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Controlling The Discussion

I saw today on Noah Brier's site that CNet now supports trackback!

This is a tremendous leap for a major news media organization to make, and CNet should be commended for having the insight and guts to point users away from their site. Because of their size and because they are mainstream, they have instantaneously become the site that people will go to to find discussion on a given hot topic.

What are people saying about Kazaa being designated as "spyware" by Computer Associates? Check CNet. What about Microsoft's proposed piracy amnesty? CNet can point you to people who care.

How would I otherwise find the discussion? I'd go to Technorati, or maybe Google, but I'm a geek--my mom and dad don't know what Technorati is. Also, I would only look for more information if I was really interested in the subject, but making a list of Trackbacks eaily accessible (like CNet does) makes it a lot more likely that I'll check them out, even if I'm only moderately interested in the article.

Another benefit for CNet: they are able to keep tabs on discussions from around the web. Is one of their articles unexpectedly racking up Trackbacks like crazy? They can dig into the story a little more, write some analysis, or even bump up the visibility on its front page.

They are in a better place to give their visitors what they want AND to control the conversation by aggregating and displaying data that their visitors gladly provide them. In return, their visitors get some GoogleJuice.

I wonder how they're going to handle trackback spam? The volume of trackbacks leads me to believe that they can't be subject to editorial approval, and there's no aggregate policing system a la's "is this posting inappropriate" link. It will be interesting to see.

As Noah points out, Joe Trippi (Howard Dean's campaign manager) writes in his new book that the advantage on the web is its ability to create dialogue:

Get people involved! This is not top-down, one-to-many anymore. The Internet is side-to-side, up-and-down, many-to-many. Use it that way. It's the dialogue, stupid.

While established companies are rarely the early adopters--they prefer to wait to see how they can make money off an idea, even though paradoxically they are in the best place to be able to figure that out after implementation--it's exciting to see a major player like CNet dive into the pool head-first.

As I wrote earlier, there's a huge opportunity for major content providers to facilitate discussion, so kudos to CNet for stepping to the plate.

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Comments (Post | Latest)

1. Noah Brier said on Nov 28 2004:

It is exciting to see CNet jumping in. They've traditionally been early adopters, though. They've been in the RSS game for a while (they were also the first I can remember to let you see multiple prices side-by-side). They're very forward thinking and have managed to maintain that despite their growth. (I interviewed a vice-president there for an article I wrote and he was incredibly helpful and willing to share numbers that most were unwilling to share.)

It is amazing, though, that companies are still not seeing what's going on here and getting online in a meaningful and coversational way. I was excited to see your post asking users to tell you what they thought about Insider (in fact I ran across that post first and was poking around the site and saw your link to me). I'm very impressed that you're putting yourself out there in the way you are. I must ask, though, does know that you've asked this?

Also, as a side note, how did you run across my site? You can email me at nb[AT] Thanks.

2. sujal said on Nov 29 2004:

Bastards stole my oh-so-very-original idea. :)

But, no, blogging isn't a trend. No, really. It's not. (bosses, are you reading this???)

3. sujal said on Nov 29 2004:

Noah, I don't know if our bosses know exactly about Kareem's request, but our blogs are well read inside the technology group at I would guess that they probably have seen it by now.

4. Noah Brier said on Nov 29 2004:

I assume they don't have a problem with it then? I'm just curious because I've done some consulting about corporate blogging and one of the big issues is how to create a blogging policy. I think the trackback idea is pretty fantastic, though I don't think it's the be all and end all of communication with consumers. In fact, I think that a blog like this with the ability to talk to real people behind the scenes may be more powerful than even trackbacks (for me at least). Anyhow, I am a big fan of and my only request (as I mentioned in my comments about Insider) is that I think you need to make your RSS feeds more accessible (or at least better advertised).

5. John Roberts said on Nov 29 2004:

Glad we're not the only ones thinking along these lines.

I couldn't find a feed from this blog, or I would have subscribed.

I'd be interested to connect with you about this and other initiatives.


John Roberts
CNET product development

6. kareem said on Nov 30 2004:

Noah, I think the value in implementing trackback is showing visitors where the conversations about a piece of content are continuing. Unrelated to product-ish blogs like but, but both are valuable.

Re: RSS feeds at ESPN, stay tuned... there's some good stuff on the horizon!


Hi, I'm Kareem Mayan. I co-founded eduFire, an online video tutoring company.

I've done time at ESPN and FIM.

I advise WorldBlu, helping them build democratic companies.

I moderated a council for Creative Good.

And, I helped bring Barcamp, a technology un-conference, to LA, which is where I live. I am now living and working in cool cities around the world.

More about me.

Opinions stated here are mine alone.

Contact: blog -at- reemer


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