coComment - a solution to a problem I didn't know I had?

 by Martin Belam, 8 May 2006

I've been taking an interested look at coComment over the past few weeks. It seems like a reasonably neat solution to a problem that I wasn't aware I had - namely that unless I make the effort I can't follow the response to any comments I have left around the web.


It was launched as a beta in February of this year - and speaking to one of the team it seems it took them around five months to get up-and-running from the initial concept idea, which I was very impressed with.

The system relies on users making the effort up-front by clicking a bookmarklet before they submit a comment on a blog. This, providing the user is registered and logged in with coComment, inserts an additional form into the page, where users can add some 'tags' to their comment. If clicking a bookmarklet seems like too much effort, then lazy Firefox users can install a 3rd party Greasemonkey script that will automatically insert the form into the blog sites that the user visits.

coComment then aggregates all of these comments onto a page at called 'Your conversations'. It also provides a threaded view of the comments from the blog item in question - although this only works if everyone who has commented has also been using coComment.

That means that at the moment the system doesn't really aggregate your 'conversations', but it does at least track where you have left comments into one place, with links that you can follow to see if non-coComment enabled replies have been left.

coComment's your conversations view

It also allows you to explore the comments being left on the web with a couple of tag-style views - of either the tags that have been left, or the most popular articles being commented on.

coComment's article view

One of the real downsides at the moment is that the implementation on some platforms seems quite brittle, and relies on scraping HTML. For example unless Movable Type blogs have their <TITLE> tags in a required format (either '<title>blog name : article title</title> or '<title>blog name | article title</title>') they don't display properly in the 'Your conversations' list, appearing as untitled.

I wonder of there is scope for an agreed standard along the lines of inserting:

<coComment title="<$MTEntryTitle$>">
<coComment URL="<$MTEntryPermalink$>">

into the <HEAD> of the Movable Type templates, and getting the coComment system to additionally be able to scrape the information that way?

Trying to mistakenly submit a coComment on a type of blog that isn't supported can also be a bit messy. You end up with a message saying that not only has the comment failed to reach coComment, but it has also failed to reach the original blog. The user then has to click the bookmarklet again to remove the coComment widget from the page before being able to re-submit the comment.

Tomorrow I'll look at some of the strengths and weaknesses I see with the coComment architecture

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