24 September 2006

Newsgator Online Comments

Newsgator Online has comments.

I really like the feature. I think it's neat. However, I'm the only one that's using it on the feeds I'm subscribed to. Perhaps people aren't noticing it.

I. Suggestion: Promoting Online Commenting Feature

There are over 14,000 subscribers to the Newsgator Online. Perhaps, until online subscribers are aware of what is going on, Newsgator staff could include a flashing comment. Maybe the Newsgator Online Community and Staff to post "test" comments in the Newsgator Online "Buzz" comment feed, and not post on their personal blogs for a while?

As a suggestion, what if there was a "flashing red" comment in the NewsgatorBlog feed. That way, people who are using NewsgatorOnline, when they open their feeds, will see something different, and possibly check. For example, on the left hand side of NewsgatorOnline, the comment feed for the Newsgator Buzz lists the number of "incoming links". Perhaps adjacent to that number could be a separate section that says "new comments".

Ideally, this "new comments' feature could be linked to new comments added since I last reviewed; or identify specific comments that are in response to my comments.

DEMONSTRATION: Color Coding

ITEM = Name of item in the BuzzFeed
COMMENTS = Number of Newsgator Online Comments
RESPONSE = Number of responses to my comments [Empty = No responses, no new comments since my last visit, or last time I marked all items as having been read, depending on my setting-choices for my online commenting options in "Settings".]

SAMPLE NEWSGATOR ONLINE BUZZ COMMENT ALERT:

BUZZ
ITEM ONE
327 incoming links 3 New Comments 1 Response

ITEM TWO
147 incoming links 14 new Comments 5 responses

ITEM THREE
67 incoming links [Empty] [Empty]

Item FOUR
12 incoming links [ Empty] 2 responses

II. Feature Request

A. Adjustments to Online Commenting Name

Something I would like is the means to change my posting identity in the Newsgator Online Comments. I'd still like to be held accountable for my comments by a specific name. I'd just like to have the option to adjust the spelling of my posting name, or add a capitol letter and include a space with an apostrophe.

B. Including ASCII symbols

I'd also like to be able to add some graphics and colors in the name that that appears online. That way I could add some distinctive non-Roman characters, and include fonts from other languages in my online posting-name.

C. Attaching Images to Online Commenting Name, like Haloscan

It would be neat if I could use Newsgator-linking option as a way to internally load-post an image, then have that image, like blogger, attach with specific comments. It makes each comment more personal and it helps in Haloscan to find/ignore comments that I'm interesting in following/skipping over.

Comment Reporting Feature

NewsgatorOnline Comment Reporting allows me to flag comments, and bring things to the attention of Newsgator. This is a good thing.

The feature at the user end works well, there are no problems with the clicking, and it is easy to read and understand the prompts.

From the user end, it would be useful to know if a specific comment has or has not been reported. Perhaps this is already in the system, and not yet visible. As an added bonus, perhaps there is a system that will track how many times that a specific comment has been flagged, and the reason for the flag.

III. Comment Replies

Comment Replies are easy. They work well. It's easy to quickly use NewsgatorOnline Comments Reply feature. Each comment only allows one-level of reply. I was unable to make a "reply-to-a-reply", or a third-level of discussion. Perhaps this is only possible with someone else discussion.

I do like the fact that there are only two levels of comments, not infinitely-embedded. This can be someone confusing like we see in Kos where there deeply embedded comments.

Maybe with time we'll see nested comments, with a setting features that allows the Yahoo-like e-mail weave: Where a particular comment-response can be adjusted based on use preferences:

A. Inverse order, oldest to newest;
B. Option to click on a comment and ignore someone;
C. Option to click on a comment and mark it as read, and not to repeat;
D. Option to click on a comment and flag it for revisiting
E. Option to have a specific comment reappear on a specific date/time in the future for reconsideration, or revisiting.

IV. Something I'm Watching: Comment Notification In Newsgator Online Comments

Given the online comment feature recently started, a couple of things came to mind, which I'll be watching: Comment notification on already read items.

If someone else makes a comment in the NewsgatorOnline feed in a comment from a long time ago (many months ago), but I have "refreshed" all the Feed items to mark them as "I have read this," how will I know when someone is making a comment in something I have already read?

A. Will Newsgator Online Comments re-publish that specific-feed-item I already read, and alert me to a new comment, so that I can read it?

B. Is there some sort of override system so that I can choose to ignore old comments on things that I’ve already read?

C. Is there a double-override so that I can only accept old-feed-items that have new comments, and ignore everything else that is old or I have clicked on as having read?

D. Is there something else that might be happening that I don't know about? Would it be possible to include in your site-presentation (on the opening screen) a link to the new feature, with some commentary? (Perhaps I missed something obvious and there is a link).

V. Problem With HTML-Link

It is very easy to post links manually in the Newsgator Online Comment. When I manually enter the code it is fine. When I use the online link-tool within the comments, there is a problem. I attempted to post a link into the box, it accepted it fine; when I said, “OK,” I was expecting either a prompt to add a comment for the title; or for the link to appear in the Online Comment Box. This did not occur. It looks as though there is some sort of “cache” issue, whereby the data is accepted, but is not posted.

If I manually post the HTML-code, without the tool, linking works fine to external HTML. The link opens fine without any problem using a new window. I was also able to successfully open the link in the same window; arrive at the desired destination; then return using the back-space in the browser to the original Newsgator Screen where I left. This is very good coding, it doesn’t take me back to the home screen, but where I left. This is very difficult to do on a first-round of testing and demonstration. Good job.

VI. Bold and Italics

The Newsgator Online Commenting accepts HTML for bold and italics. The preview screen correctly shows the HTML text. Once the text is published, the HTML-enclosed text disappears, and the HTML-changes that were visible in the preview are not visible.

