Who Owns Your Comments? [en]

While doing my regular tour of the blogosphere (in the “what are people saying about coComment” department) I found an interesting post by Paul Sergeant. He has recently (and happily, may I say) discovered coComment, and he has the feeling (as we do too!) that coComment has an important role to play in the world of online conversations:

[…] the most exciting thing is Cocomment’s potential as a component in a much wider conversational subsystem. There is clear synergy with some of the things that Calico Jack has recently been working on. Leaving aside some reservations about data location, I can see Cocomment having an important role in a new generation of dynamic social networking applications.

Earlier in his post, however, Paul cites something Jon Udell says in a post answering the recurring “are blogs without comments blogs?” question. (Answer: they are, in my opinion). Let me reproduce it here too:

Ownership of your own stuff, and federation by linking to other people’s stuff, are the twin pillars of the blogosphere.

Now that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of things so sharply under that angle before, particularly in regard to coComment. Who owns your comments?

I know that one thing coComment does for me is give me a bit more of a feeling that my comments are mine. I can display them on my site. I can see them all on one page. They are labeled as “mine”, because coComment knows they all belong to my account.

Quite some time ago, Ben Metcalfe noted that coComment introduces a semantic fork in the conversation. The fork isn’t as important as it used to be, because we now have a lovely coCo-crawler. For Ben, part of the problem was that the blog owner did not have any control over the conversations which were published on the coComment site. And I agree that this is a problem when it comes to spam and the like.

However, do we consider it a problem that the commenter doesn’t retain control over the comments he leaves on other people’s blogs? For example, it has always bothered me that value-added comments of mine, scattered all over the blogosphere, could disappear any day at a whim of the blog owner.

Comment ownership is a complex problem. The commenter writes the comment, but the blog owner hosts it. So of course, the blog owner has the right to decide what he agrees to host or not. But the person who wrote the comment might also want to claim some right to his writing once it’s published.

At coComment, for the moment, ownership is more on the side of the person who made the comment. This balances things out a bit, in my opinion, and gives back to the commenter a bit of ownership he might yearn for.

As a commenter, I like that. I can show people my comments even if they get stuck in moderation or are deleted by the blog owner. I have a record of all my comments.

As a blog owner, I’m less happy. If I look at the conversations coComment is recording for my blog, there are some comments there which I would like removed. Some random spam comments that made it through the filters. Some off-comment or autopromotional ones I wouldn’t want to have on my blog. But it’s not that bad, because the conversation is on coComment and not on my blog.

Do you see the difficulty? There are times when one could say the “blog owner rights” and “comment writer’s rights” come into conflict. How do you manage such situations? Do you think a service like coComment should mirror the blog conversation exactly, or not? Who owns a comment?

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Initially posted on the coComment blog.

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