Comments: Tweet-length or Post-length?

Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of Happy Cog, explains the company’s experiment with comments on its new blog, Cognition:

Speaking of experiments, there’s our comments section. Everybody knows inline blog comments are going the way of the BBS and Gopher sites of yore. We’re not ready to say “comments are dead” (we’ll leave that for Wired Magazine’s next cover story) but we have noticed the smell, and we’re doing something about it.

Kids today are more likely to respond to a blog post on Twitter than in the article’s comments section; so we’ve collocated our comments on Twitter. Share a tweet-length response here, and, with your permission, it will go there. If you are moved to respond with more than 140 characters, post the response on your website, and it will show up here. Clever, these Americans.

Greg Storey, President of Happy Cog San Francisco, explains why Cognition encourages commenters to respond either on Twitter or their own websites:

There are a few blogs that have productive comments from their users but otherwise we have all seen a shift from blog comments to Twitter comments. The idea was to embrace this shift and a format that encourages brevity or responsive blog posts (for those who always want to write a short essay as a comment).

I’ve seen this split between short and long responses for a while. Occasionally, an article I write sparks an inline comment conversation, but mostly people retweet what I initially post to my @slmader Twitter feed. Others cite my articles on their own websites, and so far there has been no good way to collect both the short retweets and longer essays in a way that shows their relationship to the original article. That’s why I’m interested in Cognition’s experiment – if it works, I may consider testing a similar system here.

Dave Winer recently wrote a short proposal for a new kind of commenting system – one in which people don’t see others’ comments while writing their own:

I know some people think that blogs are conversations, but I don’t. I think they’re publications. And I think the role of comments is to add value to the posts. If you want to rebut a post, then you can create your own blog and post your rebuttal there.

Winer’s and Zeldman’s ideas have something in common – the growing recognition that peoples’ thoughts, reactions, and questions aren’t confined to the comments section of a blog, and online publishers need a better way to encourage and aggregate these responses.

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