Conversation ownership and the FriendFeed backlash.

# OwnershipThe argument over conversation ownership and fragmentation has taken another twist.

Rob La Gesse became unhappy that the conversation around his posts was happening on FriendFeed and so he removed his account from the aggregator. The only problem is that removing all these parent items also removes all of the comments associated with them - Scoble wasn't happy and called Rob out on it.

Rob maintains that FriendFeed gave no warning that this would happen but others ask what did he expect? This raises a dilemma over the actual ownership of comments on FriendFeed and blogs and has also raised the question of whether we seek a conversation or an audience (a post for a different day perhaps).


Compare the situation to what happens on disqus: you do not need to be registered to use the disqus system but there is a fundamental difference in the way your comment is handled if you're not. Posting a comment as a logged in user leaves the ownership of that comment with them you so that even if the blog (conversation) owner removes it from their discussion you still have access to it on your own list at disqus. Make a comment as an unregistered user and the ownership transfers to the conversation owner and it will be removed permanently should they delete it from the discussion - fair enough.

FriendFeed is different as all posts are made by logged in, registered users - do they own their comments? Does the person who started the discussion? Does FriendFeed?

It is generally argued that the person who posts the comment has ownership but this introduces a conflict when control of the entire conversation is passed to the person who started it.

Need to address

This is obviously something that FriendFeed will need to address and maybe haven't really considered up to this point. The FriendFeed business model is all about getting data in to the service - perhaps that focus has meant that little emphasis has been placed on managing deletions.

Yes, we should all be able to remove our content if we no longer want it appearing within the service for whatever reason but that's the point: ourcontent. We should not have control over the content of others so it would seem that we have an issue with content management within FriendFeed.

The best solution - as has already been suggested within the discussion about this issue - would be for FriendFeed to replace top level items that have comments with a placeholder indicating that the item has been removed. The resultant conversation can often stand on its own so, with the issue of ownership hanging over it, should be left intact.

What do you think?

How should FriendFeed handle deletions? Who owns what? Or, is it just a lot of fuss about nothing?

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Image by Seattle Municipal Archives.

  1. svartling says: #
    I think the owner of the post itself can do what he/she wants with the comments on that post. You can delete your comments you get on your own blog, so why not on a friendfeed post?
  2. I completely agree with svartling. As a blog author I reserve the right to delete comments, e.g. spam, harassment,... Though, also Rob Diana is right, discussion was always fragmented. That's why we have trackbacks and pingbacks, right?

    While I am an advocate of data portability, this has to be discussed some more, I guess. It's not all black and white.
  3. Remember bulletin boards? You would discuss something on a board. You could remove your own comments, but administrators could also remove or edit comments, or even a whole thread. I don't recall this sort of concern of "ownership of intellectual property" at that time.
  4. Colin Walker says: #
    Is there not a difference between comments made in a service like FriendFeed rather than those made directly at the blog?
  5. Shey says: #
    Because the blogger doesn't own my comment. I do. My comment = my content. I should be able to edit, delete, and manage my own content however I see fit. How can the blogger own something that I wrote? Especially if its not on his blog?
  6. svartling says: #
    Well if friendfeed owns all comments they should remove the possibility to delete them.
    If not, I think the poster of the link, picture, text etc. should have the power to remove them from the post.
  7. You can't do that on most blogs. If you have commented you can just sit and watch what will happen next. Yes, you make the reservation "especially if its not on his blog", but what you're saying here essentially means the end of blogging as we know it today. You can close comments completely on blogs with that point of view. Blog post here but comments on disparate sites which are owned by the commenters.
  8. Michael Beck says: #
    Right on! And nobody referred to their posts as "their content" at that time, either. Interesting watching this shift in terms of how we think about what we contribute to the Internet.
  9. Rob La Gesse says: #
    My comment policy is clearly marked in the Terms of Use page on my Blog. FriendFeed did not make their comment policy as clear - and in fact did not even notify me that removing my feed would delete all related content. Should I have "expected" it to delete associated content? I don;t think so. Should they have warned me that associated data would be removed? Yes, I think they should have.
  10. Rob La Gesse says: #
    Oh, and to clear up one more thing - I was NOT trying to "control the conversation". I WAS trying to control where I participated in it - and I did not want to do that on FriendFeed.

    I've been using Social Media since I ran dial-up BBS's in the early 1980's - I am not naive enough to believe that any conversation can be "controlled".
  11. Shey says: #
    Blogging as we know it is changing. More and more bloggers are realizing this.

    Does it mean we need to shut down blog comments completely? No.

    Can we still accept distributed conversations and encourage keeping comments on the posts? Yes. Colin has done just that by adding Disqus and the FF comments plugin. The comments get to stay here on the blog and the reader still gets to manage his/her own comments -- win-win in my book.
  12. Another difference? At the time I was probably posting as "geekgirl0821" or something similar. Nowadays many of us want "our content" associated with our names rather than a cryptic screen name. It's that whole idea of a personal brand.. but just like a brand may not be able to control everything that people say about them, perhaps we as individuals need to recognize a limit to our control.
  13. You have a point there. :)

    Just one more point to consider, though: Let's assume you wrote a thought provoking article which stirred a lot of discussion on your blog. However the majority of comments were made via systems which reserve the rights to commenters. Suddenly most of them delete their accounts, the systems go bankrupt, whatever. The discussion on your article will be worthless then.

    Maybe there is a solution to the problem already. I don't know.
  14. Shey says: #
    I see your point -- but I still think the user should control the content they created. If they want to delete their thought, the should have that right.

    It would be great to have a export solution to get around that though, so commentors could keep an archive or backup their comments.
  15. Robin Cannon says: #
    Whole thing strikes me as a bit of a storm in a teacup. I'd never even considered my ownership of comments on FriendFeed or other blogs, certainly I'd never felt like it was hugely important I maintained rights over them.

    On FriendFeed, if the original item is deleted from the feed then it makes sense that the comments are removed also. Otherwise it's a discussion with no initial context, which is frankly just going to clog things up and confuse. And ultimately there'll be a natural selection in any case so that users who do try to abuse the feature, and delete things to remove the comments...well their posts will just end up being uncommented.
  16. Colin Walker says: #
    Thanks for all the comments. Rob, the post wasn't intended as an attack on what you did or did not intend to do but as observation on the shortcomings of tbe situation. FF do need to take some steps to resolve the issues around removing data. The difference now to the old bbs days is that people are now far more aware of what IP actually is.
  17. [...] Colin Walker wrote this morning that as far as FriendFeed was concerned this was going to have to be something they were going to have to deal with. Probably sooner than later. Colin pointed out that while it might be fine to delete your own posts and comments made on FriendFeed that shouldn’t mean that his comments get deleted as well. This might be all well and fine but really what kind of sense would any comments make if the impetus for those comments are removed. Sorry but that makes no sense to me. [...]

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