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CoComment: semantically forked conversation?

Lee makes a very interesting point about CoComment:

“I bet a comment from Dominik is awaiting moderation!

Looking at the RSS for comments, I see dominik commented, but moderation doesn’t get in its way….

So this is the question: how secure is it against blog spam?”

Since writing my original post, I’ve now received an invite from CoComment (thanks guys). Lee’s got a point, but in order to explain the problem let me breifly explain how the system works:

  1. Sign up for coComment and add their bookmarklet to your browser
  2. Write a comment on a blog
  3. Use the coComment bookmarket to submit the comment to both the coComment server and the original blog server

So at the point of submission your comment is essentially semantically forked – with a version going into coComment and an identical version going into the blog server.

Conversations on my blog are represented on coComment like this.

The key point is there is a semantic fork. That means that if the blog administrator chooses to edit the content of the comment, it isn’t reflected in the coComment representation of the post conversation.

Of course, I’m not advocating the editing of comments, but ultimately it’s important for a blog owner to be able to do so – in the event of inappropriate, libellous or offensive content for example.

The other issue is that of moderation. I moderate all comments that originate from unknown posters. Once you’ve submitted a comment and had it positively moderated, all of your future posts are published instantly – standard in the WordPress setup and is only used to beat spam (I publish all on-topic comments submitted – good or bad).

However, comments that are held for moderation on a blog are instantly published and reflected in the coComment system. That’s concerning because ultimately coComment’s representation of a post’s conversation is not identical to that of the originating post — they are semantically forked. And they will not necessarily be representative of the blog author’s moderation decision.

Finally, this also means that the coComment representation of discussion is only of those who have also used coComment to submit their comment. That’s a bit of an issue because clearly not everyone will be using coComment. Even if critical mass is achieved for the ‘in tech blog crowd’, Robert Scoble and co will be pretty well covered, but further down the long tail there will still be problems.

I have to say that from what I’ve seen coComment is actually a pretty nice system and I would still very much recommend it to other people.

However the semantic forking of comments is cause for concern on many levels – especially seeing as blog authors don’t opt in or out of having their comments tracked by coComment.

There is also a real danger here for comment spam — spammers simply submit their spam to coComment instead and circumvent the blog author’s control entirely. Its possible coComment have a mechanism in place to deal with this – it would be interesting to know.

The reason this issue is arising is simply because there is no standard way to semantically represent comments.

WordPress makes comment RSS available (here’s my site’s RSS comment feed, and this post has its own comment feed too). But MovableType and most other blog platforms don’t provide this out of the box (of course, the generation of any feed is possible with the right template if you spend the time to install it). Even still, there is no agreed standard to do this, anyway.

If we can all agree on a comment feed standard – which in many respects is just as important as the original blog feed – than a whole new comment aggregation opportunity arises. The Technorati of comments and discussion, etc.

BTW: if you want to try out coComment you can either sign up for an invite or see if the team post more invite-codes in the comments of Scoble’s blog post.

Published in Thoughts and Rants


  1. thanks for tha Ben

    creating conversations is one thing, but opening the door to blog spammers potentially is another.

    I have nothing against coComment, I love the idea, and the product offering so far….. just wanted to highlight potential problems 😉

  2. I’m about to go to bed so I won’t do it, but how about poking about at around that question, and starting a discussion there to agree on a comment feed standard? Seems to me it would be the right place to do it.

  3. Ben Ben

    I’d certainly like to support a Microformats proposal in anyway I can!

  4. interesting that i stumbled on to this post. i started using cocomment yesterday and though the service was an excellent idea. however, this morning was reading through new comments on my cocomment page and noticed a response to something i had posted on uneasysilence which i help moderate. i clicked through to the post and discovered the cocomment had picked up the comment, yet wordpress failed to display said comment due to the fact that it was held in moderation.

  5. Ben, it was great meeting you. Until our discussion, I had no idea CoComments were so forked up…

    I look forward to seeing your Microformat solution. And to buying you a cablecar ticket some day in SF!

  6. I’ve never thought of it like that before.

  7. Hi Ben, here some codes for the readers of the blog. First come, fisrt served!


    and please do drop by and leave your ideas and feature requests at:

    warm regards!

  8. Reading what you say again now, I can imagine that a blog claiming system would solve some of these problems. If a user can be identified as the owner of a blog, then he could be given more power over the comments recorded for it. Some of it could be automated (for example: ‘sychronise comments’).

  9. Does anyone know if this issue is solved by those blogs that *have* “integrated” coComment?
    I know that the integration gets rid of the issue of not being able to track non-coComment users comments, but maybe it could also be used to keep the comments in sync?

  10. It could, but for that we need to be able to link a given blog to a coCo-user account, which we can’t do yet.

  11. Plantar Fasciitis Plantar Fasciitis

    Has co-comment helped in the battle against spam? How have you found it work for you on this blog?

    Interested to hear your experiences.

  12. Site has been added to my RSS feed for later browsing because your blog is necessary forever.

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