I would be interested to see what would happen if someone reconfigured blog comments as follows.
- Don’t call them “comments” call it “related pages” or “link annotations” or “Community Links”
- People have 140 characters and a link box at the end of the page.
- The way link annotation works is this:
- You, the reader, read the post
- You either find a related page or you write a page in your own space related to the post
- You plug in the URL to the URL box
- You have 140 characters to explain how the linked page responds, contradicts, or expands on the post you are annotating
Ideally you’d also have a mechanism to encourage reusable pages, e. g. instead of linking to a page that says “Here’s why Post X on CompStat is Wrong”, you’d link to a page that doesn’t mention Post X explicitly, but itemizes the reasons why sociologists no longer take the Broken Windows Theory CompStat’s model was built on seriously.
This linked page could be referenced from many articles, on other subjects, with the 140 character text of the annotation providing the localized segue, e.g. “CompStat was adopted in the heyday of Broken Windows Theory, a theory since discredited. See [[Broken Windows Theory Broken]].” where Broken Windows Theory Broken linked to your page (or the page of someone else).
The way the resuse incentive could work is this — if multiple people link the page from multiple other pages, the annotation floats to the top and a visual indicator shows that this page is in general use, not just an extended ranty reply to the post. If multiple people link it, but all form this page, it shows it’s considered a useful reply, but maybe specific. If one person links it and only from this page, it’s maybe a comment.
You could build a better set of incentives, perhaps, but that would get you started.
What would happen? I don’t know. Maybe people would still route around restrictions and find ways to use it to comment instead of extend and expand on things.
On the other hand, maybe a host of things would change, especially if the commenting had central analytics. You’d be able to generate a set of suggested reading for users based off what they had read, essentially crowdsourced. People could rate annotation links for relevance, and the results would form something close to a semantic map of the web. The 140 characters wouldn’t give you the Semantic Web, but it’d provide more signal and less noise than current approaches to linking and authoring do.
I’m focussed on federated wiki right now, so I’m not working on this — this is really just a sliver of what fedwiki does.
But I’m curious if someone has tried this. It seems to me the same way that Tumblr revolutionized blog commenting by “post-in-your-own-stream” behavior this set of small restrictions and incentives could radically reinvent the comment as a annotated, semantically dense link, which has all sorts of implications for both discourse and analytics. Has anyone seen anything like this? What am I missing?
(See the earlier post on Reader as Link Author for why reader-produced links are important.)
UPDATE: And we’re on our way!