its definitely useful, but of course, you have to keep in mind it is missing the blogs that do not have comments at all (tumblr) or the platforms that lack comment RSS feeds (everything other than WordPress/Blogger).
I have some gnarly technical notes on how this was done — essentially, from the main site’s collection of syndicated feeds, I was able to do a database query to identify the blog generator (essentially a way to find which of the feeds were wordpress), then wrote the script to output all of those feeds as an OPML file, with the RSS URLs re-written to reflect the blog comment RSS URL — essentially for an RSS feed from http://cogdogblog.com/tag/thoughtvectors/feed the comment feed is http://cogdogblog.com/tag/thoughtvectors/comments/feed).
I probably could do the same for Connected Courses, but augment the code to check as well for Blogger sites, since I know now how to construct RS feeds for its comments.
I always used an RSS reader when I taught ds106 as a way to see and respond to the comment activity on my students sites. It truly is the one valid time saving piece of technology.
That all said, I have a pretty laisez faire feeling about comments. A few clicks back I had a back and forth DM conversation with Maha Bali about this. To me, being able to organize and track comments is really not something I crave. I think of comments as conversations, I certainly do not want a database of every conversation I had. I think of conversations as ephemeral, and happy if I can remember having a conversation, not really needing to have total recall.
We had a laugh because she tried to recall a comment IO made on her blog expressing that ;-) just google recursion.
I know others feel differently and would like better tracking and documenting of comments. It’s a feature of known that intrigues me because in that system, comments are stored primarily on your own personal site and pushed out to the site you are commenting on, likely a more logical data flow.
There are some low tech approaches one can try. For while I was trying to add a custom string of mishmosh characters as sort of a tracking code to my comments. In theory, I could run a google search on that. But it is my own downfall that I did not remember to do it everytime (the same problem as cocomment), so much I cannot even recall my secret code.
I also have gotten in the habit thi last year of always putting in the name field of a comment box:
Alan Levine (@cogdog)
On my own computer it is usually filled in as autocomplete. If I was smarter I might do something more unique, but I can try a rough Google search on that string (filter out results from my own blog)
It does bring up a lot– but is it everything?
So for me, I’m okay if I have an incomplete record of my comment activity– its really ore important to be contributing conversation than trying to ensnare it like some obsessive accountant.
So please, leave me a comment? Or better yet– find a random syndicated connected courses post
and give someone else some comment love.