This “unable to see text”-problem occurs with both the manual changes to the HTML, and the auto-buttons within Newsgator Online Commenting.

All text unconnected to the HTML is fine. [You can see this in the Newsgator Online Buzz Feed where I have left entries.]

For a sample of what these comments look like, visit Newsgator Online Buzz Feed, and see this entry:



Mudtesting's 3 Comments On Newsgator Online Buzz


The Abuse Can Continue - washingtonpost.com
9/23/2006 1:54:10 PM [NewsGator: The Latest Buzz]
The Abuse Can Continue - washingtonpost.com

295 incoming links

3 comments [These three are mine; I put some explanations into the feed to show you want I was doing, and the problems I was having.]




VII. Message Reporting

I have tested out the reporting features, and have self-reported on my messages in the Newsgator Online Buzz Comment Feed. If someone wants to send me some messages on the feed, or if you want to report my messages as "Spam" to test that feature out, go ahead. Let’s see how long it takes for Newsgator to review my comments, and how the deleted comments are handled: Do they delete everything, including the header; or just the content?

VIII. Other Languages

Also, for those of you who think that this online commentary is "just something else everyone has," it's actually difficult. Not all the Newsgator Online editions have it; I checked the other languages, and only the American version has the online commenting features.

If you’re reading this blog in another language, or your native language is non-English and you’re using Newsgator Online in non-English, you can easily see the online commenting feature. Here’s how: Log into the American-English version (choose the American Flag) and you'll see the comment feature in the feeds. Not sure when the other versions will get the update and comment feature.

IX. Followup To Comments

When I attempted to revisit the NewsgatorOnline Comment Buzz Feed, to visit the Comments I posted, I was unable to see the old comments when I pressed the "show older posts" option.

The fact that it is difficult (impossible?) to see the older posts in the Newsgator Online Buzz Comment Feed where there are older comments, may have something to do with the lack of use.

I will not be able to provide any feedback on how the reported changes to the above commentary do or do not work. I have no way that I am aware to review the original comments I have placed in the Newsgator Online Comment System.


Conclusion

I am very impressed with the NewsgatorOnline COmmenting. It is very easy to use, the coding behind the features is very seamless, and the Java-options intergrate very well.

I will look forward to seeing how other users comment on the features, and how other users are able to interface and interact with the Newsgator Online Comments.

Rating: Good. I will increase this to an [ Excellent ] when I can look at old comments in the Newsgator Oline comment feed, and when the minor HTML-linking and formatting issues are resolved. When Newsgator includes a Comment Alert sytem I will increase the rating to an [ Outstanding ].

Follow-up

After considering what NewsgatorOnline staff might be confronted with, I considered some of their possible questions. I share with you the imaginary dialog that NewsgatorOnline Staff might discuss on the Commenting Feature, and my uninformed, uneducated responses and thoughts.

What Might Be Some Reasons Newsgator Users Are Not Commenting?

There are two broad reasons, one technical, and the second human factors. Let's consider the human factors aspect. When I first noticed the comment feature, I was looking at a feed I created and am the only subscriber to. At first, I thought the online commenting feature might be an interesting way to record my notes, and reactions. When I noticed I could not delete my comments or adjust them, I reconsidered.

My first widely accessible use of the commenting feature was on a well known feed, the Newsgator Buzz. I don't normally subscribe to the feed, and I simply look for interesting links on the NewsgatorOnline margin.

Here's the technical aspect. In the case of the NewsgatorOnline, there are over 14,000 feed subscribers. In order to comment on a feed that I'm not subscribed to I have to find the feed, upload it, and check my index, review the feed, and then comment. Consider the alternative to commenting: Simply go to the blog and post.

From a purely theoretical perspective, commenting online is one of two ways:

1. Finding a blog, and posting comments; or

2. Using Newsgator online, then commenting there.

From the perspective of someone who may not know anything about RSS feeds, aggregators, much less Newsgator, the reason that people aren't using NewsgatorOnline to comment, is that they're still figuring on what to say on the blogs, much less comment. Most RSS developers take it for granted that bloggers know about RSS, and Newsgator. In practice, a new blogger will spend time where they want to spend time: Where their content is, make updates, comment, interact with readers. Blogger will tend to spend more time where there are more people; where there are more comments, bloggers will spend more time, and be more likely to post comments.

Contrast that with NewsgatorOnline comments. Currently, there are essentially no comments. This will only change when high profile bloggers publicly state, "I'm going to see you at Newsgator where there is information you can't get anywhere else." However, to say that would mean to exclude the new people, narrow their audience to only RSS Newsreaders. If you consider a blog that may get 100,000 hits per day, and have only 13,000 subscribers, only a portion of those feed subscribers -- perhaps 20%, or 2600 -- may be using Newsgator. Immediately, the blogger, by commenting at Newsgator things, "I'm duplicating things, or I'm excluding the rest, possibly 94%."

Again, consider the learning curve it took to get people familiarly with the XML-button, which changed shape. RSS-XML is in a transition phase. New people are entering the RSS world without the development-testing, and can use or not use RSS aggregators as either a workable product, or something they don't use at all. However, the notion of making comments on the Aggregator is new. But contrast this with the blogging concept for new people: Make comments, blog, and maybe hear about RSS.

A new person, who has never blogged before, doesn't know about RSS, much less an aggregator. NewsgatorOnline is three steps removed. In my case, it's taken me two years to feel comfortable integrating my private blog with how I use or don't use RSS; and then effectively interact with other bloggers on non-RSS issues while using RSS and search engines. Developers who work with RSS everyday are generally at the other end of the spectrum: For them, RSS-XML is a no-brainer, everyone should be using it.

