Home > Monitoring, Observations, Software > backtype provides new ways for serving the blogsphere

backtype provides new ways for serving the blogsphere

Google Alerts sent me an email today with information about another reference to my blog name, Webnomena. This time it came from a service called Backtype. I had to follow the link! Every now and then I come across a new tool that fills my mind with numerous options and ideas. Twitter and Twitter search were two of those, MeeID is another, and now backtype is causing the same effect. Smart,flexible, simple, and useful.

In short, this is a service that crawl and collect comments from blogs and then organize them for you, using the comment’s URL. If the URL is your blog then all your comments from around the web are now in one place. More than that, you can see other bloggers and their comments too. The key feature is that you can follow other people’s comments (Twitter style).  Brian Solis from PR 2.0 wrote a great post about the true value of backtype in”BackType Unearths Blog Comments to Identify Relevant Conversations”.

There are more features that this service offers. The backtype blog also tell us that Mike Montano and Christopher Golda the founders are hard at work adding more cool stuff.


Yet, in this post I want to focus on how backtype suppots the blogsphere.

The tasks that backtype can help us with:

  • Finding what the professional bloggers are reading and caring about – for instance here is where Om Malik hangs out.
  • Improving comments’ quality – maybe we will see less instances of “great post, now please come and visit my blog”
  • Finding implicit connections to complete one’s social graph picture. A comment is one way connection between the reader and the blogger. If the blogger responded or the blogger left comment on the reader’s blog then the connection is now bi-directional. They may not be linked as friends, fans or follower though. Social graph search engines like Delver and Nsyght can use this information for adding more connections (from like minded people) and enriching their search content pool.
  • Complementing the Web-Conversing-Now dashboard – joining Twitter Search Trending Topics telling us what is hot now.
  • Finding smart people – I notice some cases were a comment was better than the target post.
  • PR – Using micro site like backtype for building great web presence to help your business – Danny Brown provide insights on this new trend in his recent Are Micro Sites the Next Wave of Business Promotion? blog post.
  • Listening – having more ears on the web in addtion to Google Alerts, Twitter Search RSS feeds and more.

Brian Solis wrote:

The process of listening isn’t only relegated to the research and analysis of individual reputations. Listening is also instrumental in the creation of new communications and service initiatives as well unearthing the specific conversations that matter to your brand – for gathering data and also discovering opportunities to respond

I wonder if backtype have a plan to open their API for building new services around it!?

How do you plan to use this service for serving your objectives?

  1. September 27, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Hi Keren,

    Firstly, thanks for the mention – I feel suitably honored and humbled! 🙂

    Backtype offers a great amount of potential for all bloggers – casual, hobbyist and professional. For the casual blogger it could simply be a way of finding new friends to discuss similar interests.

    For professional and corporate bloggers, its benefits are two-fold, as far as I can see. Yes, it will be a great tool to find people or other businesses that might benefit from your services. However, it also offers a far greater and more powerful tool – the ability to gauge the true worth of your business or brand online.

    Imagine if you can set up Backtype to just monitor the comments relating to your business, new product, service or similar? Imagine the tool you would have to instantly react to something being said about you? Adding to positive feedback, reacting and managing negative feedback?

    As a business owner myself, especially one in the field I’m in, I can see Backtype as having the potential to be one of the most powerful tools around so far in the social media armory of businesses.

    Now excuse me while I go wait for THIS comment to appear on Backtype… 😉

  2. September 27, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Interesting to see BackType coming up on Google Alerts.

    @keren: Thanks for the post — great review of the less obvious features and implications of BT. We believe those are sometimes the most interesting e.g. content discovery, boosting the incentive to write good comments, etc. We’ve definitely been thinking about the implicit connections between comment authors and bloggers; we should be exploring that soon. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have some more ideas @ cg [at] backtype [dot] com

    Thanks for your interest.

    @pressreleasepr: Thanks for the comment. We’re going to be developing more tools for businesses in the future. Contact me if there are things you’d like to see included.

    P.S. The API is coming soon

  3. Keren Dagan
    September 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    @pressreleasepr Danny,
    Thanks for your comment. I like the way that you listed the stakeholders and their objectives. Most blog search engines categorize a blog only by its content (technology, business, etc…). A blog is not a single dimension entity (nor the blogger). A Corporate blogger is not the same as SAHM blogger. Knowing that, and serving each type objective (or focusing only on one type’s) is a potential competitive advantage.

