Nerds for the Cause of Justice I: Proof of Concept

At long last, my interest in blogular technology has the potential to pay off in the Righteous Struggle for Justice! The story, for those of you who don’t live in my radical corner of Blogospheria, has been aptly summarized by Piny, as follows:

Basically, the problem (part of the problem) is this: a “little” blogger will labor in relative obscurity. Then a “big” blogger will happen onto one of their posts and go, “Neat!” and take it over to their blog to write a post that will drive up and sustain their already-impressive traffic. The “little” blogger may or may not see a spike in traffic; when the “little” blogger does, it will tend to be extremely temporary and mostly silent. The “little” blogger almost never gets to host the discussion about their own post; that happens over at the “big” blogger’s house, and tends to occur in a way that loses most or all of the original topic. It can also occur in space that is hostile to the original blogger.

And a proposed solution, by KnifeGhost:

Is there some way for different blogs to host the same comment page?

For example. You write an interesting post, nubian likes it, she posts it in its entirety at her blog, and the comments from each blog go to the same page?

Think of each post as a plugin of sorts. The post exists in itself outside of any blog that displays it. Any number of blogs could host it and all comments from all blogs would appear together.

Is the technology available/simple to do that?

The technology is available to do something like that, but it’s not simple, and it only works if you’ve got the right bloggery software. But WordPress publishes RSS feeds for each post’s comment thread, which means that with the right plugins, I can publish comments on any other WordPress blog’s posts on my site, easy (or maybe not so easy, yet, but writing a plugin to make it easy wouldn’t be that hard).

As an experiment, here are the comments from the original post at Feministe, published using a plugin called InlineRSS:

  • by: BEG
    Yeah, it’s called Usenet.

    Really, from my POV, blogs are (de)volving towards the Usenet model, think moderated newsgroups.

    Cocomment lets an individual store up all her comments in one spot (although it’s in severe beta); one idea for it is probably to open up to social aggregation.

  • by: nubian
    those are excellent points you put forth. i realy like the idea of encouraging people to hold long term conversations from the orignal blog post and on other sites. i think thats what a lot of us were getting at and you hit the nail right on the head.
  • by: R
    <i>What gets you to stick around? When do you become engaged? When do you tune out?</i>

    Beyond the theme/purpose of the blog, good writing is what usually attracts and holds my attention. The message is important, but I’ll eventually get frustrated and stop reading a blog if the blogger has perpetually poor grammar and spelling, or makes lots of accidental homonym substitutions, etc. It’s stupid, but poor writing skills are annoying, and difficult to ignore after a certain point.

    So a good grasp of basic technical writing skills is key. On top of that, writing with flair and humor is what draws me into new blogs, and keeps me coming back to ones I’ve been watching for a while.

    As far as commenting and communit-building goes… This is a silly thing, but I always really appreciate blogs that are set up so that you can receive email notifications of replies to your comments, or to a post in general. It makes it so that you don’t have to keep coming back and hitting refresh to check and see if there’s something new to respond to, and a feature like that dramatically increases the likelihood of my commenting regularly on a blog.

  • by: piny
    those are excellent points you put forth. i realy like the idea of encouraging people to hold long term conversations from the orignal blog post and on other sites. i think thats what a lot of us were getting at and you hit the nail right on the head. </blockquote>

    I’m glad you think so….And this does seem like a starter compromise between being oblivious and being acquisitive. I was wondering about something like a blog roundtable–like a one-subject serial carnival, maybe–but it’s still very vague.

  • by: KnifeGhost

    Quoted on the front page. I’m sorta famous.

    Anyways, I come for insightful posts, and stay for lively and intelligent comment sections. I can’t stay out of a good discussion.

  • by: Heliologue
    Because of the way a lot of blogs authenticate comments, trying to share the same post script across a domain might be a bad idea.

    I think the obvious option is to simply turn off comments for the “big” blogger’s post so that commenters have to go to the original post.

  • by: piny
    I think the obvious option is to simply turn off comments for the “big” blogger’s post so that commenters have to go to the original post.

    So, linked without comment and links with no comments? I kinda like that idea.