With respect to Newsgator Online Comments, there are two challenges for the new RSS user: First, figuring out how to use or not use RSS; then getting comfortable with feeds, subscriptions; then deciding whether to interact more with other online users using their blog, online forums, discussion groups, or another method. The second challenge is to then transition from the non-RSS world to RSS-commenting, which in my view, will take substantially more time than the learning curve associated from the transition from blogging to online commenting. Again, the issue isn't simply the sophistication of the technology, but the levels to which someone would have to go beyond blogs, into RSS, then an aggregator, then finally choosing to select to comment in an aggregator, as opposed to an online comment with a blog.

Here's a though on how to accelerate this learning curve. Make it easy, inviting, and provide more reassurances. For example, if I have a comment feed, I can easily delete, change, edit, or modify my comment. However, with Newsgator, it's the opposite: Once I post, it's stuck there.

Also, when I post in a blog, I choose what I post along with my ID. In NewsgatorOnline, most people probably chose their member name without any thought that that member name might be publicly known. The issue is: Some people may be concerned with privacy, and do not feel comfortable exposing their NewsgatorOnline sign-in name with others.

A solution to this problem would be to permit NewsgatorOnline users to choose what their public name looks like, like Yahoo IM does, ensuring that their primary sign-in name is not publicly known.

Also, another factor affecting whether people do or do not use NewsgatorOnline is that a given blog may have multiple feeds. For example, I have a feedburer feed, which extracts from another feed. However, readers of my feed have the option to use the blog feed, feedburer, or convert the feed into something else. As I understand NewsgatorOnline Commenting, the comments are not associated with a blog, but with an individual feed. For my site which may have six different feeds floating around with the same content, any given feed that an individual subscriber may choose to comment in, may have only 1/6 of the comments. The other versions of my blog feed may have other comments, but there's no interchange. [I'm not positive on this, but I think I'm correct.]

My overall point is that even if new online blog users were to figure out RSS, transition to an aggregator, then choose Newsgator, they still may never see 80% of the NewsgatorOnline Comments because the other feeds associated with that content may be slightly different.

As a simple model, consider the online 3 network news channels. Combined into one clump, they each have about 8 million views, or about 24 million viewers nightly watching the nightly anchors. Out of the approximately 8 million viewers on CBS, twenty-two [22] people have signed up for the NewsgatorSubscription feed to the CBS’s "Couric and CO" feed. This is an opportunity -- Now would be the time for the Newsgator Online to grow the market share with this new online audience. I suspect the NewsgatorOnlineCommenting feature would get a boost if there was something done to cross-promote the online blog of those networks that are effectively integrating the Network Content, and successfully creating tools that will showcase the CBS content. Bluntly, this means using the aggregator not simply as a means to attract content, but a means to showcase the CBS-related content in a way that CBS viewers would find worthwhile, and complements their experience with the news: Something that is not labor intensive, requires work, but something that is the opposite: A one step click and BOOM!. . . added features, and content to easily integrate the Aggregator, the CBS comments, and the online content from Katie Couric and then provide a similar backchannel integration of content for other viewers to see, use, and the CBS producer to quickly use. In other words, if the NewsgatorOnline aggregator became a platform that would help the content providers do their job [however they define it], then Newsgator becomes a tool for the Executive to not only showcase, but integrate as a production tool to assist the viewers and increase their market share. They key would be to understand how the networks use the RSS system, and could use new RSS system within their real-time Newsgator, as they deem appropriate, then ensure that online aggregator complements, does not duplicate, but effectively works within their existing and evolving journalism practices.

A solution to this would be to determine how to attach the comments to the original source, not simply the feed. Another solution might be to permit users some flexibility in the sign-in/posting a name, as I discussed above. Also, a solution might be to promote the comments in the NewsgatorOnlineBuzz with sample comments people can read. Or, encourage the high volume bloggers to publicly comment on the NewsgatorOnline, and provide a fast way to transition from their online comments, to the Halsocan, then into Newsgator. This may include a method of having a seamless interface of comments through all the aggregators, commenting features, and blogs, similar to a common Instant message protocol through AIM, Yahoo, and MSM.

As it stands, it’s interesting that NewsgatorOnline has comments. The issue is whether this becomes a separate feature, or one that can be seamlessly integrated with all RSS-related products so that the comment-feeds themselves become importable into NewsgatorOnline Comments; and NewsgatorOnlineComents becomes exportable to a given platform like blogger or Halsocan, and can be integrated with the public access.

Based on my understanding of how data transfers, it appears to be a doable task. The issue is whether the tools, as they relate to blogs (excluding RSS and aggregators), are or are not easier than using the Aggregator to accomplish what the blogs already do: Integrate comments and online content.

If there is seamless, easy, and transparent way for the online comments from a blog to be imported with that feed into Newsgator; and then automatically reposted to all external sources related to that feed content, and comment feed, I think the public will find out about Newsgator Online.

Consider RSS pings and track backs. Again, those are not complicated for those who like using them; however they require something other than a simple blog, but they are workable. The same idea would work with the NewsgatorOnline: If there was a way to have a transparent RSS-like interface which seamlessly incorporated blog content, blog comments, pings/track backs, and aggregator Comments, then readers could get information in the comments that certain content was from NewsgatorOnlineComments.

Another solution to this publicity issue is to reconsider what RSS was like when it first started. Each company had RSS-buttons. Today, those are frowned upon, and we see the common RSS-symbol. Perhaps what's needed is a version 2.0 of the NewsgatorOnline Button: But with a special notice that says there are comments. This may be a button that people put on their blog or can include in their daily posts that quickly communicates to readers of the blog that there are NewsgatorOnline Comments in another location.

