Is it kosher to put comments in feeds

I'm trying to figure out a better way to inform my readers that people have commented on entries.  The options seem to be

  • Do nothing.
  • Add comment-count to each entry in the feeds.  I've done this before, and it gets ugly, since the reader ends up seeing multiple copies of the entire entry with the change being the number of comments posted.
  • Add the comments to the end of each entry.  This is even worse, since you get each entry plus every comment repeated when there are new comments.
  • Create a separate feed for comments.  Requires two subscriptions, which I think is asking too much.
  • Put comments within my feeds, but as separate entries.  I like this option, and I have created a test XML file (Atom format) that seems to work in my reader and in Bloglines.  FeedValidator doesn't complain about it, though I don't know if it is perfectly formatted.

So, the big question: Is it kosher to intersperse full posts and comments within the same web feed (test XML)?  Does it make matters worse?  Will this confound matters when it comes to blog search engines?

Is there a better way to provide my full entries and comments to people who read via aggregators?

12 Comment(s)

Andy Boyd said:

This is interesting, i've often thought about this, what I like about blogs is the interactions that go on in terms of comments, trackbacks and linking. There must be a better way to handle this, my beef with my some comments systems is that the owner gets an email, then they reply to the commnets via another email and it's lost again. Typead fixed this by just sending to the link to the comment.

One dilemma I have is do I post a comment as a reply to a comment on my own blog,or do I lift it into the post - this part is still a bity clumsy I feel.

My main drive is all around the temprary communities Blogs throw up, that is driven partailly by the commenting, and now I'm thinking about it, threading comments like in an online discussion may also be useful.

Hmm more food for thought

Have a good un

JackD Author Profile Page said:

If you can create a feed with every entry (comments too) then you should be able to create a feed which tags the comment entry as a comment. I subscribe to some feeds "with comments" and it isn't so bad - in a way it is nice to see the original article if it has dropped off the end of the feed. But I'd be interested in seeing them treated equally (as long as the comments are not spam...)

I agree that the comments are where the discussion happens and it is still rather clumsy to carry on a conversation via them.

-Jack Dahlgren

Pete Holiday said:

(visiting via the lazy web)

Personally, there are very, very few sites that I want to see comments in the feeds. Mainly because of it making the the entries "renew" in my feed reader because of a new comment. Ideally I could tell my feed reader that once I've marked something as "read" don't show me the updates. This isn't really possible in any feed reader I've seen yet.

What I would like is if my browser was smart enough know when I'm making a comment and then give me the option to subscribe to the comment feed (which would be a separate feed for each entry) then I can keep up with individual posts (the ones that are most interesting) for as long as I see fit, then dump the subscription.

Tammy said:

You're not the only one exploring different aspects of comments. Bruce Schneier feeds his comments onto a separate page so visitors can join in conversations more easily. Of course, he gets hundreds of comments a week...guess it depends on what your user needs are.

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Pete, I completely agree with you. This is why I am thinking about adding the comments to my feed as separate entries in the feed. This means that the original entry isn't updated, annoying you (and me) with another copy of the original plus the comment. I would only feed you the comment, titled "Comment on [title of original]" with a link to the original article inserted at the end of the comment. The author would be listed as the person who commented. The id of the comment entry would be the id of the original item plus the id of the comment. I would not include the comment author's email or URL in the feed.

Assuming I don't get tens of comments a day, would this be a reasonable approach?

Pete Holiday said:

I think that solution has a few advantages. For starters, a sufficiently powerful feed reader might be able to filter those out if someone was not interested. But it also, I think, keeps more in the spirit of the syndicaation. The downside, of course, is that it would circumvent any sort of "don't display updates" setting in a feed.

There are some sites that I'm interested in the comments on enough entries to deal with reading the ones I don't care about... on others, it's just not worth it. I'd also gather that my list is different from others. They might want to read Site A's comments, while I want nothing to do with them... which may mean that a worthwhile compromise is a feed which includes comments and one that doesn't.

Personally I think we're at a place with this that we have needs that exceed the capacity of the syndication standards (what little I know about them) -- there ought to be an easy way to encapsulate and network all of this data... and we haven't even started talking about trackbacks yet. Goodness... that could get messy.

(Thanks for the email reply -- reminded me to check back. It's a good example of why we need SOMETHING to subscribe to when we enter into a discussion but also a way to keep us from being annoyed with being party to the conversations we're not interested in) -- Sorry for the length.

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:


Thanks for the thoughtful reply. You are right in that there needs to be something that works better than my suggested hack. I'm disappointed that most readers don't know how to access the trackbacks for posts and show you the blog-to-blog threads, much less simply showing the data that exists on the one site, as I am attempting to do.

I was actually considering doing both trackbacks and comments, but I can't (yet) moderate trackbacks with Movable Type.

Maybe I'll check with the MT Support forum before making this move.

Rup3rt said:

In drupal you can have separate feeds for blog posts, comments, tags. Gives viewers/users choice and makes an excelent collaborative tool.

MT has its limits even with plugins. Looks you just reached the limit --- extend MT or go to drupal or stay where you are.

MT to Drupal links

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Actually, MT is quite flexible. My question here is not an "am I able to do it," but a "is it okay to do?" I could have created a separate feed for comments (or even a feed for each article), but my concern is that my regular readers would want a separate feed just for comments. I don't tend to get that many comments (except for this particular thread), but I would like people to stay informed as comments come in without annoying them too much.

We'll see how this balancing act goes.

Piers Young Author Profile Page said:

Hi Jack
You might want to have a look at Johnnie Moore's "fat feed"
Don't know if this helps

Piers Young Author Profile Page said:

Hi Jack
You might want to have a look here:

Johnnie Moore has found a way to incorporate entries, comments and trackbacks into the one "fat feed" with MT.

» KJolt site feeds from Knowledge Jolt with Jack

For those that read Knowledge Jolt with Jack via an aggregator, I've moved the comment-embedded feed to a separate entity in order to provide a standard feed without comments for people who prefer it. Read More

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