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It seems like the big pre-SXSW bitchfest this past weekend was around whether anonymous commenters are good or bad, whether they are trolls and whether they are the scum of the earth and should be shot with a nerf gun until they give up who they really are. AOL tech blog Techcrunch switched from using the Y Combinated Disqus comments system over to using Facebook comments. Let me just say this as Allen not as anonymous commenter 2382389A, the move was made to get more traffic to Techcrunch. Period. (nothing wrong with wanting to make money)
Robert Scoble nearly died (I think his caps lock key got jammed too) after reading some post by Steve Cheney. There seems to be two main issues going on within the posts regarding Facebook comments and trolls stories:
- Are anonymous comments bad or good
- Should we be willing to let Facebook control how we use the Internet outside of the walls of Facebook.com (I will save this discussion for another day)
It seems whenever the discussion of “internet commenting trolls” comes up, I always get into an offline discussion about which came first on a blog – shitty content or the trolls? In most cases mice and rats don’t just show up – they come when you put food out there for them. The conversation usually ends up with everyone agreeing that the trolls show up when shitty content is placed out there for them.
Blog comment replacement service JS-Kit has announced a new partnership with Yahoo today that will bring the ability for blog readers to login to comment on a blog using their Yahoo userid. You can see how it works on Guy Kawasaki’s blog and I’ve embedded a screenshot below. The service uses the oAuth protocol (like in 24) so you aren’t sharing your password with JS-Kit unlike say many of the Twitter apps that require you to share your credentials with the local developer for the service to work.
I guess this is supposed to be like Facebook Connect. You can spam your friends all over the place with your updates. Just like when you post a blog comment, your friends on Facebook can see it. Chris Saad is the VP Product and Community Strategy for JS-Kit and also the Data Portability Chief notes that today’s announcement is a step forward for their data portability journey. Not sure that I see how today’s announcement has anything to do with data portability but I think it’s always great to offer readers more options to login because it leads to more conversation and usage.
To make the connection work, JS-Kit is utilizing both Yahoo!’s Profile API and Updates API. According to JS-Kit CEO, Khris Loux, "Eventually, each story a publisher sends to the Yahoo! Updates feed will benefit from referral traffic to Yahoo!’s most popular sites: Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Toolbar, Profiles, and more."
Have you ever been stuck wondering what to post on your blog? Can’t seem to find a topic that suits the current situation? Well a new feature called "Reblogging" launched today by comment replacement service Disqus could help quench your thirst for a great post!
The Disqus reblogging feature allows you to easily click a button on any comment left on a blog using the Disqus service and post it as a full post on your blog. You can basically lift a comment from X blog and place it on your blog! So when you are stuck for a topic, just go to a popular blog that receives a lot of comments, click "Reblog" and bam… instant post.
While the concept of Reblogging works on a service like Tumblr, I just don’t see it as a value-add here. Who benefits from the Reblog process?
- The blog publishing the comment gets a juicy bit of content (that’s not in a script code)
- The source blog receives a seo-rich link back to the source – this is a great way to up inbound counts
- Disqus benefits as a seo-rich link back to Disqus travels with the Reblogged content
- Disqus also adds a link back to the commenter’s profile on Disqus
- The original commenter who spent time formulating the comment gets nothing
Just like I called out Disqus for "borrowing" traffic earlier this year, I am again calling them out (and understand I like Daniel and think he is a very bright guy!). Add a link back to the comment author’s blog instead of his/her Disqus profile. Then the service becomes more of a value to everyone and might be more beneficial to the community at large. I’d also wonder if Disqus users need to opt-in to this program – when I comment on X blog, do I automatically grant any blog or source with the ability to lift my comment and do as they please? What happens to context – it could easily be meaningless outside of the source discussion. We already see this happening when Disqus comments are posted on FriendFeed – the context is completely missing. This Reblogging feature could lead to some great discussions around comment portability and usage. Maybe we need a licensing model for comments.
In a perfect situation, the only links that would be listed are to the source blog where the comment was posted and a link to the commenter’s blog.
This new Disqus Reblog feature currently works on the WordPress, Movable Type, TypePad, and Tumblr platforms.
Here’s Disqus founder Daniel Ha’s screencast of how the reblog process works. I hope there’s an opt-out button – I have no desire to participate with regards to this new feature.