As it stands, a new blog user doesn't have to be bothered with either RSS or an aggregator. The only reason for mentioning the RSS button was to notify an RSS user that there was site feed. However, if there are comments in another location, this isn't simply an issue of someone passively absorbing content, but it means that the reader is making a choice whether to have access to additional content that is otherwise not available. The current subscriptions only deal with online content from the publisher, or the comment feeds; the third subscription is now something that is the opposite: It perhaps a subscriber-reader to turn into a publisher on an aggregator as opposed to a blog or comment feed. This isn't news to the developers.

What is news is that the way RSS subscriptions originally started was based on the premise of pulling content to the user. Now, the process is the reverse: The subscription isn't for the reader to read content; now the process is for the reader to push content back to the publisher, but do so within a narrow window of a select aggregator, as opposed to the broad, open access of an online block. Again, to an RSS developer there is no difference. However, to someone who has been sold on RSS as a pull-read-strategy, the RSS approach required with an integrated commenting system is intuitively backwards: Pushing content (currently) to an even narrower audience of none, if not few.

The question becomes: What is a solution, and is the way that RSS-aggregators were initially introduced going to work. In my view, because the publication-model is the reverse, the assumptions behind the way that a specific RSS-aggregator model was introduced may or may not be consistent. Again, it may, over time, prove to be the same. However, in my view, the appropriate model for comparison isn't the RSS-Aggregator model, nor blogs, nor comment feeds, but the Haloscan-comment feed as it integrates with the RSS reader. Haloscan comment feeds are closer, and this model was most close to the Rojo system on online commenting.

The question becomes: What is the added benefit, above and beyond blogging and commenting, that will entice an online blogger to work with the NewsgatorOnline, and still enjoy the ease of blogging and commenting. In my view, the answer is not to isolate the Comments to a particular aggregator, but to do the opposite: Make the online comments more fluid, easier to attach to a feed, and make it something that is universally accessible more easily than is currently available through blogs and comments.

Ideally, a blog should have attached with its feed the content; in practice, we have the opposite: Content is narrowly attached in segment to separate feeds: One feed for comments, a second feed for content, then (perhaps) another stream of data through the pings and track backs, and site stats. Ideally, what if a site feed had, like HD-radio, all the feed-content (comments, site stats, other info) within that single feed, and then the user-reader could decide which channel when that feed to use. Ideally, this site feed would be common, regardless whether the end-aggregator was using the XML, atom, RSS, or the feedburner-version.

Clearly, what I have proposed above is quite different than what exists. The issue is whether the above will be something the RSS-XML community wants to take, and in the short run whether this addresses the NewsgatorOnline Commenting traffic. Bluntly, no: It will take too much time to develop the above model. The issue is whether the venture capitalists wants to spend money creating a seamless RSS-feed system that has multiple channels within the feed, and have multi-platform seamless integration: Analogous to watching CBS News on ABC. I can't answer that. Clearly, the objective will be to put eyeballs on a particular platform, medium, comment stream, or data.

In the short run, I thought I'd share with you some other ideas how to address the NewsgatorOnline commenting publicity. Perhaps there could be a common/standard button or signaling system in blogger/content publishers that there is a Newsgator Online comment system with a, "for other thoughts and comments, attached this feed to NewsgatorOnline." Given the variations in feeds, a specific-primary feed would need a message of, "To join the discussion, add this feed to Newsgator."

As stated above, other solutions include, getting high-volume bloggers to say, "I'll see you on Newsgator." or "I'm shutting of Haloscan, I'll see you on Newsgator."

Perhaps what’s needed is an aggregator for the aggregators: Something that commonly interfaces with seamless data interface a system to exchange feeds, OPML files, content, comments, pings, track backs, and other aggregator-related information.

Another attractive thing about Halsocan is the ability to control content and posting. This isn't possible (yet) with Newsgator online comments. A content publisher has control of the content, edit control, and ability to block content, which will be something that would make the transition from Haloscan to NewsgatorOnline attractive. It would be desirable to be able to control content in the NewsgatorOnlinen Comment to allow deletions, and permit the Feed-publisher, not just Newsgator, to control whether something was or was not deleted. As the volume increases, I'm not clear how the NewsgatorOnline staff is going to be able to individually manage the online feeds; or whether this is something that should be delegated back to the online content provider. Because someone else, not the primary feed owner-publisher, is making decisions about what will or will not be acceptable, that tends to be less of an incentive to transition from relying only on a blogging-commenting tool.

Overall, in the long run, if the XML-RSS community decide to fully support an integrated feed-system, whereby multiple channels could be embedded in a single feed URI; and that URI was seamlessly able to transport content, comments, pings, track backs, site state data, and other information between any RSS-XML platform, search generator, or tool, then you've got something there. .

Well, that's about it. Hopefully you'll see that I gave this commenting process some thought and can appreciate this is not something that will quickly happen. I hope you may consider some of my suggestions and whether this is a technical solution within NewsgatorOnline, or something that the RSS-XML community considers, either way I'll look forward to seeing what happens.

Good luck, and thank you for considering my views.

Another Idea

Another reason why people may not be using comments, is that they have no idea which of their feeds peopel or are not commenting on.

Consider the NewsgatorOnline left panel: My feeds shows me how many new entries there are in the feed. What's needed: Is a second set of data with that feed.

Just to the right of the number of new entries, include the number of new comments.

Example:

MY FEEDS

MUDTEST FEED: (14,117) [3]

The fist number is (black), which shows the number of new items.

The second number is [green], which shows the number of new comments in Newsgator. (This will change when Newsgator developes an aggregator that integrates with all public version of a feed, and can interface with any commenting sytem.

[ END COMMENTS: Remainder of Comment is Duplicate, Problem With My Blog, not the feed.]
Newsgator Online has comments.

