Feed readers should show comments

One thing I’ve noticed lately is that I read fewer comments. It isn’t that strange really: I read blogs using a feed reader and it doesn’t show a links to comments. I see a couple of reasons why comments are not cared for in feed readers:

Why not #1: Feeds are meant to be fast

Many subscribe to feeds to be able to get news before everyone else. And getting things fast means getting it before anyone else have commented. Why add a lot of zeros below each feed item?

But, it isn’t unusual that I read posts that are a couple of days old. I don’t read my feeds every day, rather every second or third day. In those days there are most likely comments on good posts, and of course I don’t want to miss them. The older a post is, the more likely that it will have interesting comments.

Why not #2: Comments are hard to detect

Perhaps feed readers have a hard time detecting if there are comments to a post or not. Comments are not included in the post, so wouldn’t they have to parse through the feed link for comments?

No, there is a tag called , that’s possible to use in both Atom and RSS (If I’m not mistaken), that gives a link to the comment feed. That means feed readers could easily get the comments too. The best thing here is that all WordPress blogs (and others too) have it already. It’s just a matter of using it!

Why not #3: Each post will be too long!

If there are 50 comments to a post, the item in the feed reader will be too long to read. That would also affect download time and therefore make things slow.

Yes, it will mean downloading more data, but you also get more information. Each feed reader is free to implement comments any way they like, and I doubt it will be to expand the original post with all 50 comments. I little link that expands comments (don’t download any extra data until you expand)? Only show the first five, and a link to the page for more? There’s lots of good options here.

Promote contributions more

Adding comments to your feed serves to promote your user’s contributions even more, and I’m really surprised that not everyone does it. I’m using feed burner for my feed and can therefore use a feed flair (Click your feed / Optimize / FeedFlair / Comment count) to add a link to my comments at the end of the post. That’s a first step.

What would be much better was if feed readers would get better at promoting comments. Could we get them to somehow?

10 responses to “Feed readers should show comments

  1. Just a thought – perhaps it is the comments as a phenomena doesn’t fit into the modern decentralized web..

    I know that people like Jeremy Keith has argued that comments shouldn’t be made at blogs but rather in alternate ways: http://adactio.com/journal/1331

    Perhaps comments should be made at the commenters own blogs and thus be a real part of the blogosphere linked to the commented post through a usual URL-link?

    That way you will automatically get all blogcomments from people whose blogs you follow in a similar fashion to how you will get all comments as well as all entries from people you’re following on jaiku.

    To jump further into the blogosphere you’ll just follow the links in each post.

    Perhaps that’s a bit extreme – but it would at least make it easier to track quality content throughout the blogosphere…

  2. Ahum… blogs will receive far more comments if their feeds were well-formed and allowed the user to choose whether to show the summary / text only version or the full web-version of the post….

    I use Thunderbird as my feed reader and luckely most feeds give me the above choice. With only a few exceptions, I always choose to view the full version which will include the comments.

    Seeing comments elicits comments as you rightfully notice and I comment far more often on blogs which show comments / give me the choice to view the post as if I were viewing the web page.

    Unfortunately I am not given that choice when feeds are routed through feedburner as yours is.
    It is a pet peeve of me, but at the end of the day I think it is the authors who get burned by it.

  3. @Pelle: On wordpress blogs trackbacks (comments on other blogs) and ordinary comments are handled exactly the same. You could of course write a plugin that treats them different but few do that. I would like to argue that it’s just as important to show trackbacks (with real content) as it is to show on-site comments.

    Also, I’m not sure if that’s what you mean, but I would also like it to be easy for new people to contribute, even though I don’t “follow” them. The twitter model is worse at that…

    @Jrf: I see what you mean. I used Thunderbird before, and just like you used to look at the whole page (with design) instead of just some posts. I have no idea how Thunderbird differentiates what blogs to show in full, and what blogs to only show the text from. The link to the full post is there in feedburner feeds too, so I would call that a bug in Thunderbird. I hope they will fix it in the next version.

  4. @Emil: I’m mostly brainstorming but if you look at Jeremy Keith he doesn’t have any trackbacks either – he only shows related posts through Technorati.

    To disconnect comments from blogs and promote them into blog posts of their own can have many benefits. It for example enables more complex relations between it and others posts. One such comment can be related to many sources at once as is often the case when blogs are commenting Swedish media that are using Twingly.

    Both Technorati and Twingly has tools to track such comments and we in Sweden has got the cool Knuff-alternative as well.

  5. This is slightly off-topic. Sorry about that.

    Why do you use feedburner instead of WP’s own feed? A lot of people seem to do this, and I don’t know why.

  6. indeed, it’s harder (and less willing) to read comments of blog posts… in fact, since i started using google reader 2 weeks ago, I only read what’s available in the ready, and prefer not to dig down the rabbit hole.

  7. @Jesper Särnesjö: Because feedburner gives me daily statistics on the number of reader. Really nice.

    @Pelle: I see what you mean, but I still think using both is the best way. If I’m only promoting comments on other’s blogs, how do people with no blog comment?

    @Travis: But would you read them, if they were easier to access?

  8. @Emil: Yeah, one will propably have to keep usual comments until blogs/microblogs/similar becomes as usual as e-mail and IM is today – or one has to make it extremely easy to create a new microblog for the visitor.

    My point was though that perhaps the feed readers shouldn’t put too much of an effort into promoting ordinary blog comments instead of trying to find the comments that has been made elsewhere in the blogosphere?

    For example – what if Google Reader showed you which X feeds that you’re following has commented on the feed entry you’re currently reading and also show you that X entries from feeds you’re not following has commented on the entry as well? Would be really nice and not require to much work to build :)

  9. @Pelle: It really would! WordPress already shows blog links to your blog found on google blogsearch; it wouldn’t be hard to implement that on Google Reader aswell.

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