  • by: Amber
    Blog mining and appropriation are the heart and soul of blogging. Any attempt to force discussions back to linked blogs is flawed and probably doomed to fail. People post about what interests them and often tie the link to their own experience. Why is it more valid for the discussion to take place in one forum rather than the other? What if the linked post deals with a topic peripheral to the original blog’s focus but central to the linker’s? To the extent that the linker takes the idea further and adds new content, shouldn’t it be legitimate for discussion of that content to take place on her blog?

    The only time I can see this being workable is for single link posts with little added content or that comment only on the specific issue raised by the linked blogger without dealing with issues that are regularly debated by commenters at the linking site. For posts that draw together several threads and synthesize them, trying to have discussion take place on the originating blog is counterproductive, since comments that dealt with the synthesis might be viewed as off-topic by the blogger.

    Jill’s solution works, but if you don’t let bloggers express themselves, they have little incentive to link. Most bloggers think they have something important to say, after all, or they wouldn’t being doing it in the first place. And presumably there’s some reason you found something interesting: wouldn’t it behoove you to explain to your readers why they should bother clicking through? There are a lot of blogs that just consist of links to interesting things, but absent some serious personal capital as an arbiter of taste/intellectual merit, that model doesn’t work.

    Finally, not all blogs have comments sections that promote discussion and analysis. Commenting on a blog that has a string of zeros next to its comments links feels like dropping your thoughts into a black hole. To some extent this is a chicken and egg problem, but it’s nonetheless something that has to be acknowledged when examining why discussions take place on big linker blogs intead of small linked blogs.

    Re: making readership more than occasional: I find RSS readers are most useful in this regard. Especially for small blogs that are infrequently updated, these make it possible for people who might not check for new posts every day to see them when they appear.

  • by: deviousdiva
    Speaking as a “miniscule blogger” I care about the discussions happening on my posts and would kind of resent those debates being taken over by even “the small bloggers’. I suppose it’s an ego thing in the end. but I do have a reason that I blog in the first place (as I stated at the beginning of my blogging life): to generate discussion and dialogue. I love to get links and mentions by “small bloggers” (and big bloggers if I knew who they were?) but the point is, it takes a lot of time and effort to follow all these discussions and if people were to be discussing what I wrote I would like to know about it and be in on it. ( and I would rather it was at my place than somewhere else). I would love to have an email notification service but on (the free thing) we don’t have that option.

    I’ve been reading so much about all this, these last few days, I just wanted to add my two pence worth.

  • by: Bitch | Lab
    I’m pretty torn about the issue. One thing you might do is ask the blogger what they want — because I agree with Amber, the heart and soul of the Web was hyperlinking to begin with.

    I don’t particularly care as a tiny blogger. It’s cool that y’all link to a post I make and sometimes, I might even shove it in your face in comments and see if it blows up your skirt. :) I have long ago learned that the oppressions I deal with will _never_ be addressed in the way I’d like to see them and that, to even discuss them subjects one to personal attacks and ignorant comments from even the most progressive folks out there. As one person, I can do nothing.

    So a compromise could be:

    1. ask the bloggers.
    2. we could make a badge or something that indicates the blogger’s preference so a vistor knows that they shouldn’t link without pushing discussion to the linked blog.
    3. Blogger could post bit on their policy in the sidebar. (for those who don’t know how to modify their sidebar, some of us could get together to give instructions for major blog software.)

    Also, don’t forget that, when you get more traffic and more comments, it takes more work. People do expect a response from the blogger and, until you get big enough that you have trolls or people like KnifeGhost who’ll discuss anything :), so that comment wars kind of manage themselves (though not without some tending from the blog owner/s, it’s a job. A thankless one, too. :) Lots of rewards, no doubt, or we wouldn’t do it.

Update: eh, I’ll open comments. But, as an exercise in tangent-combing: please go to Blac(k)ademic, Slant Truth or Feministe if you want to talk about systemic oppression, power and revolutionary blog commenting, and stay here if you want to talk about the technicalities of comment-aggregation and RSS for True Justice.

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