Glue and Comments

Since last summer I’ve been talking about comments as the Dark Matter of the Blogosphere.  I use Intense Debate* for the comment system on my blog and have learned a lot by experimenting with it. 

In the past six months comments have moved to the forefront of the discussion around user generated content.  While the various new commenting systems that have emerged have played a part in this, I think the broad activity around systems that enable small bursts of user generated content (Twitter, BrightKite*) and systems that aggregate a wide variety of user generated content (FriendFeed, SocialThing*) are playing a huge role in this and more "comment-like" data is being generated all over the Web.

One of the investment themes I’m most fascinated with right now is the one we call "Glue".  We’ve made a handful of investments in the Glue theme at Foundry Group including Gnip, AdMeld, and Topspin.  We’ve also been working with our good friend Eric Norlin – the creator of the Defrag Conference - on a Glue Conference.

I’m always looking for great, simple examples of Glue and I found one accidentally the other day.  I put up a blog post titled Brilliant Op-Ed Crushing McCain On The EconomyI posted it on Sunday morning and then went out for a two hour run.  I came back to about 20 comments on it in my inbox.  Even though the post was done on my blog, I noticed the comments were from FriendFeed accounts being emailed to me by Intense Debate.

Here’s what happened.  My blog is one of my FriendFeed services.  A vigorous debate broke out on FriendFeed between a couple of people.  I wouldn’t have noticed it until Monday when I checked my FriendFeed ego feed (I only do this once a day.)  However, Intense Debate is "glued" to my FriendFeed account so any comments that show up on a blog post of mine on FriendFeed automatically show up in Intense Debate on my blog.  It’s a small feature, but a brilliant one, as it brings the overall conversation associated with my blog post back to my blog where I actually want it.

There are now 46 comments on this particular blog post (unexpected – I don’t write that much about politics and it was a Sunday post.)  Most of them are from the FriendFeed discussion, but some are from my blog readers.  They are intermixed where I want them – on my blog.  Even though they are coming from multiple sources, they persist permanently on my blog due to a tiny feature in Intense Debate.

Now – this is all much too complex still, but it’s why the Glue is so interesting to us.  We are continually looking for unnecessary complexity in the metaverse and ways to build really large companies that (a) take advantage of the complexity, (b) simplify the complexity, or (c) both.  If you make glue, email me!

* Yes – I’m aware that each of Intense Debate, BrightKite, and SocialThing are TechStars companies from 2007 – and I’m immensely proud of the progress each has made and the fact they are in the midst of what I consider to be a very interesting and vigorous segment of our little tech universe

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tom tom

    This manifestation of the IntenseDebate – Friendfeed integration calls to mind a certain movie line:

    "It's alive!"

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tom tom

    This manifestation of the IntenseDebate – Friendfeed integration calls to mind a certain movie line:

    “It's alive!”

  • http://www.thisisgoingtobebig.com Charlie

    I think this is a continual failure in the thinking of the tech elite versus the mainstream. The mainstream is pretty accepting of “broken” and “fractured”. Me personally, every picture I've taken in the last few years goes to Flickr, but if you talk to regular people, they've got some on Snapfish, some on Facebook, some still stuck on their phone… some on their hard drive not even backed up. Same goes with the way teens use MySpace. They regularly delete profiles and start all over again, or just abandon and start anew. They don't “manage” multiple profiles the way some of the tech elite seem to want to.

    Enterprise glue was valuable because the owner of the data could point to cost efficiencies and business intelligence that could be glean from more smoothly operating systems. For consumers, though, they just don't value each byte at the same level. Sure, there's scale, but living in a digital scattershot is pretty low on the list of painpoints for the average person.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Charlie – I disagree. If this is “invisible to the user” it will be a very happy thing. The idea that the mainstream is pretty accepting of “broken” and “fractured” is fine, but it’s accepting because it’s use to computers not working! For example, my mother – who is DEFINITELY part of the mainstream, would love her photos to just be “wherever she wants them” without having to think about it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Charlie – I disagree.

    • http://blogs.zdnet.com/SAAS/ PhilW

      Just because the mainstream is resigned to having to make do with 'broken' and 'fractured' doesn't mean they like it.

      • http://www.sotirov.com Emil Sotirov

        Say “loosely joined” instead of “broken” and “fractured”… and suddenly the mainstream “gets” the web better than the tech elite. I am pretty sure this is exactly the case – and the reason we have tons of new startups doing things to please the tech elite and destined to be failures with the mainstream.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Charlie – I disagree. If this is “invisible to the user” it will be a very happy thing. The idea that the mainstream is pretty accepting of “broken” and “fractured” is fine, but it’s accepting because it’s use to computers not working! For example, my mother – who is DEFINITELY part of the mainstream, would love her photos to just be “wherever she wants them” without having to think about it.

