Alister Cameron // Blogologist

Changing the world. One blog(ger) at a time.

XML-RPC for blog comments: why the heck not?!

Fairly regularly in the blogosphere you hear people complaining about how few people reading their blog go the next step and leave a comment. I recall that last year, Darren Rowse posted his “10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog“, linking to a Jakob Nielsen study that found that…

In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

My own work in social media bears this out. I have built or worked with some of the largest Social Networks in Australia, and I am well aware of the fact that these sorts of sites rely on about 1% of their user-base to generate 99% of their user-contributed content, be that forum posts, image uploads, private messages, or whatever else.

So it follows that the technology around blogging much have as one of its key objectives the simplification of interaction and community-building.

girl at computer XML RPC for blog comments: why the heck not?!But, strangely, this is not the case. It’s 2007 and yet there is no such thing (that I am aware of) as a newsreader with in-built commenting. Now, I know some of the reasons why, but I refuse to accept any of these excuses. In the New Media world of Web 2.0, nothing should stand in the way of the goal of the fluid and unhindered flow of communication between participants in online conversation.

And yet if you look at the software and technology that we’re all playing with, it’s pathetic!

Bear with my as I unpack my favourite example…

Those of us who’ve ever peered “under the hood” of the blogosphere are well aware of the important part that RSS (Really Simple Syndication) plays in growing one’s blog readership. The plethora of choices we have for newsreader software is testimony to how effective and powerful RSS has been in giving us a way to manage and read through the ever growing list of blogs you and I want to keep up with on a regular basis.

So yay for RSS… but there’s one problem with it: our RSS readership is one BIG step further removed from participation on our blog than are those readers who visit the webpage. See, someone who visits your blog in person and is in the least motivated to go beyond reading to leaving a comment is right where they need to be to do that. The comment box is (or should be!) right there at the bottom of the page. And assuming you’re not stupid enough to demand they login before they can comment, you stand a good chance of getting a comment out of that 1% of readers we described earlier.

But the same motivated reader accessing your content via RSS is a BIG step removed from that simplicity. They have to click on the post title in their newsreader software, then scroll to the bottom of that page in the web browser that just fired up (assuming they’re not using an online newsreader).

I don’t have the data and I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who does have it: what is the average difference in the volume of commenters, between RSS readers and on-page readers? And if the former is WAY lower (which I suspect it is), what are we going to do about it?

(If the blogosphere is really about “social media” then if goes without saying that we DO need to do something about it. If you disagree, leave my blog now. Nothing I write is going to be of interest to you. Sorry.)

My Suggestion: XML-RPC for Blog Commenting

My solution is not rocket science, but will require reworking ALL the blogging platforms out there… a task I am convinced is worth it.

I propose that we extend/hack the XML-RPC protocol and attendant software technologies so that newsreaders at one end, and blog platforms at the other, can handle the remote authoring and submission of comments.

It would work like this:

  1. While browsing through blogs in your newsreader (i.e. NetNewsWire or Google Reader or whatever) you find a great blog post. Its full text is syndicated, so you read it to the bottom.
  2. Still in your newsreader, you click to read all contributed comments, and these are displayed (in some way or other – I don’t care at this stage!).
  3. You have something to say, so you scroll to the bottom of these comments and use the (usual) input fields to add your own comment. And yes, you’re still in the newsreader application.

Now, I know enough about blogging platforms to know what nightmares are hiding away behind that simple 3-point illustration. But we need to go there. We need to treat commenting with the respect it deserves, as a key “social” feature of blogging.

So here’s my appeal to Mr Mullenweg, the Trotts, our friends over at Blogger, Chris Davis (presently working on the first Habari beta) and all the other lesser demi-gods of blogging technology… please do with XML-RPC for commenting what you have so well done with blog posting!

In the name of the social web!

rss, blog comments, commenting, wordpress, blogger, movable type, ecto, syndication, newsreaders, google reader, netnewswire

4 Comments

Note: Commenter website links are not no-followed, in case
you were wondering... I believe in rewarding commenters!

  1. Posted 7 years, 2 months ago // Permalink

    I may be wrong, but I believe that some of what you are describing is built into the ATOM protocol.

  2. Posted 7 years, 2 months ago // Permalink

    Hmmm, that is quite a good idea actually. Bringing comments inside XML would probably facilitate the conversation, even more as we more forward and more people discover the wonders of RSS.

  3. Posted 7 years, 1 month ago // Permalink

    OK, so I’m a newbie to blogging Alister.
    I’ve been reading your site with interest and taking notes, so thanks for all the tips.

    One thing though:
    You reckon the request for people to log in ‘stupid’, but I guess you’re restricting this to posting comments on blogs. Surely you don’t also mean posting comments on forums.

    Cheers,
    Richard

  4. Alister Cameron
    Posted 7 years, 1 month ago // Permalink

    Hi Richard.

    The point with blog comments and forum posts is the same, only executed differently. In both cases it’s about moderation and control of spam/sillyness. In blogging you get moderated (at least for the first post). In forums you are (typically) not moderated but instead you need to register first. Either way it amounts to the same intent: to get people to a limited degree “authenticated” before they can post willy nilly.

8 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. XML-RPC for blog comments: why the heck not?!

  2. (presently working on the first Habari beta) and all the other lesser demi-gods of blogging technology please do with XML-RPC for commenting what you have so well done with blog posting! In the name of the social web! Comments Bookmark WebProNews: [IMG ]

  3. (presently working on the first Habari beta) and all the other lesser demi-gods of blogging technology please do with XML-RPC for commenting what you have so well done with blog posting! In the name of the social web! Comments Bookmark WebProNews: [IMG ]

  4. reading their blog go the next step and leave a comment. I recall that last year, Darren Rowse posted his “10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog“, linking to a Jakob Nielsen study that found that… In most online communities, [...] (Read on Source)

  5. [...] to the WordPress developers about the weak way comments are handled in WordPress blogs, but Alister Cameron takes this further and challenges all blog developers to get comments, and the ability to easily reply, into feed readers. Who would [...]

  6. [...] So here’s my appeal to Mr Mullenweg, the Trotts, our friends over at Blogger, Chris Davis (presently working on the first Habari beta) and all the other lesser demi-gods of blogging technology please do with XML-RPC for commenting what you have so well done with blog posting! In the name of the social web! Comments [...]

  7. [...] linking to a Jakob Nielsen study that found that… In most online communities, [...] Read more… Source: Alister Cameron, Blog Consultant I build the blogs that make the subject-matter experts [...]

  8. [...] So here’s my appeal to Mr Mullenweg, the Trotts, our friends over at Blogger, Chris Davis (presently working on the first Habari beta) and all the other lesser demi-gods of blogging technology please do with XML-RPC for commenting what you have so well done with blog posting! In the name of the social web! Comments [...]

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