April 22, 2008

Sharing the disqussion

One of the best features of Plaxo Pulse (and other sites that do social content aggregation) is the ability to have discussions (via comments) about the items being shared. A link to an interesting article, recent photo, YouTube video, Yelp review, tweet, etc. is often the jumping-off point for a rich discussion amongst people who all know and care about each other. In such cases, the comment thread is often far more interesting than the original item that sparked it. Some of these discussions happen privately between mutually connected friends or family members; others are public discussions about public content, but filtered through the people you know, rather than what everyone on the net has to say (look at the comment stream for any YouTube video, and the signal-to-noise issue is obvious).
Most of the time, this system of comments inside aggregators works quite well. But one place where it’s never felt quite right is when someone shares their public blog, which also has its own comment stream on the blog’s website. In such cases, the conversation can too easily become “fractured”, as some people read and post comments on the blog’s web site, and others do the same inside an aggregator, but with a different set of comments. Whereas a separate comment thread can be an asset in the case of private or “noisy” content as mentioned above, many blog authors would prefer to maintain a single thread of comments, no matter where their post gets viewed. This issue has been brought up periodically since the early days of Pulse, and it recently saw a resurgence of fervent debate in the blogosphere.
Plaxo’s mantra is always to “give our users control”, so naturally we’re in favor of letting blog authors share their feed inside Pulse and providing a way for comments generated inside Pulse to flow back to the original blog. The problem is, there’s no standard way of programmatically interacting with the comment system on an arbitrary blog. So while it’s never been our aim to “trap comments” inside Pulse, there hasn’t been a good way to set them free. Until now.
Starting today, we’ve integrated Pulse with a cool startup called Disqus that makes a “smart comment system” plug-in that works with most popular blog software. If you install Disqus to run the comments on your blog, in addition to their standard improvements like threaded comments, rating comments, verifying commenters, integrated forums, and more, you can now also choose to have any blog comments posted inside Pulse also show up on your original blog. This is possible because Disqus provides a common platform with APIs that let blog authors tell Pulse where their blog comments live, and lets Plaxo automatically syndicate any comments posted inside Pulse. So if you write a blog, now you can have the best of both worlds–more people can find and comment on your blog posts using tools like Pulse, and yet you can maintain a single thread of comments for everyone.


Hooking up disqus comment syndication when sharing a blog inside Pulse


Comments posted inside Pulse will then also show up on the original blog post

If you haven’t yet shared your blog inside Pulse, now is a great time to set it up. [If you’re not already running Disqus on your blog, they have an easy wizard to help you set it up, and it works with most popular blog software, including MovableType, TypePad, Blogger, Tumblr, and self-hosted wordpress, though sadly not yet hosted wordpress blogs on wordpress.com, since they don’t let you run JavaScript in plugins.] Then when you hook up your blog to Pulse, you just check “I use Disqus for my blog’s comments” and fill in your disqus forum URL (e.g. for my blog http://josephsmarr.com, my associated disqus forum url is josephsmarr.disqus.com). [If you’re already sharing your blog inside Pulse, you can click to edit your existing feed and then add your disqus forum url.] Now when anyone sees one of your blog posts inside Pulse and goes to comment, they’ll be notified that any comments posted inside Pulse will also appear as a comment on your original blog post. And when they do leave a comment, it will show up on in your disqus-powered comment thread soon afterwards, and without you or them having to do anything. Disqus will notify you of a new comment just as if they’d commented directly on your blog, and similarly the commenter’s name, email, and webpage will be automatically filled in along with the comment.
We’re excited about this new ability to keep discussions shared across an open social web. It’s one more step on the path away from walled gardens and toward a world in which users are empowered because their data is portable. If you’re a blogger, give it a try and let us know what you think!
–Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect
PS: If you have any feedback on this integration–or anything else about Plaxo–let us know (using the disqus-powered comments on this blog post, of course–whether you’re reading this on our website or from inside Pulse!).
UPDATE: Check out the post from our vp of marketing, John McCrea, on this topic.

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Redgee Capili

General Manager, Plaxo.com

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