I really like the feature. I think it's neat. However, I'm the only one that's using it on the feeds I'm subscribed to. Perhaps people aren't noticing it.

I. Suggestion: Promoting Online Commenting Feature

There are over 14,000 subscribers to the Newsgator Online. Perhaps, until online subscribers are aware of what is going on, Newsgator staff could include a flashing comment. Maybe the Newsgator Online Community and Staff to post "test" comments in the Newsgator Online "Buzz" comment feed, and not post on their personal blogs for a while?

As a suggestion, what if there was a "flashing red" comment in the NewsgatorBlog feed. That way, people who are using NewsgatorOnline, when they open their feeds, will see something different, and possibly check. For example, on the left hand side of NewsgatorOnline, the comment feed for the Newsgator Buzz lists the number of "incoming links". Perhaps adjacent to that number could be a separate section that says "new comments".

Ideally, this "new comments' feature could be linked to new comments added since I last reviewed; or identify specific comments that are in response to my comments.

DEMONSTRATION: Color Coding

ITEM = Name of item in the BuzzFeed
COMMENTS = Number of Newsgator Online Comments
RESPONSE = Number of responses to my comments [Empty = No responses, no new comments since my last visit, or last time I marked all items as having been read, depending on my setting-choices for my online commenting options in "Settings".]

SAMPLE NEWSGATOR ONLINE BUZZ COMMENT ALERT:

BUZZ
ITEM ONE
327 incoming links 3 New Comments 1 Response

ITEM TWO
147 incoming links 14 new Comments 5 responses

ITEM THREE
67 incoming links [Empty] [Empty]

Item FOUR
12 incoming links [ Empty] 2 responses

II. Feature Request

A. Adjustments to Online Commenting Name

Something I would like is the means to change my posting identity in the Newsgator Online Comments. I'd still like to be held accountable for my comments by a specific name. I'd just like to have the option to adjust the spelling of my posting name, or add a capitol letter and include a space with an apostrophe.

B. Including ASCII symbols

I'd also like to be able to add some graphics and colors in the name that that appears online. That way I could add some distinctive non-Roman characters, and include fonts from other languages in my online posting-name.

C. Attaching Images to Online Commenting Name, like Haloscan

It would be neat if I could use Newsgator-linking option as a way to internally load-post an image, then have that image, like blogger, attach with specific comments. It makes each comment more personal and it helps in Haloscan to find/ignore comments that I'm interesting in following/skipping over.

Comment Reporting Feature

NewsgatorOnline Comment Reporting allows me to flag comments, and bring things to the attention of Newsgator. This is a good thing.

The feature at the user end works well, there are no problems with the clicking, and it is easy to read and understand the prompts.

From the user end, it would be useful to know if a specific comment has or has not been reported. Perhaps this is already in the system, and not yet visible. As an added bonus, perhaps there is a system that will track how many times that a specific comment has been flagged, and the reason for the flag.

III. Comment Replies

Comment Replies are easy. They work well. It's easy to quickly use NewsgatorOnline Comments Reply feature. Each comment only allows one-level of reply. I was unable to make a "reply-to-a-reply", or a third-level of discussion. Perhaps this is only possible with someone else discussion.

I do like the fact that there are only two levels of comments, not infinitely-embedded. This can be someone confusing like we see in Kos where there deeply embedded comments.

Maybe with time we'll see nested comments, with a setting features that allows the Yahoo-like e-mail weave: Where a particular comment-response can be adjusted based on use preferences:

A. Inverse order, oldest to newest;
B. Option to click on a comment and ignore someone;
C. Option to click on a comment and mark it as read, and not to repeat;
D. Option to click on a comment and flag it for revisiting
E. Option to have a specific comment reappear on a specific date/time in the future for reconsideration, or revisiting.

IV. Something I'm Watching: Comment Notification In Newsgator Online Comments

Given the online comment feature recently started, a couple of things came to mind, which I'll be watching: Comment notification on already read items.

If someone else makes a comment in the NewsgatorOnline feed in a comment from a long time ago (many months ago), but I have "refreshed" all the Feed items to mark them as "I have read this," how will I know when someone is making a comment in something I have already read?

A. Will Newsgator Online Comments re-publish that specific-feed-item I already read, and alert me to a new comment, so that I can read it?

B. Is there some sort of override system so that I can choose to ignore old comments on things that I’ve already read?

C. Is there a double-override so that I can only accept old-feed-items that have new comments, and ignore everything else that is old or I have clicked on as having read?

D. Is there something else that might be happening that I don't know about? Would it be possible to include in your site-presentation (on the opening screen) a link to the new feature, with some commentary? (Perhaps I missed something obvious and there is a link).

V. Problem With HTML-Link

It is very easy to post links manually in the Newsgator Online Comment. When I manually enter the code it is fine. When I use the online link-tool within the comments, there is a problem. I attempted to post a link into the box, it accepted it fine; when I said, “OK,” I was expecting either a prompt to add a comment for the title; or for the link to appear in the Online Comment Box. This did not occur. It looks as though there is some sort of “cache” issue, whereby the data is accepted, but is not posted.

If I manually post the HTML-code, without the tool, linking works fine to external HTML. The link opens fine without any problem using a new window. I was also able to successfully open the link in the same window; arrive at the desired destination; then return using the back-space in the browser to the original Newsgator Screen where I left. This is very good coding, it doesn’t take me back to the home screen, but where I left. This is very difficult to do on a first-round of testing and demonstration. Good job.

VI. Bold and Italics

The Newsgator Online Commenting accepts HTML for bold and italics. The preview screen correctly shows the HTML text. Once the text is published, the HTML-enclosed text disappears, and the HTML-changes that were visible in the preview are not visible.

