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Monday, December 8, 2008

Two ways to keep track of comments

A couple of observations on two comment apps that I'm finding useful.

1. I sometimes bounce around commenting on various sites then forget who or where they are, which means I can't check back later to find out how the conversation's progressing.

Some blog sites have an option to receive an email whenever a new comment is added to the thread, but most don't.

Enter Backtype, which showed up in a Google alert a couple of weeks ago and looks promising. Backtype aggregates comments and lets you find yours either by searching against your username or whatever blog/website you include in comment registration forms.

If I type in my username I get a list of all the comments I've made where I've included Evolving Newsroom in the registration form.
Alternatively I can point my browser to to see the same list. Replace the part with another blog url and you should see their list.

It's a nice way to keep track of your own conversations and those on blogs of interest. Also good for getting a sense of where someone else is at (maybe someone trying to pitch you a story) - if you have a username you can see what someone's been saying, where and how often.

You can follow other users - the usual crowd are there, Jeff Jarvis, Fred Wilson, Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Tim O'Reilly, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin and ReadWriteWeb's Richard MacManus - and there's a public timeline of comments that you can browse.

You can also set up alerts similar to Google alerts. Type in the words you want Backtype to watch and it will send you an email as often as you specify listing comments that feature those words - useful for reputation management or keeping track of a news round.

2. Adding Disqus to my blog has been a big help. Disqus adds a simple comment form (like those you see on Wordpress blogs) at the bottom of each blog post.

You get to choose what the form looks like, whether it includes avatars, enable or disable trackbacks and Seesmic video replies etc. And you can add a Recent Comments widget to a side bar. I found it much easier to manage all this with Disqus than with the Blogger system.

When a comment is made Disqus emails you with the comment and the option to reply to it by return email - which means you don't have to visit the site to hit the publish button.

Over to you whether you want to moderate comments before they're published or after, but Disqus has a nice little moderation app that lets you read just your comments or all comments on your blog, and mark any as spam, delete or jump to see them on the page.

The built-in spam filter seems to work pretty well - anything Disqus regards as spam is put on hold and an email sent so you can decide whether to delete it or publish it. I've had one spam comment slip through but the rest have been caught.

All in all, I like it.

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