Does Robert Scoble “own” his comments?

by Mathew on May 26, 2008 · 62 comments

Last night sometime, a blogosphere/social-media furore erupted (or maybe squabble is a better word) about who “owns” the comments that are made on blogs or on aggregators such as FriendFeed. At the center of the storm, not surprisingly, was Robert Scoble — who is either the John the Baptist or Typhoid Mary of social media, depending on your viewpoint. The unwitting trigger for the backlash was Rob La Gesse, a consultant who also writes a blog. And what did La Gesse do? He decided that he didn’t like the fact that comments about his blog posts were occurring on FriendFeed, so he deleted his account (see Rob’s comment below for clarification).

In doing so, however, La Gesse also removed all of the comments that had been posted — including some from Scoble (La Gesse says he didn’t know that would happen). The uber-blogger didn’t like that much: “@kr8tr you just deleted all MY comments. That was really nasty dude,” the Scobleizer said on Twitter. A heated discussion ensued both on Twitter, as well as on La Gesse’s blog and on FriendFeed. That in itself makes a statement about the fragmentation of comments that many people (including me) have written about in the past.

The big issue for Scoble, however, seemed to be that he felt he owned his comments — even if they appeared on a third-party service attached to a blog post from someone else. Does that make any sense? I’m not sure. It doesn’t feel right to me. I think if you comment on someone’s blog, or on a newspaper site like ours at the Globe and Mail, or on Slashdot or Craigslist or anywhere else for that matter, your comments effectively become public property. Not that the site owns them, but they are to some extent out of your control (although Disqus lets you edit them until someone else responds to them).

Robert says that he’s not mad any more, but the issue he has raised is an interesting one, I think. Who owns your comments on public sites like FriendFeed? Do you? Or are they public property?

Update:

I sent an email to FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit to see if he had any comment, and he said that this is the first time the subject has really come up. “In general, we want people to have control over their own feeds,” he said. “That said, it is unfortunate to have lost comments in cases such as this, rare as they may be. We’d like to make these comments available — it’s just a matter of finding the right ui.” Buchheit said that the comments haven’t been deleted, they just aren’t visible because they are no longer attached to anything, but that FriendFeed was working on a way to make them visible again.

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