Coblogging: Spontaneous aggregation
In my fairly short experience with blogging, I’ve noticed one thing about these new creatures of the Web: they are both connecting and isolating. The are connecting in the sense that anyone can read your stuff and attach their opinions about it, but they are also isolating, because your stuff typically sits in its own blog silo, all alone until some aggregating service graciously decides to let your posts socially mingle with the others. Folks over at weblogs.asp.net and other blog-hosting establishments have this advantage in the form of the front page feed, but what about the rest of us?
Also, the blogs are horrible for sustaining an online conversation: the comments are given such a third-world status that they are easily lost in contrast with the main post. As a solution, bloggers use pingbacks, but those are hard to track navigationally, taking some time to reconstruct the original flow of discussing. Take our recent exchange with Bertrand, Nikhil, and Peter for example. All three of us posted our own posts in our own blogs, and responded in comments of the others’ posts, which created a fairly messy pool of opinions with hard-to-discern direction or conclusion (of course, you know that in this case Nikihl gets the final word, so backtracking might help :).
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to organize these posts into a forum-like threaded discussion?
Enter coblog: a way to bring blogs together — as needed.
Imagine that at the time of entering the post, you can designate it as the coblog root. Coblog root looks and acts just like an ordinary post, except maybe it has a “coblog” icon next to it (or some other visual hint of this sort).
Suppose your (friend|colleague), after reading your insightful (prose|poem), gets all (upset|excited|riled-up|flabbergasted) and decides to open a discussion on the topic of your post.
At this point, this (great|well-known|total-nobody) acquaintance of yours opens their blog and writes up a (heated|supportive|contemplative) response to your original post. At the end, (he|she) specifies that this is not an ordinary post, but a coblog post.
Coblog post requires a URL to the coblog root or any other coblog post. Using this URL, your buddy’s blog server determines location of the coblog root and sends it a TrackBack to notify of the new post in the coblog.
Instead of (or maybe in addition to) just sending a URL of the actual post in the TrackBack, the server sends the feed URL for all coblog posts that correspond to the specified coblog root on this server. Think of it as a variation on a category feed.
Upon receiving a TrackBack, the coblog host (the server which hosts the coblog root) adds the URL, sent with the TrackBack, to the coblog roll. There may be some moderation functionality in place (no, I don’t accept coblog feed from “MaskedBandit34252” — sorry, you look like a spammer to me) to prevent any server from being able to feed any posts to your coblog.
Coblog roll serves as a list of all potential sources of posts for the coblog. Each coblog root has its own coblog roll.
All of the coblog posts, including the coblog root, will be available as part of the aggregated feed, which always originates from the coblog host.
Now, after the discussion had started, both your and your comrade’s blogs will prominently feature a link to the coblog in the (sidebar|top bar|inconspicuous drop-down menu) of your home page. Clicking on this link will reveal the discussion as a chronological list of coblog posts, starting from the coblog root. Those participants who don’t have their own blogs could use comments as usual.
Naturally, coblogs should not be limited to just two people. The purpose of the coblogs is to facilitate discussion, and a good discussion often takes more than two (voices|flames).
So, what do you think? This is just a concept, but I think it has a pretty good promise.