For many, the difference between a blog and a webpage is the ability for site visitors to leave comments. The major blog platforms (wordpress, typepad, blogspot, livejournal) all come with commenting enabled, to stimulate engagement and help build community.
Commenting is a big discussion point (no pun intended) – who owns comment content, and where should it live? Like pretty well everything else in social media, there’s no wrong way: every blog maintainer and comment poster may have to come up with their own strategy and approach.
The following services can help to track and maintain comments and commenters, regardless of where they are posted.
- Disqus calls itself “webwide discussion”. Blog maintainers may add the disqus comment service to their blog, and the comments are stored with disqus. Individuals can register with disqus to track the comments they leave on any disqus-enabled blog, and find new blogs and conversations more easily. As well, commenters may get notified when someone responds to their comment, which helps keep the conversation going.
- IntenseDebate – I’ll admit, I wasn’t familiar with IntenseDebate until I saw it was being used on http://change.gov. Some quick research helped me see it’s a Colorado-based company that was recently acquired by Automattic (makers of wordpress), so my interest is even more peaked! Like Disqus, IntenseDebate is embedded in a blog, and commenters then register with the service itself. Each comment also includes the user’s reputation points, and the ability to give the comment a thumbs-up or down. There are also many widgets a blog maintainer can grab, including the ability to list the top commenters or top commented-on posts.
- Unlike the above two services, SezWho does not replace your existing comment service; it adds onto it. This is significant for people who believe that comments (and the resulting keywords and googlejuice that rich content offers) should live on the site they were posted on. Like Disqus and IntenseDebate, it is also based on the notion of a user account that enables comments to be associated with a given person, regardless of where they are commenting.
- The above mentioned services require a blog owner to have signed up with the service and installed it on their blog. BackType takes a different approach: it is purely targeted at commenters, not blog owners. When you sign up for a backtype account, you list the URLs you would use when responding to a comment on a blog. BackType then does the hard work of mining for those URLs. BackType also offers widgets for users, so they can display where they’ve been commenting. It is also easy to find and follow other commenters, and see where they’re commenting.
- Blog owners may also want to explore importing Friendfeed comments to the applicable post. Both wordpress and Movable Type now support plug-ins to do so. A secondary benefit is that comments places on the blog may easily be sent to Friendfeed as well.
- The CommentLuv Plugin is another way for blog owners to ‘reward’ commenters. After their comment, a link to the commenter’s latest blog post (provided they have supplied a URL with a valud RSS feed) will be included. This little bit of added promotion may serve as valuable motivation for visitors to leave comments.
While a blog post may be written by a single individual, it is the ability for readers to ask questions and share their own thoughts that really make blogs “social”. Investigating the above-mentioned tools may help to further the discussion as commenters are increasingly recognized for their own contributions, which can be tracked and further elaborated upon.