April 13, 2008

Shyftr Responds to Critics, Alters RSS Commenting Strategy

Friday night's discussion around the fragmenting of comments between blogs, FriendFeed and RSS readers grew well beyond what I had expected. While the issue of comments and where they should live, relative to the original blog, has come up before, new entrants to the market, like Shyftr, Plaxo and AssetBar made some uncomfortable about how their full feeds were being utilized. After a few days of some high-profile trashing, as well as some supporting posts from people like Robert Scoble and myself, Shyftr has capitulated, by pulling full feeds where discussions are taking place, while retaining full attribution, in hopes to quell fears about stealing the conversation away from bloggers.

In a post this morning (RSS Feeds, Community, Publishers, and Revisions), Shyftr's founder, Dave Stanley, reiterates the key goal of Shyftr, namely:

"Shyftr was developed to help people find and subscribe to publishers that they otherwise would have never found on their own, through the community and network of friends. Having a community where people can share and discuss the feeds they read helps to facilitate this goal."

But, as mentioned, not everyone liked Shyftr's plan to have full discussion on the full feed, so given some of the feedback, Shyftr has adjusted their approach. Stanley's post shows that for those feeds which enable discussion, Shyftr will no longer show full feeds. He writes:

"We have decided to revise the format around our discussions. We will only display the title, author, and date of an item where discussions occur outside of the reader. We deeply respect content publishers, and it is not our intention to cause unease."

You can see how this has changed by looking at some of the commented posts within Shyftr, including one from Tony Hung (Fine, I'll Say It: Shyftr Crosses The Line), another from Mashable (Shyftr: Good, Bad, and Potentially Quite Ugly) and mine from Friday. (Should Fractured Feed Reader Comments Raise Blog Owners' Ire?)

I made my opinion clear on Friday that I personally had no problem with what Shyftr was doing. Sarah Perez's initial coverage of Shyftr on ReadWriteWeb (Social Feed Reading With Shyftr) didn't bring up fractured comments as an issue, nor did my coverage back on March 4th. (Shyftr Offers Social RSS Reading, Including Comments, Rankings). Corvida of SheGeeks was the only one to bring up the issue prior to this weekend, that I can tell, in her review: Google Reader Trumps Shyftr.

Unlike some have speculated, Shyftr is not on the dark side of the Web, a content scraper or a splogger (spam blogger). Instead, the service is trying to grow and find a niche where friends can share and comment on feeds, and over the last few months, I've grown to like the service and respect the individuals behind it, so I hope they can overcome this blip and work with the blogosphere.

I expect that over time, the RSS community will band together and find a great way to cross-pollenate comments from Readers to bloggers, and all will be one. You can see Nick Halstead's post on the Fav.or.it blog (Fractured Commenting - Again) where he offers Shyftr use of the fav.or.it API to do just that. I don't think we're all that far away from getting this issue solved. Luckily, Shyftr is listening and already making change. The question is, will these changes be enough? If you had issues with Shyftr's approach, let me know what you think about their update.

You can also find me on Shyftr here: http://www.shyftr.com/profile/louisgray