David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

coComment Does Web 2.0 Right

Despite last week’s rant about too much web 2.0 hype, I’ve made one discovery recently that’s made my life a lot easier. It’s called coComment.

coComment logoForget the fact that “coComment” has to be one of the worst names for a technology I’ve ever heard. The concept is a good one, and it’s simple. coComment keeps track of all the comments you make on blogs throughout the web so you don’t have to go Googling for them yourself.

It’s a nice potential solution to a couple of perennial problems in the blogosphere:

1. The “did anyone reply to my comment” problem. You read an article on someone’s blog that gets you riled up/steamed/aroused/amused/encouraged/etc. It’s late at night and you’re just about to go to bed, but you decide to throw in your two cents to the discussion. The next morning dawns and you forget all about it. Six months later, you stumble across your comment during a bit of vanity Googling and discover that twenty-seven people had a long and contentious debate about your two cents, but you weren’t around to contribute.

2. The “I want to read that guy’s comments” problem. You happen upon a really insightful comment by a familiar name. Perhaps it’s a famous author. Perhaps it’s a friend of yours. Perhaps it’s just someone whose opinion you trust. And you think, how many times has this guy dispensed his particular brand of wisdom in the blogosphere without me knowing about it? How can I follow this person’s opinions without wading through a hundred pages of Google results?

Now you can solve both of these problems with a free coComment account. If you’re using Firefox, coComment installs an extension that will do all of the heavy lifting for you. (Non-Firefox users can use a JavaScript bookmarklet.) The extension sticks a relatively unobtrusive extra bar in the comments box on almost any blog. Just type in your comment, make sure the “tracking conversation” box is checked, and coComment will keep track of that thread from now on.

coComment

And… that’s it. No reason to go back to the same page and hit the “reload” button to see if anyone’s replied to your comment. Just click the button in the status bar, and you’ll get a page listing all of the threads you’ve commented on. (See sample screen shot above.) Items in bold face have new, unread comments. All others don’t.

(Keep in mind that there’s nothing stopping you from tracking conversations you’re not participating in. Just open that comment form, click the checkbox, and the tracking begins — whether you’ve submitted a comment or not.)

(Also, there’s no reason you can’t uncheck the track conversations box, to prevent your comments list from getting clogged with lots of random one-word remarks you made at the spur of the moment.)

So how do you share your comments with others? Well, that’s where coComment falls down a little bit. It’d be nice if you could simply link to an HTML page on the coComment website that lets anyone view your comments. Instead, coComment gives you RSS feeds. It’s a nice feature, but not particularly useful for the less technically inclined. (Check out my coComment RSS feed.) If you know what you’re doing, it’s not that difficult to take these RSS feeds and make a little sidebar widget for your WordPress or Movable Type blog that will display all your recent comments around the blogosphere.

Of course, like any new technology, coComment is a little rough around the edges. It seems to work seamlessly with most blog systems like Blogger, WordPress, and LiveJournal. But about 20% of the time, you’re confronted with a little form that asks you to plug in URLs and descriptions for the blog you’re viewing. Needless to say, switching back and forth between browser tabs to cut-and-paste URLs is not my idea of a good time. The site provides easy-to-follow instructions for webmasters to make their blogs “coComment-friendly.” But I’ll wager that this thing won’t hit the big time until coComment irons out all these kinks without webmaster intervention.

The website itself also doesn’t give you any options for changing or customizing a comment thread once you’ve added it to the queue. For some reason, all of the comments for this blog are on my coComments list as “Limits on Speed, Limits on Freedom (David Louis Edelman’s Blog)” — which is the title for one particular article I wrote months ago. I’d like to go back and customize some of these titles — or at least take advantage of the feature that allows you to add multiple tags to your comments to better organize them. But as far as I can tell, coComment won’t let you do it.

Still, minor grumbling aside, it’s a great idea and a great implementation. So why not give it a spin and have your comment on my blog be your first with coComment?

