Jul 21 2007

The Dark Matter of the Blogosphere

I’ve been fascinated with blog comments since I started blogging.  The “blogging is a conversion meme” is a long standing one and the notion of engaging a real community around a blog is fascinating and a lot of fun.

However, the blog commenting infrastructure sucks.  While data entry is fine, authentication and identity are miserable (anyone can be anyone just by entering a name), conversations are generally impossible to manage, blog spam is pervasive, and tracking conversations is difficult.  Oh – and comments are rarely indexed so they have become the dark matter of the blogosphere. While there were some early attempts like TypeKey, nothing really stuck.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the comments – one of the most pervasive examples of user-generated content on the web today – actually were organized in a broadly useful way?  Or if identity was actually managed, so you could look and see all the comments that Brad Feld made, regardless of which blogs they were on.  Or – if you could search horizontally across all blog comments for topics like you can with the blogs themselves.  Or you could rate comments and give them authority based on reputation? 

Why is the comment infrastructure so different than the blog infrastructure in the first place?  Joel Spolsky has a great rant on it and Dave Winer has some clear thoughts on it. Mark Andreesen quickly turned off comments on his brilliant new blog.  Fred Wilson expressed the opposite perspective – “Comments are where it’s at in blogging.”  And on and on it goes.  Just like theoretical physics or politics – everyone has an opinion and they often conflict or – better yet – worlds collide.

Over the past year, I’ve made a few early stage investments in companies that address the comment infrastructure.  While they are still all young, they are addressing different parts of the problem and I’m learning a ton from each of them.  Intense Debate – one of the TechStars companies – is about to launch with a full replacement system for comments.  BigSwerve is working on indexing all of the comments everywhere.  Lijit is waiting patiently for the right data source to include within their search infrastructure.  And TrustPlus is well positioned to address the authentication / trust part of the equation.

It feels like it’s time to shine some light on this dark matter.