Sunday, July 01, 2007

How Bloglines or Google Reader could (does?) handle comment tracking

This idea is a freebie, anyone can use it. (It's not patentable though, since I just wrote about it here, and for one other reason described below.)

Weblog comments don't fit the current syndication model. Most blogs don't support subscribing to a specific post's comment feed, and even if they did the overhead of creating and tracking such transient feeds doesn't scale.

Email notification of new comments is occasionally supported, but I'm trying to shrink my email, not grow it. Still, email is the right approach -- if it were integrated with a blog reader. Bloglines and Google Reader could manage the integration.

Here's the simplest version of the approach, using Bloglines as an example.
  1. My bloglines account has a new "subscription" called "Comments Subscription". It also provides me with an email address corresponding to that subscription. I can change that email address any time I want. For example: jfaughnan.gwyt8ytt@bloglines.com
  2. I enter that email address into blogs that support email notification of comments. Then I get notification via my feed reader. Notifications include links to the blog comments section.
  3. When I start getting spam, I throw away the email address and get another.
There are obvious more complex variations on this idea using public keys, password protection, etc.

Here's the funny bit. Bloglines does this now, but they don't describe its use for subscribing to comments. They provide it as a throwaway email address to use with vendors and other unsavory correspondents. I discovered they had this feature by accident as I was composing this blog post and looking up the term they use for their feed trackers ("subscription", of course).

If they provided a bit of guidance on how to use it, they'd get more use. The only problem with their current implementation is that the randomly generated addresses cannot be remembered. I've implemented a redirect from one of my domains so I have memorable transient addresses, but Bloglines needs to allow us to specify the email address of the form "jfaughnan.____@bloglines.com.

Update 7/1/07: This works pretty well. I have a few google app domains, so I created a user on one of them to support this process. I then gave that user a Gmail Nickname, a relatively new Gmail feature that allows one to create and destroy public identities as needed while somewhat shielding one's private identity. The Gmail nickname is the key. It's memorable, and disposable. The Gmail nickname redirects to the special purpose user, which keeps the notifications in the inbox (why not?) while forwarding to the disposable but not memorable bloglines notifier address.

This redirect, combined with Bloglines email service, gives me the comment notification functionality I'm seeking. Of course it only works with blog services that support email notification for comments, but if this catches on more of them will. Note that everything in this chain is disposable, but the first line of defense is the Gmail nickname. When that's discovered by spammers it's trivial to change (I used an incrementing number for now).

Of course this is way too complex for anyone but an insane geek who lives constantly with redirection, but Bloglines could implement all this by allowing users to create memorable but disposable "nicknames" for their Bloglines subscription, or simply let users specify the personalized subscription address.

1 comment:

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Ketty
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