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Why Separate RSS Feeds and Comments?

Monday, September 28, 2009

This has been bugging me the last few days as we've quietly extended support for commenting within FeedBlitz (FYI comment links now appear for Blogger blogs whereas they didn't before, for example, and new comment icons appear in FeedBlitz RSS feeds where appropriate).

But it kept on striking me as odd - why do feeds force subscribers to subscribe to something else (a site comments feed or an individual post's comment feed), or to visit an alternative page or site to see the current conversation? Why aren't the latest comments, you know, just there, in the feed, when it's read? Why are we making readers to go to all this extra effort? Surely the conversation is part of the content, and it surely makes sense to have the conversation in the same context as the content, no matter where it's being consumed.

From being bugged to taking action. As of now, all new feeds created on the FeedBlitz RSS service will include the 5 most recent comments if we can find them. You can change that (from none to the ten most recent), along with the entry title (such as "Talk to me!" instead of the default "Comments" and the text that displays when there are more comments available than your settings permit to be shown. Go to RSS / Settings and expand the Per-Post Customization area to access the comment integration settings. Publishers with existing feeds will can enable the feature at the same place.

The goal here is to increase engagement and user attention by providing the dialog in the context of the feed. And to see it in action (I have a limit of 5 comments set up and have changed the default text to "Join the Conversation!") add http://feeds.feedblitz.com/feedblitz to your aggregator or RSS reader.

The one gotcha is that if you're using a third party comment service (such as Disqus) then it's unlikely that the relevant tags are going to be in your feed so you may not get this feature to show up. Yet.

Anyway - do chime in here, please. Corruption of the purity of the feed ... or an interesting idea? Join the conversation!

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Blogger Andy Beard said...

It will be an interesting experiment though this would also mean feed items on popular items would be constantly updating in feed readers.
That could become annoying for readers.

3:13 AM, September 29, 2009  
Blogger Phil Hollows said...

Hi Andy: It could be - but being marked as new or unread would also be a sign that there's activity and engagement around the post. Comments stop updating once the post is no longer in the source feed, so there are natural brakes on that effect anyway. My guess is that most activity occurs within 48-72 hours of posting and will naturally decay over time to become less annoying. Time will tell - thanks for the comment.

7:29 AM, September 29, 2009  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I like the idea of having the full conversation show up in the feed, but Andy I could see how the updates would be annoying. However, on many blogs you can subscribe to updates on a post, so it would be no different.

If a reader is concerned about being bombarded with updates, perhaps they should not subscribe to that feed.

10:11 AM, September 29, 2009  
OpenID curvesnangles said...

Oh, this could easily get complicated.
But I love the concept - Indeed, the comments are as vital to the "community" as the original post!

IIRC, subscribers have the choice of (at least) Daily or Instant updates already for each feed, yes? So, if Comments really catch fire, they could also change settings for that feed...

2:07 AM, October 08, 2009  
Blogger Phil Hollows said...

Hi, CnA! The worst that should happen as comments grow is that the post gets marked as unread in your reader. Since adding comments to the post doesn't affect the link or what's called the GUID, it should not force a duplicate entry in your reader - or a re-send to email. It looks like an edit to the content, nothing more, so it's both cool and safe!

9:18 AM, October 08, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about if you're using comments by IntenseDebate? Thank you!

5:01 AM, December 05, 2010  
Blogger Phil Hollows said...

As long as the article feed contains links to the commenting system we'll find it. Doesn't matter what the commenting service is.

8:24 AM, December 06, 2010  
Anonymous Thomas said...

Are comments really even important enough to include in the RSS feed? I would think not....I mean half the time the comments are junk (spam or auto-comments).

12:40 PM, January 14, 2011  
Blogger Phil Hollows said...

1) It can be turned off
2) Comments are a vital part of community engagement. If they're not good enough to be on the feed, why are they good enough to be on the web?
3) Controlling automated comment spam is easy and there isn't any excuse these days for such a poor (50%) signal to noise ratio. If the blog isn't controlling it's comments ... well, 'nuff said, really.

My 3c.

12:51 PM, January 14, 2011  

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