Less than a day after Disqus announced the launch of their updated Wordpress plugin, blog comment replacement service IntenseDebate is out with their own. The IntenseDebate update will ship in private beta mode this weekend with a public release shortly thereafter says ID.
The updated IntenseDebate WordPress plugin features a better admin control panel along with full data synchronization. This means that comments entered in IntenseDebate will also be sent to the core WordPress install. This means that you can test IntenseDebate without the fear of losing comments should you decide to leave at a later point.
They have also updated the main IntenseDebate site with a "Swedish" look and feel they say. And there’s also updated Akismet spam protection.
I’ve written about the three leading comment replacement services (Disqus, JS-Kit and IntenseDebate) a good number of times. Today Disqus is launching the second version of their blog comment replacement service. Disqus launched last October and since then has won over 30,000 content creators who use the service on their blogs and Web sites.
I spoke with Disqus CEO Daniel Ha last weekend to learn more about the second release of the Disqus platform. We began by speaking about my last post about Disqus where I noted that they were taking some of the traffic that should have been directed to the content creator for themselves. On the post Daniel said that the issue would be fixed that day but it wasn’t. However Daniel does say that the v2 release today fixes the issue and traffic should no longer route to Disqus but directly to the content creator.
The major updates in Disqus v2 are a new WordPress plugin and a new developer API. The WordPress plugin makes comments SEO friendly – meaning that any comments will have associated Google juice. Similar to what JS-Kit launched last month, all comments will be syndicated back to the original source WordPress comment system – this allows you to leave Disqus at any time and not lose the associated comment data. There’s a new import process which makes it easy to import and export comments into Disqus. Lastly you can moderate Disqus comments directly from the WordPress admin – no need to go to the Disqus site. My hope is that a similar plugin will be available for other content platforms soon.
Daniel also walked me through the updated Disqus Web site which now features a page for each member that is public. What this means is that if I signup for a Disqus account, my friends can easily track all of my comments on any Disqus-enabled blog. Daniel calls this a "comment blog". Here’s a sample of my comment blog on Disqus:
One of the interesting bits Daniel noted during our discussion is that he believes that he is a heavier commenter than the CEOs of his competition. He believes they went into the comment replacement business because, "it’s what’s hot".
There’s no doubt that the comment space is hot. From the message board application FriendFeed to all of the new comment replacement and reputation services, this space is one to watch.
We’ve written about all of the new blog comment replacement services over the past few months. I recently had a chance to interview IntenseDebate developer Austin Hallock on our sister blog HTMLCenter. Below is an interview discussing the business side of IntenseDebate with co-founder Jon Fox.
Allen: Can we start with a brief bio?
Jon Fox: I’m 23 years old and originally from Illinois. I have a BS in Math and Computer Science from Illinois College and am about 3 classes away from a Masters in Computer Science from Washington University in St. Louis. I started programming when I was 10 years old and have loved it ever since. I’m also that guy that was obsessed with stories of great entrepreneurs growing up and completely fascinated by the web startup scene in particular.
Allen: How do you describe the Intense Debate service?
Jon: IntenseDebate is a replacement to your stock comment system on blogs and websites. We provide a tool to better facilitate community and interaction by adding loads of new features. Some of my favorites include Reply-by-email (reply to a comment by replying in email to the email notification), threading, voting, universal profiles, reputation, and the ability to track a user and/or topic across blogs.
Allen: Why did you decide to start Intense Debate?
Jon: IntenseDebate was originally started as a 1-on-1 debate site. Users would pair up, make 5 statements each, and then the rest of the community could vote on a winner (as well as comment on the debate). We realized, however, that there were already debates and other great discussions happening all over the web, but the tools were completely inadequate (and hadn’t really ever changed). We ended up moving to put our emphasis on this problem instead, and the IntenseDebate you now know was born.
Allen: What’s the team look like?
Jon: We’re a team of 6 at the moment.
- CEO – Tom Keller
- Graphics/Design – Isaac Keyet
- Voice of the users – Michael Koenig
- Software Engineer – Austin Hallock
- Software Engineer – Mehmet Alkanlar And of course myself, CTO
Allen: What’s your selling pitch for why I should switch my commenting platform to ID?
Jon: We provide a system to help facilitate community and improve interactions among visitors. Many of our users have told us they’ve noticed an increase in both pageviews and the number of comments after installing us. Our enhanced comment system allows the visitors to be more engaged and have a better experience when getting involved in the discussion that the site generates. More and more it’s the comments and discussion around the original content that is becoming important, valuable, and meaningful. We just provide tools to make that experience better for both the publisher and the visitors.
