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”.
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.