Newsmashing, del.icio.us and comment aggregation

Responding to an article in Slate about Newsmashing, Alan Taylor wrote a post entitled “newsmashing with delicious” talking about the possibility of annotating web pages by posting comments in del.icio.us’ ‘extended’ field. These annotations could then be retrieved by any visitor to the site using a bookmarklet that will retrieve the del.icio.us entries for a given URL.

As someone points out in the comments on that post, there is some resemblance between this and the ‘technorati this’ bookmarklet that lets you quickly find incoming links to a given URL. Unlike technorati, this method makes it easy to quickly comment on a URL without having to make use of your own site. (and you can of course then retrieve your del.icio.us RSS feed and use it on your site). While this doesn’t allow the precision annotations of individual page elements discussed in the original Slate piece, it could well be an interesting tool.

It rather feels as though ways of interacting with others’ pages are becoming a key area of conversation, whether that be this discussion or recent talk about the future (or death of) trackback. Even where it comes to blogs that allow comments directly on the page, there are still many advantages to being able to make your comments through a service that provides you with ongoing control of your content, even if there is the problem that has been raised in online fora for some time that we are not used to conversations where participants can easily change the public record of their contributions.

For the author of an article, on the other hand, is is far more convenient to be able to assemble all comments (or at least records of comments) in one place, rather than having to employ a multitude of searches to discover the general response to what you’ve been saying. Technorati’s ability to search for partial matches and to provide a feed of the results allows me to keep track of all links to jystewart.net that they monitor, no matter how deep that link might be. Del.icio.us has yet to develop that functionality and it would be extremely time consuming to check on each individual piece that I write.

Perhaps what is needed is a tool that can be easily employed to monitor the various commenting services and to aggregate the data found. With a clean API, new services could be added as they appear and simplicity could be maintained. (there is, of course, the ongoing spam issue…). Such a tool could then be integrated with the conversation models I described in this post?

Perhaps I need to eke out some time to work on such things….

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2 comments

  1. This stuff has been around for quite some time now. Annotea and other various annotation engines were cumbersome, buggy and impossible for the layperson to figure out. Glad to see things moving forward. Why mashup a tag when you can mashup a site with Greasemonkey?

  2. Is there some mechanism for using greasemonkey to share those mashups or make it a social process? I haven’t seen that yet, but it would be great.

    What a tool like del.icio.us allows is an explicitly social annotation method which isn’t tied in with any particular browser tool. Greasemonkey definitely has a lot of potential, but until it’s more tool-agnostic it won’t be a complete solution.

    The key point of the use of del.icio.us here, as I understood it, was to step beyond purely using the site for tagging but to make fuller use of its ‘extended’ field for comments. Certainly for annotation it’s only really effective if we have permalinks which operate on pretty small blocks of content.

    My main interest in this piece is in talking about how we begin to bring together the increasing options for ‘commenting’ on blogs. Blogs are a good test-bed and tend to make good use of permalinks.