Comments RSS Feed

  1. Chris Roberson on September 14, 2006 at 6:20 pm  Chain link

    Okay, I was intrigued when you mentioned it the other day,and now I’m convinced it’s worth a shot. I just installed the Firefox extension, so we’ll see how it works.

    Of course, knowing me, now that I’ve gone to the trouble, I’ll never comment on anyone’s blog again…

  2. Armchair Anarchist on September 14, 2006 at 6:31 pm  Chain link

    Spotted this on Rubel’s Micropersuasion, but wasn’t sure about it, but two recommendations from trusted sources is good enough for me.

    If you know what you’re doing, it’s not that difficult to take these RSS feeds and make a little sidebar widget for your WordPress or Movable Type blog that will display all your recent comments around the blogosphere.

    So, care to share t3h 1337 h4Xx0r c0d3 5k1llz, Dave? Or can you point me towards somewhere I can learn the trick for myself? 😉

  3. Armchair Anarchist on September 14, 2006 at 6:35 pm  Chain link

    Actually, nix that request for 1337 training; they’ve got a script generator in the ‘tools’ section. Just what I need, more javascript to slow my page down!

  4. Stephanie Booth on September 14, 2006 at 7:12 pm  Chain link

    Thanks for the really nice review! I’ve nudged the devs to see if we can fix your blog title 😉 (we know about the roughness around our edges and apologize…)

    As for sharing your comments with your readers, have you looked at the Blog Box? It’s made precisely for that. You can configure it so that it shows only your comments and then include it in your blog page.

    As I see you’re using WordPress, I would recommend the use of two plugins (I’ll be blogging about this on our blog tomorrow morning if I every manage to go to bed tonight): Show coComments for displaying your comments in the sidebar or anywhere else (also exists as a widget) — that would be instead of the Blog Box I just mentioned — and coComment Enhancer for automatic integration into your blog.

    Hope this helps, and let me know if you need anything!

  5. Stephanie Booth on September 14, 2006 at 7:13 pm  Chain link

    Ah, well, as I was writing my previous comment, Nicolas fixed your blog title. :-)

  6. David Louis Edelman on September 15, 2006 at 10:21 pm  Chain link

    AA: I haven’t noticed too much of a slowdown on my pages with the coComment scripts enabled. But it’s definitely something to keep an eye on…

    Stephanie: No problem re the roughness around the edges. One of these days I’ll get around to finishing my little review of Gmail, which, despite all of Google’s money, is still way rough around the edges. (Oh, and thanks for fixing my blog title. Is there a way for me to do that myself? And is there a way to go in and tag all my existing comments?)

  7. Stephanie Booth on September 16, 2006 at 5:19 am  Chain link

    No way to fix your blog title yourself, but it’s something we usually gladly do when asked.

    To tag your existing comments, go on your conversation page, display the comment you want to tag, and click the Edit link next to “Tags”. No way to batch-edit, though.

  8. Geoffrey Allan Plauche on February 11, 2008 at 2:41 am  Chain link

    I just decided to try out coComment on your recommendation.

    (You also introduced me to LibraryThing, and showed me some web design sins I have been guilty of and some I still was guilty of until I read your blog. Thanks!)

    It’s strange though. Your blog shows up in conversations on my cocomment page as “Ann Coulter and “Perfect” Faith (David Louis Edelman)”.

  9. David Louis Edelman on February 11, 2008 at 9:12 am  Chain link

    It’s been a while since I used coComment… I actually uninstalled it quite some time ago and took the scripts off the blog. Not because I disliked it so much as because I wasn’t really using it as much as I thought I would.

    LibraryThing, however, remains awesome. :-)

  10. Geoffrey Allan Plauche on February 11, 2008 at 10:12 am  Chain link

    Looks like they still haven’t fixed some of the problems you mentioned over a year ago: blog titles and tagging, for example. They still don’t have Blogger support either and it’s one of the major blogging services.

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