Blog Commenting is Weak

Am I missing something, or is blog commenting still immature? I read about 80 blogs currently, and do it mostly through an RSS reader (Thunderbird), as it’s the only way to keep up with that volume. It’s straightforward to keep up with the posts themselves - they appear in a separate list for each blog, typically sorted by time posted (at least that’s the way Thunderbird presents them).

Commenting, on the other hand, is a different matter. On my own blog it’s not too bad: if someone posts a comment about one of my posts, or in reply to comments I’ve made, I get notified by email, because I’m the owner of the blog, and Wordpress (which seems pretty close to the state-of-the-art in blogging software) sends an email to tell me that’s happened. Even on my own blog, though, there is no notion of hierarchy to comments: they just appear in a stream (in other words, there is no notion of ‘replying’ stored with a comment). This can make pulling out longer threads of conversation tricky.

If I make a comment on someone else’s blog, though, I get no notification at all. Many blogs provide no way of keeping up with the comments: I have to go and check all the posts I’ve been interested in, on the web, to check whether anyone has added anything to them. Even when the blogging software provides an RSS feed for comments, like Wordpress does, the comments for all the posts are lumped together - there is no separation by the post they apply to - primarily, I think, because neither RSS nor Atom provide the notion of hierarchies in the entries syndicated. This also means I have to subscribe to two RSS feeds for blogs where I’m interested in both the posts and the comments.

Currently, these things aren’t a major issue for me, more an annoyance, as I tend to only comment on (and be interested in the comments on) a few blogs, but if I spent more of my time reading blogs, this would really begin to get on my nerves. I also avoid commenting sometimes because I think I’ll forget to check the reply. This is what makes me wonder whether I’ve missed something: how do other people cope with this? Maybe I’m expecting too much: I have an mental model whereby I want the RSS reader to act in a similar manner as a newsgroup reader by notifying me of the new comments, attached to the post or comment that they apply to. Maybe that’s more than the designers of RSS had in mind.

Comments

A good point... What we really need, as you say, is support in RSS or Atom to allow the feed reader to pull comments associated with the article. That way I can read all the comments as well as the story. But when you get a trackback, the question then becomes "where do I reply"...
I've just noticed (or to put it another way, I didn't do my research) that Wordpress does provide a feed for each post, if you want it - you have to bring the permalink up then find the tiny 'RSS 2.0' feed link hidden at the bottom, before the comments. This is better than I thought - but is still far from ideal - I don't want to have to subscribe to another feed each time I post a comment to someone's blog. Thought I should point it out in the interests of balance, though :)
cocomment.com looks like it would do the job well, but of course it is another thing to remember to check, so for the time being I'll leave it alone until I have a more compelling need. I agree, dps, trackbacks are good - that's exactly what Andy from The lost outpost has done here. The question I now have to answer is, do I comment on what he's said on my blog, his blog, or both? Argh... :) I can't help but feel that the right way to fix this is via hierarchical support in Atom. But there must be an exisiting solution, surely?
[...] Andrew Ferrier notes that blog commenting is weak - and I happen to agree with him. If a comment is left on my own WordPress.com blog, I get notified by email. If I go off and comment on another blog (say, something hosted on Blogger or Spaces) then I have to remember to revisit that post later. [...]
Indeed - needs work. I like trackbacks better than comments as it allows you to have more of a voice, the original author can then respond to your post either by commenting on your (reply) post or a new top level post + trackback on their own site, but its sooo klunky.
I'd love a good answer to this too. I frequently make a comment somewhere and then immediately forget about it. I'm aware of a site called cocomment.com (I think) but I didn't explore it very much. I, also, can't help thinking that I've missed something though.