CoComment Firefox Extension: Trying It Out

(UPDATE MAY 10: Sadly, I’ve had to uninstall this extension for now, it was causing problems with my browser.)

Being a proponent of conversational media, I’m a big fan of anything that makes it easier to follow online conversations wherever they occur. Increasingly these conversations happen through weblog comments. That’s great — but tracking and following those conversations over time generally has been pretty complicated.

Last summer I hacked together my own comment-tracking solution using a del.icio.us tag, mycomments. That strategy served me well for a while – it’s comprehensive, coherent, and shareable. However, it’s also a pain – too many clicks required to make it work each time I comment.

In February I checked out a promising service called CoComment. At the time I thought CoComment was cool, but it didn’t quite meet my needs. So I gave it time to develop. During that time I’ve lapsed in faithfully recording my comments in del.icio.us because of the labor involved.

Today I learned, via Easton Ellsworth, that CoComment has made its system much less labor-intensive. They’ve debuted the CoComment Firefox extension, which automatically updates your CoComment account as you leave a blog comment! The only extra step beyond making the blog comment is adding tags – and that’s optional.

Way cool! So I’m trying it out…

I’ve only just installed the CoComment Firefox extension, and tested it by leaving a comment. It seems to be working fine. I also installed a new sidebar box (look to the right-hand side of this page for the blue box that says “Amy’s Latest Comments”).

I love that I can tag my comments with keywords that I select. However, I think the way CoComment handles this currently (at least via the Firefox extension) is clumsy. I’d prefer if the tags worked more like del.icio.us, where I get to pick items off my predefined tag list. Right now it seems that I have to type my tags by hand. (I may be wrong about this, but that’s how it looks so far.)

Even better: I wish I could simply import my extensive list of tags I’ve developed over at del.icio.us. (Hint hint to the CoComment team…)

So I’ll try CoComment out for a while now, via the Firefox Extension, to see how I like it. I’m especially curious to see how well it really does at alerting me to followup comments left by other CoComment users.

I know… it’s still not as comprehensive as I’d like. But I never expect perfection. CoComment still doesn’t support every blogging platform, so I’m sure there will be many times when I can’t track one of my comments via CoComment. So I’ll continue to use my del.icio.us tracking solution for those. (You can follow those comments here.)

What do you think of how CoComment is progressing? Please comment below.

15 thoughts on CoComment Firefox Extension: Trying It Out

  1. Good call on bringing del.icio.us tags or being able to pick from a predetermined list. Maybe a pull down menu.

    I hadn’t really used CoComment before (or Firefox) except to experiment, but I’m going to give this tool a few weeks of dedicated effort.

  2. Got the hint regarding the simple import of existing delicious tags, thanks! Do you by any chance know if del.icio.us offers a way of getting at the tags for a particular user? (other than parsing them out of the users del.icio.us page)

    You are correct that right now you need to enter tags manually for each message. Changing this is definitely something we want to look into.

    Regarding the comprehensiveness in the tracking of a conversation, note that blog owners can now enable their blog to track *all* comments, so that users will be alerted even to comments posted by users that are not coComment users themselves. This is a new feature we just added: http://mocha.ch/mochazone/trackAllComments/ (it’s not yet documented on the cocomment.com site)

  3. Hi, Chris

    Thanks for the tip! I’d like to try this out, but I’m a little confused by the instructions on the site — they seem more intended for geeks than for typical blog visitors/commenters.

    For instance, in the “track all comments” instructions, you wrote: “This first section you can skip, if coComment already extracts the correct information automatically.”

    …How can I tell whether that extraction is happening correctly?

    Next, you wrote: “This step is already documented in more detail at http://cocomment.com/integrate

    …Frankly, that page confused the hell out of me, it’s very geeky.

    I realize that CoComment is working hard to throw together this functionality quickly, to respond to user demand. You probably haven’t had time yet to simplify and refine your instructions so they’re more appropriate to users who aren’t geeks (and who will become, after all, the vast majority of your user base if all goes well for you).

    However, I’d urge CoComment to simplify and clarify those instructions with non-geeks in mind as soon as you can. The functionality you’ve been adding has potentially vast appeal — but if people don’t understand how to make it work for them, and if they can’t do that easily, they won’t bother. I’d hate to see you miss that kind of opportunity.

    Oh, and could you offer information clarifying the do’s and don’ts of your tagging syntax? For instance, do you allow spaces, hyphens, or + signs in your tags? Should multiple tags be separated with a comma or just a space? Etc.

