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(read “RSS described in plain english” if you don’t know what RSS is or how it can provide you with an entirely new internet experience. i promise you, once you get into it you will ask yourself how you did without!)

i use RSS on a daily basis to monitor news-sources and weblogs. many sources i consider worth watching provide such RSS feeds meanwhile and the ones which don’t will follow a some point.

however there is one feed that i am really missing and to my knowledge there is currently no technical way to produce it:

a news-feed aggregating all replies to comments i have posted anywhere on the web.

this requirement could be solved by implementing a feature similar to technologies such as trackback and pingback into weblog and forum software.

a first rough specification:

  • a form-field need to be added to weblogs’ and forums’ comments-forms into that i, the commenter, may paste my personal comments-aggregation-URL.

  • the weblog software pings this URL anytime a reply is posted and transmits author, subject and excerpt. just the same way trackbacks work.
  • the URL is the address of my personal comments-aggregation-script, which runs on my own webserver or is hosted by a third party or a friend. the script publishes these comments into my personal commentstrack-RSS-file, which i again consume with the feed reader of my choice.

as long as threaded RSS isn’t supported by specifications and feed readers i would suggest to merge comments-threads into one item, with the title of the original article being the item’s title and comments being displayed in “newest-first” order. anytime a new comment is posted the item would be updated (or, if already fallen off the XML-file, re-added to it from a database the script automatically administers) and thus appears as new in my reader, along with the relevant context.

in case i’m not the only one with these needs i am looking foreward to see e.g. moveabletype-plugins, wordpress- or phpbb-hacks as well as the main commentstrack-script being coded by someone – volunteers? ;-)


 

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6 Comments
#76 Jan says on August 13, 2004 at 12:25 pm
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Great idea. Often missed something like that, too.

You write: "anytime a new comment is posted the item would be updated".
Do you also want to update the date or only the content?
I’m sorting items by date in my newsreader, and so for me it would be necessary also to update the date. Without that, I probably wouldn’t notice the update of the item.

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#77 AD++ says on August 23, 2004 at 11:26 pm
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Hi, Ive read the CommentTrack Spec, but really, isnt it to complicated to request that sites change their forms to ping your CommentTrack Script?

Would it be easier to have a tool (or a site) that subscribes to comment feeds and selects relevant posts out of these. When posting an comment somewhere, you could ping the tool with an bookmarklet (just like ping-o-matic) providing the URL of the article that received your comment.

Of course, this assumes that all sites provide comments as RSS feeds, either seperate or within the main feed.

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#78 Markus Breuer says on August 24, 2004 at 6:09 am
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A solution, which requires that "all the other weblogs change their functionality" looks a little bit hard to implement all over the Blogosphere.

Alternative: A tool on "my" server (small extension of Adelberts suggestion), that
1. aggregates the (sometimes) already existing RSS-Feeds for comment threads
2. includes a watchdog-process, which is able to detect changes in the public HTML of the post/comment page and RSSifies these changes and aggregates them too.

Seems to me that this would be
1. harder to develop (obviously)
2. easier to roll out (nobody else would have to change his code to suit me …)

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#79 Julien Couvreur says on August 25, 2004 at 4:46 am
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I want comment tracking badly too.
But from the protocol you described I’m afraid it would be easy for somebody to send me fake pings.

I’ve been thinking about comment authentication and tracking in this post: http://blog.monstuff.com/archives/000153.html

In the second "auth by url" solution that I proposed, I detailled how to use the auth interaction to set up a shared secret between the site I use to authenticate and the site where I comment, for later notifications.

Also, about Markus’ comment, it seems like all blogs that support pinging, could be modified to ping when comments are posted. But I agree that that change would not be immediate…

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#80 AD++ says on August 25, 2004 at 12:57 pm
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Ive added some more comments on my site (fellowing some advice read on Scoblizer). Check it our! (The URL is the permalink to the article)

Related: Helge, why dont you have trackback enabled here?

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#81 joerg says on October 29, 2004 at 2:41 pm
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well,
i’m using wordpress for my blog (http://joerg.windbichler.com/) and it gives you the option to get a specific rss feed just for the comment section on a certain entry (i know not quite the same as you want one feed for all comments but it’s a start).

thinking about it: you might be able to use zfeeder if the comment section has a unique rss feed (like described above). then rss zfeeder and boom… (it’s just a quick thought, might need some tweaking)

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