Proponents like to say that blogs are conversations. And they are: many have comments; many posts link to others and those links are discoverable through blog search engines. I want to see threaded blog-reading software. Because compared to the conversations going on in email, or in discussion forums going back to the heyday of Usenet or Fidonet and BBSes in the 1980s, blogs hardly qualify.
It shouldn’t be that hard. A syndication feed – whether RSS or Atom – provides all the information needed to build a view of a discussion view: a post’s author, the subject, links to what this post is replying to, when it was written, folksonomy categories. That’s everything needed to build a threaded view of a discussion. This is made a little more complicated because a post can reply to more than one other, but that means there’s too much information, not too little. With cleverness, this could be used to construct a multi-dimensional view of a discussion.
Jon Andersen suggested to me the possibility of mixing in other messages, such as emails. This is not public information, but from the point of view of the recipient it can be just as much a part of a convesation or relationship as blog posts and comments.
I see one hitch, something that I think needs to be resolved for any number of uses of syndication technology. Feeds expire – they only include the most recent posts. Right now, only the big search engines like Technorati and Feedster have a history of expired blog entries. It would be better if a site were capable of generating feed metadata for individual pages, no matter how old they might be, so that permalinks from other posts could be resolved. As it happens, this is similar to a problem I ran into in my web annotation project, so I may talk about it soon.