Where the conversation’s heading

Bret Taylor, Dave Sifry - Technorati, Matt Colebourne, Loic Le MeurFree internet speech has a price,  the Supernova networking conference learnt today.

Comment and conversation on specific websites is being liberated by services that allow commenters to make their comments portable and aggregate them elsewhere.

But if comment is not contained and moderated, concerns arise over privacy, ownership of the data, censorship and liability.

Representatives from coComment, FriendFeed and Seesmic, three services that have opened up web conversation, discussed these issues in a debate on “Liquid Conversations”.

Matt Colebourne, chief executive of coComment, said media companies he talked to were realising the ability to censor comment was disappearing.

“As an end user, I have certain rights, I can choose to say what I like, but if I’m saying it on Dave’s blog then he has a right to say ‘I don’t want to see it here’.

“But we have had a situation recently where someone left a comment on a blog and it was disallowed, but because that was a coComment user that comment was captured by coComment and is still there, and we took the view that the end user owned that comment because it was not on the site.”

Loic Le Meur, founder of the video comment company Seesmic,  said its users owned their comments and could choose to share them or not under the same kind of Creative Commons licence that exists on the Flickr photo-sharing service.

“As a user, I should choose whether I want to participate in private or public discourse,” said Bret Taylor, co-founder of FriendFeed.

“We are creating experiences for private discourse about public content – if you went home and had read an article in a newspaper and talked about it with your family, that’s private discourse about public content.

“It’s probably unreasonable to get too up in arms about this, on FriendFeed many of the conversations are private through the privacy controls for users and they drive traffic to sites through their links,” he said.

The session also spent time discussing  how to manage the noise from too much conversation. Matt Colebourne said there was no Dewey Decimal library categorisation system for comment and users would follow individuals who produced high-quality comments.

“We will have the rise of the celebrity commenters,” he said.

Bret Taylor suggested more sophisticated filters would produce the best comments, such as the Best of Day/Week/Month filter on FriendFeed.

Loic Le Meur demonstrated how comment could take many forms – he showed some of the 100s of video comments and conversations posted every day in sign language by hearing-impaired Seesmic users.