I subscribe to multiple blogs (163 to be precise) and Google Reader makes tracking all of those sites trivial. Reader’s keyboard shortcuts mean scanning for new content and reading blog articles is also easy and quick.
Occasionally, I also leave comments on a much smaller subset of those blogs in addition to blogs I may encounter but may not necessarily subscribe to.
After posting your comment, it is imperative to be able to follow any subsequent discussions in case someone violently (dis)agrees with you or simply to hear other people’s viewpoint on the same subject.
So how do you track all those insightful, witty comments you have contributed during your travels on the blogosphere ? How do you monitor all those interesting conversations, heated discussions and outright flame wars that you haven’t necessarily contributed to but are still interested in ?
The primeval solution is to bookmark and subsequently revisit every single blog article you have commented on and, err, scan for any new comments. However, this isn’t a very efficient solution and you may find you have no time left for reading the blogs (or holding down the day job) let alone leaving comments.
Another possibility is to subscribe to the comments feed for all the blogs you comment on. However, this may be overkill as you may only be interested in certain articles of interest or articles where you posted a comment.
For example, some articles on popular, high volume blogs (Scoble, ProBlogger) may receive over a hundred comments but I am only interested in tracking comments on a relatively small number of posts.
Some blogs offer ‘Subscribe to comments via email’ but this is not universally available.
A deluxe version would enable me to track follow-ups to my specific comments on blog platforms that support threaded comments.
My main requirements for comment tracking are:
- Easy, quick way to track comments on a blog. Fully automatic if possible and certainly not more than one click.
- Ability to select comment threads to be monitored.
- Ability to stop tracking conversations.
- Must be able to track all blog platforms.
- Automatic notification when comments updated.
- Ability to check for updates manually.
- Visual indicator for threads with updated content.
- Must support RSS feeds to track comment threads.
- RSS feed must include the context (blog, date, comment text and author)
The main three comment tracking services are:
All three sites require (free) registration and use a Firefox bookmarklet to track comment threads. No additional plug-ins are required on the server.
commentful provides a dashboard displaying all conversations of interest. Threads with unread comments are highlighted in bold. Only the number of comments is shown and to read the actual comment, you need to click through to the original site. This is less than ideal as for sites with lots of comments, you have to waste time scanning for the recent updates.
co.mments has a excellent, simple, uncluttered summary page displaying the tracked threads with new content clearly displayed. You can read the additional comments simply by expanding the thread. The context including the blog name, the date and time and the author of the new comments are displayed.
One (minor) problem is that threads are listed in reverse chronological order so recent threads with no updates appear above older threads with active conversations.
The coComment ‘My Conversations’ page is a little more complicated. Comments may be viewed by expanding the appropriate comment thread and the author is shown although the date and time are not included.
coComment seemed a little slower to pick up new content than both commentful and co.mments.
Both commentful and co.mments allowed a ‘Check’ button to force a poll for new comments which is a feature coComment doesn’t support.
coComment added a lot of social and community features in version 2.0. It is fair to say that these Web 2.0 features were not universally welcomed by the existing user base.
coComment allows you to examine comment threads tracked by ’neighbours’ (people who presumably are tracking similar conversations’ and you can subscribe to other users’ tracked threads. Personally, I don’t have a need for this feature but I can see how it would be useful for discovering new, relevant blogs of interest. However, your Web 2.0 mileage may vary.
Intriguingly, I have one stalker - sorry follower - on coComment but am I able to click to discover his/her profile ? No. Maybe this is the dawn of anti-social networking.
coComment also has a sidebar view to displays conversations with the original blog displayed alongside but the interface is a little busy for my liking.
All three comment tracking services use a Firefox/IE bookmarklet to add a blog post to be tracked. commentful and co.comments display the confirmation message and helpfully disappear. Unfortunately, the coComment window persists and has to be explicitly closed Breaching the one click rule).
coComment provides a Firefox plugin that provides automatic notification in the browser. However, the current version (0.2.3.6) proved unreliable for me using Firefox 188.8.131.52 on Windows XP. In fact, I actually had to explicitly disable the coComment extension in order to add conversations using the bookmarklet. In addition, the plugin broke some Google Analytics functionality.
commentful also installs a Firefox notifier (1.7.3) that turns Amber when new comments are available. Clicking on the notifier icon opens a window containing the Watchlist. The notifier only updates every 15 mins so once you have read all new comments, confusingly the notifier doesn’t immediately revert to Green (no new comments).
Thankfully, co.comments doesn’t include a fancy comments notifier. Probably just as well.
Of course, checking a Web page to check on the status of blogs you have commented on is pretty tiresome. Even with the help of a notifier application. What intelligent, lazy people really want is an RSS feed that tells them when important changes have occurred.
All three services offer RSS feeds for the monitored conversations.
Like the Watchlist, the RSS feed from commentful just contains the blog title together with number of new comments. You have to visit the site to view the newly added comments. This rather defeats the purpose of the RSS feed because ideally, you want to be able to view as much content as possible from within Google Reader. The only time you might visit the site would be to participate in the conversation (i.e. someone said you were an idiot).
The co.mments RSS feed contains everything needed for context (author, blog, comment, date).
coComment offers the usual separate RSS feed containing updates on all tracked conversations although the author appears to be ‘unknown’ most of the time. I presume this is ‘unknown’ to the coComment system because the author details are supplied on the actual comment.
CoComment does have a additional feature which is useful. coComment provides a second RSS feed purely contains the individual comments you have posted. This is very useful if you are intending to add all your words of wisdom to a lifestream style page (Tumblr, FriendFeed).
commentful is basic but does the job and will save you time if you merely want to be automatically notified when new comments have been added to a blog post. However, you do have to visit the site to identify and read the new content.
coComment is the most feature rich and potentially powerful tool but the complexity of the interfaces and wealth of social networking features are slightly overwhelming for my simple requirements. However I will use the RSS Comment Author feed to track my own comments. Once I’ve worked out why it has stopped working.
co.mments - simple and functional. The RSS feed contains precisely the information I need and is updated quickly. This is the tool I am now using (via RSS) to monitor all comment threads of interest.