This “unable to see text”-problem occurs with both the manual changes to the HTML, and the auto-buttons within Newsgator Online Commenting.

All text unconnected to the HTML is fine. [You can see this in the Newsgator Online Buzz Feed where I have left entries.]

For a sample of what these comments look like, visit Newsgator Online Buzz Feed, and see this entry:



Mudtesting's 3 Comments On Newsgator Online Buzz


The Abuse Can Continue - washingtonpost.com
9/23/2006 1:54:10 PM [NewsGator: The Latest Buzz]
The Abuse Can Continue - washingtonpost.com

295 incoming links

3 comments [These three are mine; I put some explanations into the feed to show you want I was doing, and the problems I was having.]




VII. Message Reporting

I have tested out the reporting features, and have self-reported on my messages in the Newsgator Online Buzz Comment Feed. If someone wants to send me some messages on the feed, or if you want to report my messages as "Spam" to test that feature out, go ahead. Let’s see how long it takes for Newsgator to review my comments, and how the deleted comments are handled: Do they delete everything, including the header; or just the content?

VIII. Other Languages

Also, for those of you who think that this online commentary is "just something else everyone has," it's actually difficult. Not all the Newsgator Online editions have it; I checked the other languages, and only the American version has the online commenting features.

If you’re reading this blog in another language, or your native language is non-English and you’re using Newsgator Online in non-English, you can easily see the online commenting feature. Here’s how: Log into the American-English version (choose the American Flag) and you'll see the comment feature in the feeds. Not sure when the other versions will get the update and comment feature.

IX. Followup To Comments

When I attempted to revisit the NewsgatorOnline Comment Buzz Feed, to visit the Comments I posted, I was unable to see the old comments when I pressed the "show older posts" option.

The fact that it is difficult (impossible?) to see the older posts in the Newsgator Online Buzz Comment Feed where there are older comments, may have something to do with the lack of use.

I will not be able to provide any feedback on how the reported changes to the above commentary do or do not work. I have no way that I am aware to review the original comments I have placed in the Newsgator Online Comment System.


Conclusion

I am very impressed with the NewsgatorOnline COmmenting. It is very easy to use, the coding behind the features is very seamless, and the Java-options intergrate very well.

I will look forward to seeing how other users comment on the features, and how other users are able to interface and interact with the Newsgator Online Comments.

Rating: Good. I will increase this to an [ Excellent ] when I can look at old comments in the Newsgator Oline comment feed, and when the minor HTML-linking and formatting issues are resolved. When Newsgator includes a Comment Alert sytem I will increase the rating to an [ Outstanding ].

Follow-up

After considering what NewsgatorOnline staff might be confronted with, I considered some of their possible questions. I share with you the imaginary dialog that NewsgatorOnline Staff might discuss on the Commenting Feature, and my uninformed, uneducated responses and thoughts.

What Might Be Some Reasons Newsgator Users Are Not Commenting?

There are two broad reasons, one technical, and the second human factors. Let's consider the human factors aspect. When I first noticed the comment feature, I was looking at a feed I created and am the only subscriber to. At first, I thought the online commenting feature might be an interesting way to record my notes, and reactions. When I noticed I could not delete my comments or adjust them, I reconsidered.

My first widely accessible use of the commenting feature was on a well known feed, the Newsgator Buzz. I don't normally subscribe to the feed, and I simply look for interesting links on the NewsgatorOnline margin.

Here's the technical aspect. In the case of the NewsgatorOnline, there are over 14,000 feed subscribers. In order to comment on a feed that I'm not subscribed to I have to find the feed, upload it, and check my index, review the feed, and then comment. Consider the alternative to commenting: Simply go to the blog and post.

From a purely theoretical perspective, commenting online is one of two ways:

1. Finding a blog, and posting comments; or

2. Using Newsgator online, then commenting there.

From the perspective of someone who may not know anything about RSS feeds, aggregators, much less Newsgator, the reason that people aren't using NewsgatorOnline to comment, is that they're still figuring on what to say on the blogs, much less comment. Most RSS developers take it for granted that bloggers know about RSS, and Newsgator. In practice, a new blogger will spend time where they want to spend time: Where their content is, make updates, comment, interact with readers. Blogger will tend to spend more time where there are more people; where there are more comments, bloggers will spend more time, and be more likely to post comments.

Contrast that with NewsgatorOnline comments. Currently, there are essentially no comments. This will only change when high profile bloggers publicly state, "I'm going to see you at Newsgator where there is information you can't get anywhere else." However, to say that would mean to exclude the new people, narrow their audience to only RSS Newsreaders. If you consider a blog that may get 100,000 hits per day, and have only 13,000 subscribers, only a portion of those feed subscribers -- perhaps 20%, or 2600 -- may be using Newsgator. Immediately, the blogger, by commenting at Newsgator things, "I'm duplicating things, or I'm excluding the rest, possibly 94%."

Again, consider the learning curve it took to get people familiarly with the XML-button, which changed shape. RSS-XML is in a transition phase. New people are entering the RSS world without the development-testing, and can use or not use RSS aggregators as either a workable product, or something they don't use at all. However, the notion of making comments on the Aggregator is new. But contrast this with the blogging concept for new people: Make comments, blog, and maybe hear about RSS.

A new person, who has never blogged before, doesn't know about RSS, much less an aggregator. NewsgatorOnline is three steps removed. In my case, it's taken me two years to feel comfortable integrating my private blog with how I use or don't use RSS; and then effectively interact with other bloggers on non-RSS issues while using RSS and search engines. Developers who work with RSS everyday are generally at the other end of the spectrum: For them, RSS-XML is a no-brainer, everyone should be using it.