Allen: What’s your take on the SEO issue with regards to using a service like ID?
Jon: This issue is really important to some of our users, and as such it’s an issue we’ll be addressing shortly.
Allen: Why should I trust ID with my data, my users, etc. Can I grab my data anytime I want?
Jon: We get this question a lot, and there’s a couple points to make here. The majority of our users already trust 3rd parties with the data around their blog (posts, users, and even comments). We work very hard to ensure your data is safe. Comments are our life. The truth is we offer more protection than most of our users who store copies of the data themselves.
All that aside, however, we do understand that many users want to have that data in their own hands. As a result, we do offer the ability to export your comments at any time.
Allen: How do you compare ID to other commenting services like those offered by JS-Kit and Disqus?
Jon: There are obviously many similarities. I’m not familiar enough to give a feature by feature comparison, but I know many of our users have told us they like our design/ui and our data migration features more than that of our competitors.
Allen: Can you explain your business model?
Jon: We’re still very young and primarily focused on distribution at the moment. We’re looking into several revenue possibilities including white labeling and opt-in ad revenue shares for the future.
Allen: Do you find that being located outside of the Valley is an advantage, a disadvantage or neither?
Jon: I think at different times it is one or the other. For example, we do find ourselves visiting the Valley to discuss partnerships and other opportunities with other companies in that area. Obviously this would be a lot simpler if we were in the Valley instead. However, the community here in Boulder has been great. People here really want to help each other and it has a very different feel to it than what I’ve experienced in the Valley. In this sense I think it’s been a real advantage for us to be here.
Allen: What’s coming next from Intense Debate?
Jon: We’ve got a lot of exciting stuff coming up in the next month or two. Most of these enhancements will revolve around data migration and getting better integrated into the blogging platforms to make the experience for our publishers as easy and seamless as possible.
Allen: What tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Jon: I would say two things. First, find yourself a mentor, or at least a friend in the business that can help to get you hooked in. If you don’t know anybody yet, reach out to a handful. My experience is that these people are generally more than willing to help, and happy to bring someone new into the mix.
Second, don’t be afraid to just dive in. I realize not everyone can do this, but it’s really hard to go half way into the startup lifestyle. Recruiting a team, raising money, building a product, etc all require lots of time and effort and you really can’t do it only on the weekend. It’s a bit scary at first, but once you get in it’s tough to believe you’ve lived any other way.
NY-based Betaworks launched their Firefly product into public beta today. We initially reviewed Firefly when they presented at the NY Tech Meetup. I’ve embedded the demo video below so you can get familiar with the Firefly service.
Here’s the idea. If you aren’t happy with the commenting service that we offer, or aren’t happy with any of the new crop of comment replacement services, Firefly can slap a layer on top of your page, and allow everyone to chat in real-time using cutsie bubbles without any idea who you are chatting with.
To be effective, everyone who is browsing the page also has to turn on the service. Luckily no plugin is required to use Firefly so they have that going for them. There’s no login or registration required so the messages might start to get a bit "fun". Swearing is allowed by default it seems. Maybe Firefly could be successful if they partner with MySpace or Bebo.
It’s really cute for about 2 minutes on a site that has good traffic. If you load it up and are alone, it’s boring as heck. Either way, once the cutsie factor wears off, it’s lights out. The maximum number of chatters in a Firefly window is 50 at a time. If you are #51, you get a ticket like at the deli counter. When your number is called, you enter the room to pick up your salami and cheese.
Initially SAI’s Peter Kafka called it, "a feature not a service". Today Eric and Dan over at SAI seem to think it’s cooler than Peter did — I’m with Peter on this one. Update: Kafka seems to like the service more today than on the original review. He notes, “We could definitely use this w/some modifications…really great stuff. Look forward to using.” Here’s what Firefly looks like on a site running the service:
Update: Om Malik has also reviewed Firefly and notes that he likes the idea but doesn’t see it as a business. He also says they may charge bloggers for using the service. I’d agree with Om as the information provided by Betaworks seems to indicate that the service is free only during the beta period.
Here is one of the quotes we received from the Betaworks team:
"Joshua Auerbach, firefly GM, said, "Firefly’s ‘wow’ feature is the mouse-tracking. Being able to see other visitors’ mouse cursors is just amazing – you have to see it to believe it."