  • PXLated

    “brings the overall conversation associated with my blog post back to my blog where I actually want it”
    ———-
    Exactly. I don't want to chase the people I follow and the conversations they generate all over the universe. You're one of the first I've seen express this desire to consolidate. Everyone else send one elsewhere and I'm not following.

  • Eddie LeBreton

    That's a great feature for intensedebate. One question: with Facebook emulating FriendFeed's imported items commentary feature, will intensedebate (or Disqus) be able to pull those comments as well, or are they blocked by the Facebook wall?

    • Tom

      Eddie, it's a great question. Integrating with Facebook is on our short list. (Any experienced Facebook developers want to help?)

      In the long run, it will be self-defeating for Facebook to be a walled-garden. The new social web is open – which is part of the reason that IntenseDebate is all about integrating your “comment-like” content from everywhere, and making it available everywhere.

      Tom
      IntenseDebate

  • Mike

    While this is great from the publishers point of view in that it keeps the conversation all together, the whole blog post/comments/discussion “framework” (for lack of a better term) is stil very broken from the reader's side.

    If I jump into a conversation surrounding a post, it usually means I'm very interested in it (duh). But getting emails for each reply that gets posted in the comments of a blog post I “subscribe” to? That's so 1999 :-)

    There has to be a better way. If your blog is able to implement a comment system that grabs comments posted elsewhere and integrate it back into the comments of the appropriate post, someone has to be able to build an app that accomplishes this for the user.

    Seems like something that would fit very well into an app like NewsGator. For example, I already use NewsGator Online to read all of the blogs that I'm interested in. If they had a part of the app where I can keep track of the posts that I am interested in being involved in the conversation, that would be awesome! It's almost like taking all of the comment “threads” from the posts I subscribe to and turning them into a discussion forum type of format, to make it crazy easy to follow along…while cutting down on the email I have to receive to stay up to date on these conversations.

    Maybe something like this already exists and I just don't know abou it?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Mike – I totally agree with you. Closing the loop – especially on the reader side – is where it needs to go.

      Since I spend so much time in email, I actually like the interaction by email approach, but I agree that it all needs to be one big closed loop that works any way the user wants it to

      • Mike

        That's certainly valid. If you want to have those conversations in email because that is where you work, you certainly should.

        An intense debate plugin for outlook that “automagically” knew what conversations you were involved in and kept you in the loop on them could be pretty damn cool.

        • Mike

          One other thought is the whole “trackback” system of relating blog posts.

          Example: Your post pointing out the post about the failure of Monitor110. It's great that the original post is able to list the related posts in the trackback section so readers can see what other people are saying about it. But in a perfect world, all of the comments from all of these “related” posts could be in one place so that we can see the whole conversation at once. I suppose that is sort of what TechMeme does at the post level.

          At any rate, I do agree that your original example is very cool, and it's cool because it works and you do not have to do any extra work to get all of those comments back here.

    • http://mkoenig.wordpress.com Michael Koenig

      Mike, great point. This is one of our goals at IntenseDebate – we want to simplify your commenting experience. With this in mind, we enable commenters who have created IntenseDebate accounts to track comments made on a post via RSS readers, including NewsGator.

      So create an account and your wish will be granted!

      Cheers,
      Michael
      IntenseDebate

  • gregorylent

    “glue” is present when a service gets closer to modeling reality, or nature, which is perfectly glued, just not obvious except to an ecologist or a mystic.

    one-to-one correspondence for action/reaction, stimulus/adjustment. is a decent measure for glue-ness …

    and now i want a software/platform, where the conversation is the blog … which models many relationships in life … on ongoing flow

  • PXLated

    "brings the overall conversation associated with my blog post back to my blog where I actually want it"
    ———-
    Exactly. I don't want to chase the people I follow and the conversations they generate all over the universe. You're one of the first I've seen express this desire to consolidate. Everyone else send one elsewhere and I'm not following.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/eddie_lebr12311 eddie_lebr12311

    That's a great feature for intensedebate. One question: with Facebook emulating FriendFeed's imported items commentary feature, will intensedebate (or Disqus) be able to pull those comments as well, or are they blocked by the Facebook wall?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Charlie – I disagree. If this is “invisible to the user” it will be a very happy thing. The idea that the mainstream is pretty accepting of “broken” and “fractured” is fine, but it’s accepting because it’s use to computers not working! For example, my mother – who is DEFINITELY part of the mainstream, would love her photos to just be “wherever she wants them” without having to think about it.

  • PhilW

    Just because the mainstream is resigned to having to make do with 'broken' and 'fractured' doesn't mean they like it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tom tom

    Eddie, it's a great question. Integrating with Facebook is on our short list. (Any experienced Facebook developers want to help?)