With respect to Newsgator Online Comments, there are two challenges for the new RSS user: First, figuring out how to use or not use RSS; then getting comfortable with feeds, subscriptions; then deciding whether to interact more with other online users using their blog, online forums, discussion groups, or another method. The second challenge is to then transition from the non-RSS world to RSS-commenting, which in my view, will take substantially more time than the learning curve associated from the transition from blogging to online commenting. Again, the issue isn't simply the sophistication of the technology, but the levels to which someone would have to go beyond blogs, into RSS, then an aggregator, then finally choosing to select to comment in an aggregator, as opposed to an online comment with a blog.

Here's a though on how to accelerate this learning curve. Make it easy, inviting, and provide more reassurances. For example, if I have a comment feed, I can easily delete, change, edit, or modify my comment. However, with Newsgator, it's the opposite: Once I post, it's stuck there.

Also, when I post in a blog, I choose what I post along with my ID. In NewsgatorOnline, most people probably chose their member name without any thought that that member name might be publicly known. The issue is: Some people may be concerned with privacy, and do not feel comfortable exposing their NewsgatorOnline sign-in name with others.

A solution to this problem would be to permit NewsgatorOnline users to choose what their public name looks like, like Yahoo IM does, ensuring that their primary sign-in name is not publicly known.

Also, another factor affecting whether people do or do not use NewsgatorOnline is that a given blog may have multiple feeds. For example, I have a feedburer feed, which extracts from another feed. However, readers of my feed have the option to use the blog feed, feedburer, or convert the feed into something else. As I understand NewsgatorOnline Commenting, the comments are not associated with a blog, but with an individual feed. For my site which may have six different feeds floating around with the same content, any given feed that an individual subscriber may choose to comment in, may have only 1/6 of the comments. The other versions of my blog feed may have other comments, but there's no interchange. [I'm not positive on this, but I think I'm correct.]

My overall point is that even if new online blog users were to figure out RSS, transition to an aggregator, then choose Newsgator, they still may never see 80% of the NewsgatorOnline Comments because the other feeds associated with that content may be slightly different.

As a simple model, consider the online 3 network news channels. Combined into one clump, they each have about 8 million views, or about 24 million viewers nightly watching the nightly anchors. Out of the approximately 8 million viewers on CBS, twenty-two [22] people have signed up for the NewsgatorSubscription feed to the CBS’s "Couric and CO" feed. This is an opportunity -- Now would be the time for the Newsgator Online to grow the market share with this new online audience. I suspect the NewsgatorOnlineCommenting feature would get a boost if there was something done to cross-promote the online blog of those networks that are effectively integrating the Network Content, and successfully creating tools that will showcase the CBS content. Bluntly, this means using the aggregator not simply as a means to attract content, but a means to showcase the CBS-related content in a way that CBS viewers would find worthwhile, and complements their experience with the news: Something that is not labor intensive, requires work, but something that is the opposite: A one step click and BOOM!. . . added features, and content to easily integrate the Aggregator, the CBS comments, and the online content from Katie Couric and then provide a similar backchannel integration of content for other viewers to see, use, and the CBS producer to quickly use. In other words, if the NewsgatorOnline aggregator became a platform that would help the content providers do their job [however they define it], then Newsgator becomes a tool for the Executive to not only showcase, but integrate as a production tool to assist the viewers and increase their market share. They key would be to understand how the networks use the RSS system, and could use new RSS system within their real-time Newsgator, as they deem appropriate, then ensure that online aggregator complements, does not duplicate, but effectively works within their existing and evolving journalism practices.

A solution to this would be to determine how to attach the comments to the original source, not simply the feed. Another solution might be to permit users some flexibility in the sign-in/posting a name, as I discussed above. Also, a solution might be to promote the comments in the NewsgatorOnlineBuzz with sample comments people can read. Or, encourage the high volume bloggers to publicly comment on the NewsgatorOnline, and provide a fast way to transition from their online comments, to the Halsocan, then into Newsgator. This may include a method of having a seamless interface of comments through all the aggregators, commenting features, and blogs, similar to a common Instant message protocol through AIM, Yahoo, and MSM.

As it stands, it’s interesting that NewsgatorOnline has comments. The issue is whether this becomes a separate feature, or one that can be seamlessly integrated with all RSS-related products so that the comment-feeds themselves become importable into NewsgatorOnline Comments; and NewsgatorOnlineComents becomes exportable to a given platform like blogger or Halsocan, and can be integrated with the public access.

Based on my understanding of how data transfers, it appears to be a doable task. The issue is whether the tools, as they relate to blogs (excluding RSS and aggregators), are or are not easier than using the Aggregator to accomplish what the blogs already do: Integrate comments and online content.

If there is seamless, easy, and transparent way for the online comments from a blog to be imported with that feed into Newsgator; and then automatically reposted to all external sources related to that feed content, and comment feed, I think the public will find out about Newsgator Online.

Consider RSS pings and track backs. Again, those are not complicated for those who like using them; however they require something other than a simple blog, but they are workable. The same idea would work with the NewsgatorOnline: If there was a way to have a transparent RSS-like interface which seamlessly incorporated blog content, blog comments, pings/track backs, and aggregator Comments, then readers could get information in the comments that certain content was from NewsgatorOnlineComments.

Another solution to this publicity issue is to reconsider what RSS was like when it first started. Each company had RSS-buttons. Today, those are frowned upon, and we see the common RSS-symbol. Perhaps what's needed is a version 2.0 of the NewsgatorOnline Button: But with a special notice that says there are comments. This may be a button that people put on their blog or can include in their daily posts that quickly communicates to readers of the blog that there are NewsgatorOnline Comments in another location.

