Who Owns This Conversation?


A debate is erupting in the blogosphere about whether it’s okay or not for comments on blogposts (or other user generated content) to be splintered off in various RSS readers or social media aggregators, such as Shyfter or FriendFeed or any of a number of other services that enable users to project their lifestreams into them.

This is indeed an interesting discussion, as we are just now on the cusp of the Social Web, a complex ecosystem with as-yet undefined rules. Their will be identity providers (OpenID providers, such as Yahoo!, AOL, Clickpass, and some day, Microsoft), online identity consolidators (i.e. Google Social Graph API and Plaxo public profiles), portable social graph providers (hmmmm, stay tuned), and myriad feed aggregators (seems like a new one every week; first Plaxo Pulse, last summer, and now in recent weeks: FriendFeed, Iminta, SocialThing, etc.).

There is a real tension here: Comments out on the anonymous web tend toward the sophomoric; whereas comments inside circles with identity bring out the best in people. Right now, in the absence of the full-blown open Social Web, we see various experiments underway that try to bridge that gap. In the process, it appears that comment threads are being “stolen.” I don’t think anyone is really trying to make a big play based on hijacking the comment thread.

There’s a bunch of interesting problems to be worked on here, and I expect rapid progress.

Here’s the posts from the debate so far: Louis Gray, Matthew Ingram, and not to be missed, Deep Jive Interests.

Update: Robert Scoble has jumped into this “bitchmeme” saying the “Era of blogger’s control is over.” I agree that bloggers should embrace the organic spread of their influence through the conversation fragments across the web, but also think we tool providers can apply some smarts to the problem to stitch some of this stuff back together.

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8 thoughts on “Who Owns This Conversation?

  1. Louis Gray says:

    Plaxo Pulse also copied your story and offered comments.

  2. naysayer says:

    “feed aggregators… first Plaxo Pulse, last summer”

    Um. Mugshot: http://blog.mugshot.org/?m=200604

    First post was 2 years ago. You keep talking like Plaxo invented this concept…

  3. therealmccrea says:

    Naysayer: As far as I know (knew?), Plaxo was the first Web 2.0 user-generated content aggregation system, but I’m happy to be corrected. I’ll take a look at Mugshot. And happy to hear from others with other examples. Either way, my real point is that aggregation is a rising wave and will be an important apect of the ecosystem going forward.

  4. therealmccrea says:


    Plaxo Pulse certainly didn’t “copy” my story; I chose to share my blog into Pulse, so that my piece of the social graph over there can see what I’m writing here without having to know my blog URL or futz around with RSS. As a result, I’ve got family and friends reading my thoughts who would otherwise have missed them. 🙂

  5. […] Who owns this post? Are pageviews still relevant? Should blog content creators be upset? Is Shyftr crossing the line? Let it all just go? […]

  6. Lars Hilse says:

    Hi John,

    as someone who believes in “common sense over laws and regulations” I must say that I had an itch in my upper stomach region when reading that there are “no rules” (as of yet) which I think is good.

    The point being, that the self regulation of content doesn’t work out at all… Remeber the discussion the two of us had when Pulse introduced that system?

    Upon having lead the discussion mentioned above on LinkedIn also I got some valuable feedback which brought me to the same conclusion… On “self regulated” content you’ll always have those frustrated, self announced cyber sherrifs who will be prowling all day just for that one post with this one wrong (and heck, I don’t considder my english to be perfect but there are people out there doing a worse job then I am) sentence just to be the first to BANG the sh*t out of this user that DARED to post something against the terms of service or alike.

    Bottom line: The knowledge that I contribute to mass collaboration platforms is – at least for my understanding – free, as are my blog posts and everything else. And will most likely help someone have an easier time with something because I have given thought to it prior. For those that do not considder this as satisfactory enough: too bad – don’t contribute if you can’t live with it. This being said: I’d make myself a total idiot if I were to publish something for free and then come running, saying that I want money for it…

    All the best from the other end of the world

    Lars Hilse
    Web Strategist | Speaker | Social Networker | Entrepreneur
    direct +49 4835 9513030 | mobile +49 173 5433491 |
    Germany +49 (0)1801 5557775788 | UK +44 (0)870 9749050 | USA +1 206-203-5212

  7. […] Gray pushed the meme forward, and then Scoble said bloggers have lost control. Numerous others had their say […]

  8. […] I won’t rehash the whole discussion here, but here’s a few of the central posts, in addition to mine: […]

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