June 13, 2008

FriendFeed Friday Tips #5: Bringing Comments Back to Your Blog

By popular demand, I've been asked by other FriendFeed users to highlight how I use the popular social lifestreaming site. So far the series has covered the "Hide" function, the bookmarklet, advanced search, and how to integrate with Google Talk. Today, I'm going to talk about how you can bring comments from FriendFeed to your blog, capturing the conversation.

While FriendFeed has gained considerable praise from many corners of the tech blogosphere, one place where they have been maligned is in how conversations that take place on the site aren't immediately ported back to the original blog. These "fragmented conversations" have flared up as major issues every couple of weeks, and while I've personally never had a problem with it, and have actually seen comments on my own site grow, even as I've used FriendFeed, many are hoping to keep control over the conversation and keep it on their site.

While FriendFeed hasn't yet introduced an initiative to defragment these conversations, in their place, independent developers have designed tools that will bring comments from FriendFeed back to blogs, including Wordpress, and as of today, Blogger, both the "new" and the "old" versions of Blogger. You can even see the brand-new tool for Blogger live on my site already.

Bringing FriendFeed Comments to Your WordPress Blog

WordPress has gained a lot of traction in the blogosphere, in part due to its wide library of available third-party plug-ins. Only a day after FriendFeed released its API, the entrepreneurial Glenn Saven debuted announced a plug-in that pulls back comments and likes from FriendFeed and displays them on your site.

As he writes on the plug-in page:
"The plugin ads a template tag called , which you can drop onto your template somewhere inside "the loop" so it can access the post’s details to match it up with the FriendFeed data.
Unzip the plugin into your plugins folder & activate it. You’ll then need to go into the options (or settings if you’re running WP2.5) and click on FriendFeed. Put your FriendFeed nickname in & save and you’re done with the setup. All the other settings in there are optional. You then need to place on your template file(s)."
The result is a two-way box that shows how many comments and likes an item received, as well as the avatars of the poster, and has the option to add a comment yourself, back to FriendFeed, assuming you know your user name and API key. You can see it installed at my fellow B-List blogger, Steven Hodson's site, at WinExtra. The below screenshot is from his post Some thoughts on a Microsoft after Gates.

Not having installed WordPress myself and tested this, I'm no expert, but from what I've seen from Steven's site and Duncan Riley's work at The Inquisitr, it works very well.

Bringing FriendFeed Comments to Your Blogger Blog

The argument could be made that Blogger's not the most robust platform out there. It certainly hasn't been the most reliable. And its lacking plug-in architecture has made it a less-preferred choice among the with-it digerati. And for the last three months, as WordPress users have enjoyed Glenn Slaven's solution, we Blogger users have been in the dark. Until now.

Pat Hawks posted code using Yahoo! Pipes, which delivers a lightweight JavaScript based solution, bringing FriendFeed comments back to the originating blog. See: FriendFeed Comments in Blogger.

Rather than copy the full code from Pat, I recommend you visit his page if this is important to you. Still being on the "old" Blogger, I saved my Blogger template (just in case), added the new code, just by adding the JavaScript code after where Blogger concludes comments, and before my already customized Disqus code. Now, when people (including me) comment on my FriendFeed items, I can see the comments here as well, as well as those from Disqus. It's now one great big conversation.

This, for me, is an exciting development. On May 25th, I offered a $250 bounty for the first solution good enough to integrate into my blog that shows both FriendFeed likes and comments. Now, Pat has delivered on comments. So... should I pay up now, or wait for likes to be supported as well? Either way, this is a great add.

On another solution? TypePad, for example?

I don't yet know of a way to get FriendFeed comments back to TypePad, the third leg of the blogging platform triumvirate. If somebody does have a solution, or is in the process, I'd love to hear about it.

So what comes next?

I expect this issue of comment fragmentation to fade away pretty quickly. It might not be long until there are solutions that support commenters, aggregators and publishers, all in one. But until then, these new ways to bring FriendFeed comments to your blog are a great solution. Leave a comment here (or on FriendFeed) if you've got one of these solutions running. I'd love to see it.