The issue of comment fragmentation has been rearing up every other week or so since the initial discussion flared up in early April, but of late, I’ve been thinking about the purpose of comments in the first place. When you make a comment on a blog, is it to respond to the blog author and say they did a good job, especially if comments are currency, effectively making a longer version of a “thumbs up or thumbs down,” are you looking to further the conversation with the blogger, or are you instead using it as a reply, without anticipating a response from the author?
Are blog comments conversations? In one sense absolutely, but I think we’re at risk of missing a bigger picture here in that comments are one element of conversation.
Comment replacement systems, such as Intense Debate and Disqus, provide a better mouse trap than what is the default in blogging platforms, but if all you want is comment threading there are plugins that can do that without the overhead of calling another service.
By mixing identity with reputation and comment tracking these services offer the promise of something more than just better comments. It’s still not enough in order to be more than inline conversation.
What I want is discovery of related content around comments. To be able to capture non-linked content sources (including comments, which reside on their own unique URIs) I can then satisfy the bigger picture promise that the blogosphere holds, the ability to know the unknowable.