There are lots of “conversation platforms” out there, and more arriving daily. FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader (now that it has commenting functionality); you name it. These systems are all great for getting your content out there and exposing more people to it, but the problem (in my opinion) is that it becomes really hard to follow the conversations on all of these different platforms. They all generally act as either a kind of content aggregation platform (e.g. FriendFeed/Google Reader), or as a unique content creation/delivery system, which is heavily used to redistribute existing content (e.g. Twitter). With all this aggregating going on, why not do the same thing in reverse? Mashable has just started doing something along these lines and that prompted me to finally publish this draft post.
This blog (and literally millions of others) are powered by WordPress. I write my content here and then potentially tweet about it, my feed gets published to FriendFeed, etc. I consider my blog the “central hub” of my online content production. My content gets distributed out into the wider web and ends up all over the place. Conversations occur at many of those locations, so why not aggregate those conversations back to my blog? As far as I’m concerned my blog is and should be the canonical version of my content. This system could leverage the various APIs and feeds provided by other systems, pulling back conversation related to one of my posts and storing it locally using WordPress’s comment system. Upon presentation on my blog, I would then include an icon or text message against each comment declaring where it happened (“on Twitter”, “via FriendFeed”, etc).
Off the top of my head, I’d suggest that part of this system would require you to automatically generate a shortened version of the permalink for your post on as many of the TinyURL type services as possible, then store those URLs against each post. These become your keys for identifying comments/conversations relating to that post. Now you go out to each service (where you don’t already have some sort of programmatic relationship that’s more reliable/simple) and locate all conversations mentioning any of your URLs. Those conversations would then be aggregated back to your blog, and published on that specific post as a comment. With some voodoo, you could even theoretically maintain threading if it was supported on the other systems. This part might require the addition of a wp_commentmeta table though (which has been discussed repeatedly in the WordPress developer community).
I took a quick look around at some of the more popular “conversation-generating” services/platforms to see how possible this would be. This means I’m looking for an API or a feed of some sort which can be access and parsed to locate relevant conversations. Here’s what I came up with:
- Twitter: Search API should allow you to easily locate all tweets containing a URL. You could also quite easily add the ability to reply to a user on your blog and simultaneously post your reply as an @reply on Twitter (the first 140 characters anyway). TweetSuite adds some of this functionality to WordPress already.
- Facebook: Walled Garden! Their APIs do not currently allow you to pull comments back from their system. There has been a lot of talk about Facebook opening up more though, so hopefully this will change soon.
- FriendFeed: Their API is extensive, and seems to allow everything needed. There’s even a WordPress plugin that already does something similar.
There’s even the potential on some of these platforms to reply to the comments left (for example) on FriendFeed, via my blog, but cross-posting that reply back over to FriendFeed to keep the conversation alive.
What do you think about this idea? Which other services would you like to be able to aggregate conversations back from? Drop me some ideas in the comments below.