You Wrote This

This is either the beginning or the middle of a golden age for software, in which, almost literally, any feature set you can want is being worked on by somebody somewhere (within reason, that is; “Weird Science’-style technological advances are still out of reach) and if you wait just long enough, exactly such a product will make its debut in the marketplace.

I’ve made this declaration before, and I really do believe it more and more every time one of my half-baked ideas for clever software products is unleashed onto the world in more complete form by other people. The latest example is coComment, a concept that I wrote about nearly a year ago, but which recently entered a private beta period. coComment is a tool for aggregating all of the remarks that you, as a Web surfer and blog reader, might leave on other peoples⁏ weblogs. It uses a little JavaScript bookmarklet to almost transparently intercept your comments before you hit the “submit” button to publish those comments to a weblog, and then saves a copy of them to a page of your very own on the coComment servers. The result is an archive of your remarks that might otherwise never be properly assembled into a single location.

From there, it’s easy to include those comments on your own Web site, as I’ve done in the right column of my home page, where the several most recent comments I’ve made appear in a nice little sidebar list. The coComment also provides an automated XML feed for your comments, in both RSS 2.0 and XML formats. What more could you want?Well, it would be reasonable to wish for support for weblogs running on the Movable Type publishing system (who made the decision to release this beta with Xanga support but not Movable Type support?), but in an email, one of coComment’s authors assured me that was coming soon.

Being somewhat naturally skeptical of the longevity of most Web services, I’d also wish for the option to have coComment running on my own server. I just prefer to keep everything wthin the domain if I can get it; it’s the completist in me, which I’ll talk about more in a moment. In a sense, I own all of the content that coComment is aggregating for me — I’m the author of each of those remarks, after all — and while it’s a step forward to have that content centralized, it’s still a step or two away from giving me truly direct control of it. But I’m realistic about the possibility that a product like coComment would ever be released in a form that would allow me to run it from my own server, so for now, I’ll gladly take it as is.

What I like about this product so much is how it plays into the grand, unifying idea of personal content creation — not a theory, really, but a desire that many people in this age have of being able to fully assemble everything they do into a single, fully accessible and fully searchable database. It’s a completist’s fantasy, and it’s slowly inching towards reality; coComment is not a full and seamless integration into the central repository of, but it’s an important step towards that goal. Until now, blog comments were one of the most glaring of the un-index-able content types being aggressively generated online. Thanks to coComment, I’m happy that’s no longer the case. Now I’d just like see some competitors try and one up them, so we can see even more innovation. I suppose what I should do is start dreaming up what a next-generation coComment-style tool could be; if I wish for it, I bet someone will release it one day soon.