As it stands, a new blog user doesn't have to be bothered with either RSS or an aggregator. The only reason for mentioning the RSS button was to notify an RSS user that there was site feed. However, if there are comments in another location, this isn't simply an issue of someone passively absorbing content, but it means that the reader is making a choice whether to have access to additional content that is otherwise not available. The current subscriptions only deal with online content from the publisher, or the comment feeds; the third subscription is now something that is the opposite: It perhaps a subscriber-reader to turn into a publisher on an aggregator as opposed to a blog or comment feed. This isn't news to the developers.

What is news is that the way RSS subscriptions originally started was based on the premise of pulling content to the user. Now, the process is the reverse: The subscription isn't for the reader to read content; now the process is for the reader to push content back to the publisher, but do so within a narrow window of a select aggregator, as opposed to the broad, open access of an online block. Again, to an RSS developer there is no difference. However, to someone who has been sold on RSS as a pull-read-strategy, the RSS approach required with an integrated commenting system is intuitively backwards: Pushing content (currently) to an even narrower audience of none, if not few.

The question becomes: What is a solution, and is the way that RSS-aggregators were initially introduced going to work. In my view, because the publication-model is the reverse, the assumptions behind the way that a specific RSS-aggregator model was introduced may or may not be consistent. Again, it may, over time, prove to be the same. However, in my view, the appropriate model for comparison isn't the RSS-Aggregator model, nor blogs, nor comment feeds, but the Haloscan-comment feed as it integrates with the RSS reader. Haloscan comment feeds are closer, and this model was most close to the Rojo system on online commenting.

The question becomes: What is the added benefit, above and beyond blogging and commenting, that will entice an online blogger to work with the NewsgatorOnline, and still enjoy the ease of blogging and commenting. In my view, the answer is not to isolate the Comments to a particular aggregator, but to do the opposite: Make the online comments more fluid, easier to attach to a feed, and make it something that is universally accessible more easily than is currently available through blogs and comments.

Ideally, a blog should have attached with its feed the content; in practice, we have the opposite: Content is narrowly attached in segment to separate feeds: One feed for comments, a second feed for content, then (perhaps) another stream of data through the pings and track backs, and site stats. Ideally, what if a site feed had, like HD-radio, all the feed-content (comments, site stats, other info) within that single feed, and then the user-reader could decide which channel when that feed to use. Ideally, this site feed would be common, regardless whether the end-aggregator was using the XML, atom, RSS, or the feedburner-version.

Clearly, what I have proposed above is quite different than what exists. The issue is whether the above will be something the RSS-XML community wants to take, and in the short run whether this addresses the NewsgatorOnline Commenting traffic. Bluntly, no: It will take too much time to develop the above model. The issue is whether the venture capitalists wants to spend money creating a seamless RSS-feed system that has multiple channels within the feed, and have multi-platform seamless integration: Analogous to watching CBS News on ABC. I can't answer that. Clearly, the objective will be to put eyeballs on a particular platform, medium, comment stream, or data.

In the short run, I thought I'd share with you some other ideas how to address the NewsgatorOnline commenting publicity. Perhaps there could be a common/standard button or signaling system in blogger/content publishers that there is a Newsgator Online comment system with a, "for other thoughts and comments, attached this feed to NewsgatorOnline." Given the variations in feeds, a specific-primary feed would need a message of, "To join the discussion, add this feed to Newsgator."

As stated above, other solutions include, getting high-volume bloggers to say, "I'll see you on Newsgator." or "I'm shutting of Haloscan, I'll see you on Newsgator."

Perhaps what’s needed is an aggregator for the aggregators: Something that commonly interfaces with seamless data interface a system to exchange feeds, OPML files, content, comments, pings, track backs, and other aggregator-related information.

Another attractive thing about Halsocan is the ability to control content and posting. This isn't possible (yet) with Newsgator online comments. A content publisher has control of the content, edit control, and ability to block content, which will be something that would make the transition from Haloscan to NewsgatorOnline attractive. It would be desirable to be able to control content in the NewsgatorOnlinen Comment to allow deletions, and permit the Feed-publisher, not just Newsgator, to control whether something was or was not deleted. As the volume increases, I'm not clear how the NewsgatorOnline staff is going to be able to individually manage the online feeds; or whether this is something that should be delegated back to the online content provider. Because someone else, not the primary feed owner-publisher, is making decisions about what will or will not be acceptable, that tends to be less of an incentive to transition from relying only on a blogging-commenting tool.

Overall, in the long run, if the XML-RSS community decide to fully support an integrated feed-system, whereby multiple channels could be embedded in a single feed URI; and that URI was seamlessly able to transport content, comments, pings, track backs, site state data, and other information between any RSS-XML platform, search generator, or tool, then you've got something there. .

Well, that's about it. Hopefully you'll see that I gave this commenting process some thought and can appreciate this is not something that will quickly happen. I hope you may consider some of my suggestions and whether this is a technical solution within NewsgatorOnline, or something that the RSS-XML community considers, either way I'll look forward to seeing what happens.

Good luck, and thank you for considering my views.

Another Idea

Another reason why people may not be using comments, is that they have no idea which of their feeds peopel or are not commenting on.

Consider the NewsgatorOnline left panel: My feeds shows me how many new entries there are in the feed. What's needed: Is a second set of data with that feed.

Just to the right of the number of new entries, include the number of new comments.

Example:

MY FEEDS

MUDTEST FEED: (14,117) [3]

The fist number is (black), which shows the number of new items.

The second number is [green], which shows the number of new comments in Newsgator. (This will change when Newsgator developes an aggregator that integrates with all public version of a feed, and can interface with any commenting sytem.

[ END COMMENTS: Remainder of Comment is Duplicate, Problem With My Blog, not the feed.]
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