    @Christopher Golda,
    Thanks for stopping by. The obvious features that I can see missing today (and you probably already heard that from the community) are more views: all comments on [my blog, blogger X, maybe blog network Y – not sure about the need for that but I do see an up trend for blogging in groups).
    Also, providing RSS feed subscription not just to the most popular people: http://feeds.backtype.com/people.
    For the non obvious feature I promise to ping you when I’ll think of something.

    You may want to consider using tags or #hashtags for grouping/sorting comments (discussions).
    I do like to see relationships popping up from this service – to be able to encourage the creation of new ones (“people you may know”), to expose others, sentiment? (fans vs. haters).

    Btw, before opening your API I recommend looking at both Gnip and Mashery for scalability. I believe that you want to focus on your core value proposition and not writing blog posts apologizing for the down time:)

    Good luck,

  4. September 29, 2008 at 2:31 am

    We’ve considered expanding our blog profiles, but we didn’t want to replay something already offered by blogs e.g. comment feeds. However, that could be interesting for blog networks.

    Not sure what you meant re RSS — we offer an RSS feed for most followed people, as well as individuals’ comments and shared comments.

    We will be adding search support for strings starting w/ @, $, #, etc. Being able to bring @replies to a users attention would be great.

    Thanks for the suggestions for our API. We like what Gnip’s doing and are interested in becoming one of the “Data Producers”.

    We’d really appreciate it if you sent us an e-mail when you have any more feedback.


  5. funana
    September 30, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Woohaa, Christopher, “being able to bring @replies to a users attention would be great.” +11111!!!eleven!

  6. grayhatzone
    September 30, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    @Christopher Golda To be honest, every time I see a new service pop up, what I think of is not its benefits, but its potential exploits. Please don’t take it personally, it’s just the way I’m hardwired.

    The problem with Backtype does not actually derive from the service itself (you guys have actually done an awesome job), but rather from the fundamental way in which online personas are built. Impersonation is so ridiculously easy that it’s not even funny anymore.

    Any attempt to bypass this problem creates another one. If you allow self moderation on a Backtype account, people will have a mean to get away with low quality comments and if you use the community to gauge whether a comment is real or not, you’ll find yourself in a “What height does the emperor of Japan has” conundrum.

    Personally, I believe that the answer relies in the general spreading of systems such as OpenID, but until this occurs I have a strong feeling that we will witness a high profile case of this type of identity theft.

    I know that Backtype tries to offer a valuable service in an imperfect world, but these concerns must be addressed sooner rather than later. The only real solution I see for the current situation is to simply drop this “comment belongs/ does not belong” paradigm and in unclear situations simply assign a probability for that comment to be real and state it as such. In murky waters, transparency is the best weapon.

    Regards, George

  7. Keren Dagan
    September 30, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    @grayhatzone – George
    Thanks for taking the time to read my post and share your thought. You raise a valid point about identity assurance and the integrity of Backtype service.
    I also like some of your suggested solutions and I’m sure that we see more attempts to fight this battle from Backtype and other services.
    With that said if this is the reason not to build more services such as Backtype in the future then we all end up with a lose. If that was the though process we would not have blogging, IM, email, twitter and more. I’m willing to accept some of this nuisance for the sake of making the web more interesting place.

    I started thinking about this problem and I would like to suggest a couple potential solutions . Backtype could find one of the newly comment “hosting” services out there to co-operate with. The first that comes to mind is the new FriendFeed plugin for comments, the second is DISQUS (http://disqus.com/).
    I’m not sure if this is a valid possibility since they might be competing solution. Yet getting comments from blogs that guarantee its reader’s identity is a more scalable solution.

    Backtype could also offer its service in two modes: the first is the “wild west” mode where there is no comment governance. The second is the “spam free” service in the same way Twingly does for its blog search. In this mode only comments that has a valid web presence behind them (i.e. link to a blog from a “white list” – not splog) will be crawled.

    If you think about it takes time to earn Google’s crawler trust and respect. Why not act the same way here?

    Interesting discussion – thanks for bringing this point I encourage you and Christopher to share more thoughts here or on Backtype’s blog.


  8. October 1, 2008 at 12:21 am

    @greyhatzone: Thanks for the comment — totally understand where you’re coming from and we appreciate the feedback. At the moment, impersonation hasn’t been a huge problem for us, but as soon as we notice that changing we’re going to be thinking of new ways to tackle it. Moderating your comments keeps the impersonation out — but moderating is a nuisance.

    I agree w/ @Keren: Third party comment systems like Disqus definitely help limit spam and impersonation. They authenticate the comment author’s identity for us; we’re going to use that to our advantage. They’ve built a great product and we’re happy to support it on BackType.

    Thanks for the comments.

  1. September 27, 2008 at 12:10 pm

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