    In the long run, it will be self-defeating for Facebook to be a walled-garden. The new social web is open – which is part of the reason that IntenseDebate is all about integrating your "comment-like" content from everywhere, and making it available everywhere.

    Tom
    IntenseDebate

  • Emil Sotirov

    Say "loosely joined" instead of "broken" and "fractured"… and suddenly the mainstream "gets" the web better than the tech elite. I am pretty sure this is exactly the case – and the reason we have tons of new startups doing things to please the tech elite and destined to be failures with the mainstream.

  • Mike

    While this is great from the publishers point of view in that it keeps the conversation all together, the whole blog post/comments/discussion "framework" (for lack of a better term) is stil very broken from the reader's side.

    If I jump into a conversation surrounding a post, it usually means I'm very interested in it (duh). But getting emails for each reply that gets posted in the comments of a blog post I "subscribe" to? That's so 1999 :-)

    There has to be a better way. If your blog is able to implement a comment system that grabs comments posted elsewhere and integrate it back into the comments of the appropriate post, someone has to be able to build an app that accomplishes this for the user.

    Seems like something that would fit very well into an app like NewsGator. For example, I already use NewsGator Online to read all of the blogs that I'm interested in. If they had a part of the app where I can keep track of the posts that I am interested in being involved in the conversation, that would be awesome! It's almost like taking all of the comment "threads" from the posts I subscribe to and turning them into a discussion forum type of format, to make it crazy easy to follow along…while cutting down on the email I have to receive to stay up to date on these conversations.

    Maybe something like this already exists and I just don't know abou it?

  • Mike

    That's certainly valid. If you want to have those conversations in email because that is where you work, you certainly should.

    An intense debate plugin for outlook that "automagically" knew what conversations you were involved in and kept you in the loop on them could be pretty damn cool.

  • Mike

    One other thought is the whole "trackback" system of relating blog posts.

    Example: Your post pointing out the post about the failure of Monitor110. It's great that the original post is able to list the related posts in the trackback section so readers can see what other people are saying about it. But in a perfect world, all of the comments from all of these "related" posts could be in one place so that we can see the whole conversation at once. I suppose that is sort of what TechMeme does at the post level.

    At any rate, I do agree that your original example is very cool, and it's cool because it works and you do not have to do any extra work to get all of those comments back here.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michael michael

    Mike, great point. This is one of our goals at IntenseDebate – we want to simplify your commenting experience. With this in mind, we enable commenters who have created IntenseDebate accounts to track comments made on a post via RSS readers, including NewsGator.

    So create an account and your wish will be granted!

    Cheers,
    Michael
    IntenseDebate

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Mike – I totally agree with you. Closing the loop – especially on the reader side – is where it needs to go.

    Since I spend so much time in email, I actually like the interaction by email approach, but I agree that it all needs to be one big closed loop that works any way the user wants it to

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/gregorylent gregorylent

    "glue" is present when a service gets closer to modeling reality, or nature, which is perfectly glued, just not obvious except to an ecologist or a mystic.

    one-to-one correspondence for action/reaction, stimulus/adjustment. is a decent measure for glue-ness …

    and now i want a software/platform, where the conversation is the blog … which models many relationships in life … on ongoing flow

  • Charlie

    I think this is a continual failure in the thinking of the tech elite versus the mainstream. The mainstream is pretty accepting of "broken" and "fractured". Me personally, every picture I've taken in the last few years goes to Flickr, but if you talk to regular people, they've got some on Snapfish, some on Facebook, some still stuck on their phone… some on their hard drive not even backed up. Same goes with the way teens use MySpace. They regularly delete profiles and start all over again, or just abandon and start anew. They don't "manage" multiple profiles the way some of the tech elite seem to want to.

    Enterprise glue was valuable because the owner of the data could point to cost efficiencies and business intelligence that could be glean from more smoothly operating systems. For consumers, though, they just don't value each byte at the same level. Sure, there's scale, but living in a digital scattershot is pretty low on the list of painpoints for the average person.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Charlie – I disagree. If this is “invisible to the user” it will be a very happy thing. The idea that the mainstream is pretty accepting of “broken” and “fractured” is fine, but it’s accepting because it’s use to computers not working! For example, my mother – who is DEFINITELY part of the mainstream, would love her photos to just be “wherever she wants them” without having to think about it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Charlie – I disagree.  If this is “invisible to the user” it will be a very happy thing.  The idea that the mainstream is pretty accepting of “broken” and “fractured” is fine, but it’s accepting because it’s use to computers not working!  For example, my mother – who is DEFINITELY part of the mainstream, would love her photos to just be “wherever she wants them” without having to think about it. 

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fiwedding fiwedding

    It's a difficult thing to listen to feedback from your initial users, the first 25,000, and do the opposite of what they recommend. You alienate your "support base" etc etc. Tough situation.