I had a fascinating conversation with Khris Loux of Echo yesterday about the state of commenting in social media. We discussed how there is a lot less commenting on original blog posts these days and that much of the conversation around blog posts and other social objects is happening on various social networks. There may be a general tendency to respond via the medium you received the information rather than commenting on the original post. For example, if Dave sends out a tweet about a post and I have something to say about it, I find myself more likely to respond to Dave on Twitter then to the author on the original post.
To call Echo a comment platform is an oversimplification. It has the features one would expect from an outsourced comment service, like threading, spam-protection, moderation, content filters, etc.). However, the really interesting part is the social networking integration. Before speaking with Khrys, I might have dismissed this integration as a “share this” button and not thought about it more. Echo captures and aggregates the publicly available conversation that occurs in response to the sharing means that content producers can easily collect the conversation about their work that happens elsewhere. It also collects ratings, diggs, trackbacks and likes, as well. The syndication of comments over social networks also has the benefit of distributing the link to the content via commenters friends/followers and thereby increasing the exposure with each comment or rating.
There is actually a social behaviour story here as well. When TechCrunchIT piloted the service they found that when they forced authentication via a social network before commenting was allowed, the quality of the comments increased considerably. This makes sense, since if my comment is going to be posted to my Facebook or Twitter stream for all my friends and colleagues to see, I will definitely craft my thoughts more carefully. This is a much better way of dissuading trolls as well.
I really like that Echo is tying these many distributed conversations back to the orignal content, which makes one aspect of monitoring social media a little more integrated and easier to manage. The fact that it also helps to reduce comments from trolls and further distribute the content also makes it an important component of a social media syndication strategy.
Re: “there is a lot less commenting on original blog posts these days and that much of the conversation around blog posts”, I wonder if there are real stats on that trend? (My guess is that HuffPost would probably tip that balance). What’s beneficial is that all these comments are re-aggregated seamlessly.
The other point you made on measuring “attention data” aka “social engagement” is also important and an emerging trend. It’s the new PageRank, but unfortunately those metrics are still scattered and not standardized.