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May 15, 2008

An @foo convention for blogs

I've noted before in this blog that Twitter has a very simple convention for prefixing someone's Twitter account name with '@' to indicate that you are responding to them in your tweet - @andypowe11 for example.  (In Twitter, being made up of messages that are only 140 characters of plain text, all conventions are by definition simple!).  This allows me to reference another twit (someone who tweets) but doesn't tie my response directly to a particular tweet, or thread of tweets.  It works, within the confines of tweetspace because all Twitter account names are unique.

In the blogsphere we have the opposite problem.  If I want to respond to a particular blog post I can do so using the entry's trackback (or ordinary) URL.  But if I just want to refer to someone, as I did in my recent entry about podcasting, there don't seem to be any lightweight conventions for doing so.  I could use a microformat or an OpenID I guess, but my current blogging tool, Typepad, doesn't give me an easy way of doing so afaik?  In any case, the complexity of this approach makes it hard to see it taking off in the way that the @foo convention has done in Twitter.

So what I'd like, and please tell me if it already exists, is an easy way of dragging and dropping the names of the people I regularly refer to in my blog entries (there aren't that many btw!) into a blog post such that the result is more machine-readable than just the person's name as a text string.  Does such a convention and/or tool exist?

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If you link to their blog (assuming they have one) they'd get the trackback references, and some people set up alerts for their name, but I don't know of any equivalent to Twitter's @name.

This post reviews coComment, co.mments and Commentful, which might provide alternatives but they're based on tracking comments rather than finding references to you: http://www.splitbrain.org/blog/2007-02/08-tracking_your_blog_comments

I know it's not the shorthand you are looking for, but their name linked to their blog homepage or 'about' page does seem to be the convention that has evolved, and whether through track/pingback or referrer logs, seems to have worked fairly well in instigating conversation (if albeit often times more slowly than in twitter).

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