    Looking forward to hearing more on this,

    – Amy Gahran

  4. If you see a green check in the cocobar (that’s what we call the area CoComment inserts next to your submit button) then the extraction is working. Otherwise the checkbox would have a red cross in it.

    So, here on this blog, you should be able to get the full integration working just with the script tag that includes the two special attributes id=”cocomment-fetchlet” and trackAllComments=”true”.

    I agree we need to simplify the current documentation. It makes it look *much* more complicated than it really is.

    I don’t remember anymore what the exact rules for the tags are. I’ll have to check…

  5. Hmmmm…. I went into my wordpress template for this blog and added to it the little bit of javascript you recommended in your second step on http://mocha.ch/mochazone/trackAllComments

    …However, that made my cocobar disappear! That doesn’t seem right…

    I took it out for now. What did I do wrong?

    Oh, and I don’t know whether del.icio.us offers direct tag export. And regarding tagging syntax, I’d like it if CoComment could allow the + sign as well as -. Right now you allow -, but not +. Many people (including me) use + in their tags for del.icio.us and other services.

    And for tagging, I’d personally find a pick list far more usable than a drop-down menu. Furl only offers a drop-down menu of tags, which is the big reason why I use that service mainly for archiving, not for detailed categorizing. Drop downs are such a pain when you want to select several tags.

    Thanks so much! This is very cool stuff!

    – Amy Gahran

  6. Yep, I’m very familiar with “experimental” 🙂 Welcome to my life!

    Thanks for all your hard work and prompt responses, Chris. I’ll be mentioning CoComment tomorrow in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog.

    – Amy Gahran

  7. Chris, I’m just really impressed that you’re in here taking suggestions. That’s a very, very good sign. Keep up the good work. Amy — as usual, you’re full of good ideas. I thought of you as soon as I saw coComment’s extension, and thought, “I wonder if Amy Gahran will still use del.icio.us to track comments.”

  8. Hmmm… there seems to be some kind of problem with the registration process. I can’t get through the account verification screen. Did this happen to anyone else?

  9. Great ideas, everyone. Another suggestion I have would be to take the People page and branch it out so that, for example, one could see the most prolific commenters on blogs about personal finance or the most prolific commenters who self-identify as “business bloggers.” Right now, the “top cocommenters” list is very interesting (hey, I’m on it! Wonder how long that will last), but I wish I could slice and dice it more. Like, instead of showing the most prolific commenters ranked by number of comments, how about ranking them by the number of unique pages or sites they’ve commented at? Or letting the user specify a given date range – or, even better, a given topic – to see who are the commenters that are making the most comments.

    Another interesting dimension to all of this is that we can all snoop on each other – and, well, looking at it positively, learn from each other – more readily. Sometimes I forget to turn OFF cocomment if I am commenting at a non-work-related blog, for example, and I have to go into my account and delete it. Can you guys make it so that I could automatically disregard certain domains – y’know, tell cocomment once and then it doesn’t try operating at that page anymore? (Oh, and make that option reversible of course.)

    Just some more logs for the pile.

  10. Amy, I’m thrilled you’re mentioning cocomment on Monday at Poynter. I am shocked that it hasn’t been noticed by more people. Well, then again, I think if only they understood what this can really do for one’s productivity … I used to hate having to cut and paste links into my browser or fumbling through bookmarks to visit pages I had commented at. Along came del.icio.us and I was able to at least keep a simple register of them all. But now we’ve got cocomment telling us within a few minutes that another cocommenter has spoken somewhere where we have. And soon we might see cocomment (or a tool like it) offering us intelligent suggestions such as, “Welcome Amy, and good morning – would you like to see the following 23 URLs? I think they’d be fertile ground in which you could sow relevant comments, based on your preferences for blogs about XYZ …” Anyway, my mind is just spinning with the possibilities and I really think this ought to be talked about more.

  11. @RinzeWind: I just tested it. It’s working fine for me. Where exactly did you get stuck? You were not able to submit the verification form? Did you get an error or what happend?

    @Easton: All interesting ideas. Specially the idea of whitelisting and blacklisting. Maybe the extension could simply remember the settings a user makes for a given domain or URL.

  12. @Chris: I finally managed to register (I had to contact their helpdesk, though. Something wasn’t working). However, after trying it for a few hours I didn’t find it really useful. I fooled around a bit and fount co.mments that serves much better for my purposes.

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