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Canadian Duo Unveils Comment Tool

Within the blogosphere, comments are a strange animal.

Comments welcomed by blog writers, they’re often far more interesting and insightful as blog posts, and, of course, they’re a favorite tool of spammers.

The other reality is comments are seen as the ugly cousins to blog posts. Blog posts get top ranking as the stars of the blogosphere while comments play second fiddle, even though many people get as much from comments as the blog posts themselves. (Trackbacks used to be supporting stars but they’ve disappeared)

The question is how do you put the spotlight on comments so you can easily find commenters that you find insightful, funny, controversial, etc.?

The answer may be BackType, a Y Combinator startup created by two Toronto-natives, Chris Golda and Michael Montano. Touted as “Twitter for Comments” by TechCrunch, BackTrack is a tool where you can aggregate and search for comments.

For example, you can put together a list of the people whose comments you want to see, and then check out the blog post they commented on. Or you can search for comments by people, keywords, exact phrases and dates. See the results below for “iPhone” and “Rob Hyndman”.

BackTrack
BackTrack
To me, BackType seems like an interesting service but I haven’t played with it enough to determine if it will have mass appeal. And like its Y Combinator comment cousin, Disqus (and Twitter), it’s difficult to see a business model, although it may be a valuable tool for marketer who want to track social media conversations.

BackType could also be controversial among people who believe that comments are the property of blog owners, and they shouldn’t be scraped so BackTrack can build a business from other peoples’ work.

Nicole Simon has some thoughts about BackType, including her belief that BackTrack’s T&C protects its content more than the comments of the bloggers it’s aggregating. On the other side of the coin, Louis Gray likes BackTrack but not with the same enthusiasm as some other social media services he’s focused on.

For more on Chris Golda and Michael Montano, check out StartupNorth’s interview with them while they attended the mesh conference last May. Golda and Montano’s first startup was an invitation service called iPartee.

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  • http://www.backtype.com/cg CG

    If comments are the property of blog owners, they can block our crawler the same way they would block any via robots.txt. We’ll be more transparent about this in the future, but it’s similar to any search engine. In addition to letting people search by keywords, we also let you search by author.

  • http://profy.com/ Svetlana Gladkova

    Very reasonable review, I really dislike how the tech blogosphere tends to follow the 1st blog post on this or that startup and everyone is either excited and enthusiastic if the 1st blogger is or entirely negative otherwise. Good to see you mentioning both positive and negative things about it.

    And I can also support you 100% that monetization will be very interesting here. I am sure that if they attempt to support the site with ads, they will get tons of complains from comment owners (and blog owners as well) so they’ll need to come up with something very different like brand tracking for marketers for a fee or something.

  • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

    Svetlana,

    If possible, I try to add a different perspective on the news, especially news that attracts a lot of attention given much of the coverage tends to be alone the same lines.

    It will be interesting to see how BackType makes money. I would not be surprised if it and Disqus do something together given they have complementary businesses.

  • http://www.louisgray.com/live/ Louis Gray

    Mark, I’m smiling over here. I like how my enthusiasm is now being rated on a scale. :-)

    Would you prefer I give numerical ratings to services for comparison purposes? I think BackType is pretty cool. If I’ve been overweighted to date with FriendFeed/Strands/SocialMedian, that’s because I like that type of service, and get it.

    But I think BackType has the potential to be as relevant as Technorati (in a good way), Google Blog Search or Summize. It’s one to watch for sure.

  • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

    Louis,

    Before you know it, you could see the Social Media Gray Scale where new services were rated based on an algorithm based on a keyword analysis of your reviews. :)

    I think BackType could be intriguing. I’m not quite sure about the “follow” aspect yet but I can definitely see its potential as a search tool.

    Mark

  • http://webskills.wordpress.com Chris Schmitt

    BackType is a really interesting service and has a lot of potential. For example, tracking your comments on BackType led me you a really interesting post on FreshBooks that I may not have seen otherwise. I find the setup and FAQs a little confusing though – but then they’ve just started. Also, the site’s getting really slow – must be garnering a lot of interest.

  • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

    The configuration parts of BackType are far from intuitive. I’m not sure for example why I would want to follow someone’s comments. There’s more value in searching keywords, people, companies, etc. IMHO.

    Mark

  • http://www.backtype.com/mm Mike Montano

    Hi Chris,

    Please feel free to shoot me an email mm [at] backtype [dot] com — so we can figure out what is confusing about the setup and FAQ.

    Mark, thanks again for writing about us. We’ve seen interest in doing both — and we’re trying to figure out now what people care about most. One simple reason to follow someone’s comments, IMO, is if you like what they write in blogs and want to see what they are saying elsewhere, this is how. And I know from doing this I’ve been able to discover some awesome posts and discussions that I missed in my feed reader. I’m eager to see if other people are finding that following comment authors is useful for this reason.

  • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

    Mike,

    My sense is comment search is going to be your “killer app”, while the “follow” feature will an interesting but secondary feature. Of course, I could be dead wrong. In any event, I think you’ve got something with interesting potential.

    Mark

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