The comment sphere

First, there was the centralized content sphere: big publications that created and controlled content. That lasted, oh, six centuries or so. Then came the distributed content sphere: blogs and the internet, control at the edges but still under individual addresses and brands. That has been around six years or so. Underneath and around this has been the comment sphere: the rich trail of comments, reviews, and contributions people are leaving across the web. That is the truly distributed web, the real edge.

The comment sphere has been unexplored largely because there is no organizing principle. Steve Rubel is right that comments are a next frontier for search. Now there’s a new company that tries to tie together comments under authorship.

Cocomment helps you leave a breadcrumb trail across the web to all the comments you leave so that you can, in turn, both publish that and follow the conversations you’ve entered. And this also creates a new view of the comment sphere (who leaves comments on what blogs) and feeds new metrics (like Stowe Boyd’s conversation index).

It’s a big idea that I’m still trying to digest fully but I like it. Right now, it works with a bookmarklet you use when commenting on certain blog software. That’s obviously limiting. Forgetting technical reality for a moment, here’s a start of a wishlist.

I wish I could collect the crumbs I leave across the web: a review on Amazon, a photo on Flickr, a tag on, a group-podcast soundbite at Schlaflos in Muenchen, a quote in a news story, a hotel rating at Trip Advisor, a forum posting most anywhere, a comment on a blog, an edit on a wiki, and interactivity yet to be invented. I wish I could bake that all together — every bit of it with permalinks and authorship — into a feed on my blog that can be organized in clever ways by topic and content type. I wish I could follow all those bits of conversation. And if I really want to get a headache, I want there to be more layers of conversation on top of all that. Oh, and it needs to be searchable. We’ll figure out the ad opportunities later.

That is my aggregated identity. That is my tsotchketrail. And this, I think, is a first step toward that.

: I’m flattered that the folks behind CoComment say I helped inspire CoComment with this post: “Who wants to own content?” I was told that another post had a similar impact on Tagyu. I say that not just to brag (though I am bragging) but also to argue that such linkages are the real value of what CoComment — and Technorati and Pubsub and such — are doing. As search and tags create a topical layer atop the distributed internet, these guys create an identity layer.

Knowledge and invention are additive but to add up to anything, you have to find the links. The internet is not a medium of content. It is a medium of connections.

: ALSO: If there were a feedback loop on identity — that is, if I could see who left a comment and then see what else they have to say and who they are and what others think of them — this will add a layer of authority to interactivity, which would be wonderful.

: AND: Hugh MacLeod reports that CoComment was funded by a telco. Well, they should care about the new state of conversation, shouldn’t they?