We Need to Implement a Comments (or Conversations) Microformat

September 26, 2008

Work has already begun to do this (see the Microformats site for more) and infact if you view the source of my WordPress blog (for those posts with comments) you will see that it has already in place.

If you were to think about the Internet like a Librarian thinks about the Library you would go nuts. Not only would the amount of information out there scare you into submission, but you also have to consider the types of information.  If you went into the local library and grabbed an index card from the Microfiche catalog and placed it into the Microfilm catalog the librarian would quickly and quietly escort you to the door and ask you to not return again.

The organization of information by type is just as important as indexing content by topic.

The Conversation
We are now having conversations everywhere.  Some popular places that I have conversations are:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Twitter
  • FriendFeed
  • Facebook
  • SocialMedian

And if you go onto FriendFeed you will see that there are millions of places to have conversations.  Yes, Millions.

Today a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook.  The article outlined how people are being misinformed by mainstream media.  The content of the link prompted a conversation between myself, the user who posted the link and one of his friends.  The new Facebook design allowed us to have this discussion inside each of our News Feed Home pages.  This was great but in about 2 days this conversation will be all but lost and no one outside of our small group will ever be able to offer their opinion or reference the conversation.

A little later on I read a post by Jeremiah Owyang on Twitter asking users to answer the following question

Debate: should the debates continue this Friday? #debatedebate

Being newer to FriendFeed than Jeremiah’s closer friends, I decided that I would reply via Twitter.  After a visit to FriendFeed (which automatically aggregates information from many Social Networking sites like Twitter, Google, Flickr, Blogs etc…) I saw that everyone responded to Jeremiah’s post there.  FriendFeed also provides an easy “comments” section for almost any type of aggregated content.

As conversations move from the traditional Blog Post, Forms and even Twitter – how can we capture that content in a useful way?


Are Images Any Different?

If you told the 10 year ago me that I would be able to type text like “American Flag” into a search engine and find all of the images that have something to do with an American Flag, I would have told you were crazy.  In fact, I might have even asked you to quietly leave.

When you think about what an image is – at some level it is a perfect Microformat and provides all the information needed to be fully indexed by most intelligent search engines today.

I think that if we implemented a common Microformat for comments (or conversations) we could begin to track conversations on any platform and treat them like a type of content (or information).  We could then aggregate this content in special search engines.

The result would be a glimpse into the conversations going on at any given time.


One Response to “We Need to Implement a Comments (or Conversations) Microformat”

  1. Greg Meyer Says:

    Ron –

    I think the real question here is something like: what does the sum of the conversations I have with my friends look like to the outside world? I think that in the case of Facebook conversations, you may 1) want this conversation to be private 2) not want it to be indexed by the world; or 3) want the conversation to be relevant, but only to a small group of people.

    I think that the microformat “indexing” is already happening by proxy. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Friendfeed make it possible to follow a large number of conversations among close and “loosely tied” friends without a lot of effort to tag content, figure out what format it should be, or restrictive templates that force people to tag “pictures” or “conversations” or whathaveyou.

    I agree with you that this content needs to be searchable to harness the power of information on the web. I also think that it needs to be so easy to use that people don’t even realize that they are tagging and categorizing and sorting that information. Automatic semantic “sorting” is happening already — and it’s so much better than 10 years ago it’s just sick — and I think we will look back on the search engines of 2008 by 2018 in much the way we look back at the Excite and Altavista and Webcrawler today. The advent of Google Onebox like searches that combine deep linking (like you’re proposing) with traditional searching will mean new ways of mashing up information that we can’t even imagine today.

    I for one can’t wait for the first usable Voice/Mobile search mixup personal agent to do my bidding 😉

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