GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkShow n Tell Thursday: Tracking Blog Comments With Domino
03:28:15 PM

Rocky deserves credit for getting Show n Tell Thursday started. You can subscribe to my contributions to this effort via this URL, although if you're already a subscriber to my blog that's a little silly. I am working on a new version of my Bloggregator app, which I'll be giving to John Head to set up as a central point for browsing all contributions to Show n Tell Thursday and for subscribing to them all as a single feed.

And now for my first contribution. If you scroll down a bit and look in the right sidebar of my blog, you'll see a "Responses Elsewhere" block that looks like this:


I track many of the comments that I make in other people's blogs, and I display them in that block. The application would be very useful to me even if I weren't displaying the information on my blog. I use it in the Notes client to keep track of the conversations I'm participating in, so that I can revisit them a few times while they're still going on and see if anything interesting has been said. It's just a single click of an action button in a view to get me to the right page of any blog that I've posted a response to.

Naturally, I do this with a Notes and Domino application. It consists of a couple of forms, several views, and a page. I'll describe it all here.

The page is called "Bookmarklet", and the web launch properties of the database are set to open this page. When you open the database through a browser, what you'll see is just this:


The sole purpose of the page is to give you a link to right click and add to your bookmarks. If you don't know what bookmarkets are, suffice it to say that it's a bit of JavaScript code that you can invoke directly from your bookmarks, regardless of what page you are on. The bookmarklet that the page in my app generates looks like this:

javascript: foo=location.href;bar=document.title;location.href='
entry?OpenForm&rhs_href=' + foo +'&rhs_title='+bar

Naturally, if you implement the app on your server, the bookmarklet will have your hostname and path instead of mine. I do this with zero configuration by using JavaScript in the browser to generate the JavaScript hotspot. The "Bookmarklet" page actually looks like this in Domino Designer:

<title>Test bookmarklet</title>
<script language=javascript>
start = "<a href=\"javascript: foo=location.href;bar=document.title;location.href='"
end = "/entry?OpenForm&rhs_href=' + foo +'&rhs_title='+bar\">Record Blog Response Entry</a>"
document.write(start + location.href + end)

Moving along to the one form in the database, its called "Entry", and the layout looks like this:


Status is a radio button field with values "Current" and "Archived", aliased to "1" and "0" respectively. Links that are displayed in the "Responses Elsewhere" are the ones that are marked as "Current".

linkURL is a text field with the default formula of @UrlQueryString("rhs_href"). If you examine the bookmarklet code above, you'll see that it generates a URL consisting of the hostname of your server, the path to your database, plus "entry?OpenForm" (which opens the for we're talking about in the users browser) followed by two arguments. The first argument is &rhs_href, and it is set to the URL of the page you are on when you invoke the bookmarklet. The LinkURL field pulls that out of the full URL.

linkCaption is a text field with the default formula of @UrlQueryString("rhs_title"). The bookmarklet takes the window title of whatever page you are on when you invoke it, and it passes it to the application in the &rhs_title argument. The linkCaption field pulls this out of the URL.

(Unfortunately, the window title of most blogs -- including my own, does not contain the subject of the article that one is reading. In most cases, I manually edit the default data in the linkCaption field into the format "Blog Name: Subject" or some abbreviation of each. I've thought about adding a way to map window titles from blogs I frequently visit to abbreviated names, but since that only solves half the problem I haven't bothered. A more sophisticated approach would be to program in an algorithm that searches for patterns used by common blog tools and pull the actual subject text out of the DOM. For instance, in Ed Brill's blog, it would have to recognize that the subject is in an H3 element with the class set to "title"... but I haven't studied that patterns in enough blogs to know whether this would actually be useful.)

linkDateTime is exactly what you would expect: a computed date/time field.

The $$Return field's formula is "[" + linkURL + "]", so that when the user clicks the Submit button (which is just does a standard [FileSave] and [FileCloseWindow]) the browser will return right back to the page the user was on when s/he invoked the bookmarklet.

There's a view called "Main" which is what I use to browse the database in the Notes client. It's sorted on creation date, and it has columns that display the Status field, the linkCaption and linkURL fields. There are two Action buttons in the view. One simply sets the Status field to "0" to archive a particular entry, and the other has the formula @URLOpen(linkURL) which opens a browser to the page where I posted my response.

In my Blogsphere-based blog, the block configuration for the "Responses Elsewhere" block looks like this:


It's a DbColumn block -- a feature I specifically requested from the Blogsphere developers -- that points to the Response List view in my database and pulls out the data from column two. It's a simple view, with a selection formula of SELECT Status=1 so that it only includes response entries that are marked as "Current". The first column is on sorted on the linkDateTime field. and the second column has a formula that generates some HTML as follows: "<a href='" + linkURL + "'>" + @URLDecode("UTF-8";linkCaption) + "</a><br>". The blogsphere template provides the rest of the HTML formatting for the block.

That's it. If you think this is a worthwhile application, let me know. I'll pretty it up a bit and post it to openNTF.

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Comments :v

1. Declan Lynch02/16/2006 05:23:13 PM

Have you seen CoComment yet? ( )

It uses a bookmarklet to make a copy of your comments on the CoComment website where you can then track your conversations on their page, create an RSS feed of your comments and even a side block for your blog.

The Blogsphere template will include support for CoComment in the next version.

There are also a few other Web V2 apps appearing on the scene that do similar things. One is My.Comments and andother called Co.Omments.

Actually there's an idea for you. You could add an RSS feed to your comments database so people can track where you have left comments...

2. Richard Schwartz02/16/2006 05:43:50 PM

Yes, I have seen CoComment. I have an invite, as a matter of fact, but I have yet to try it. I should. One reason I haven't is that I've been using my own solution for more than two and a half years! I guess I should be particularly interested in seeing of their bookmarklet goes exploring through the DOM to find patterns specific to common blog tools so that it can pull out the subjects of posts and replies.

Adding an RSS feed to it so that other people can track where I've commented... Hmm... sounds intriguing, but is there anybody out there who really wants to know where Richard Schwartz has left comments? I don't have evidence that I'm that important for people to be following so closely, and I don't know if I'm quite vain enough to assume it. OTOH, if I post this to OpenNTF, it might be a useful feature for someone.

I should also mention: what's really cool about this app, and what made it something I wanted to put into the spotlight of Show-N-Tell Thursday, is that it literally took me minutes to build the first version, which required that I cut and paste the URL and type the caption. But then, once I learned about bookmarklets, it took me minutes to modify the application so that I could use a hand-constructed bookmarklet with it, and then minutes to add the page to generate a bookmarklet. And then when I switched from my old FreeDom Blog to Blogsphere, it took me minutes to adapt the view to generate the right HTML for Blogsphere. All in all, I I've spent less time developing the app than I did writing this article. I use it just about every day, through a serviceable (though spare) client interface. It's got a secure but also very spare web interface, it feeds data to my blog, and it self-configures the bookmarklet so installation and configuration is literally just a matter of creating a database from the template and setting the ACL. This could have been built with lots of tools, but I sure don't know of any that could do it this fast.

3. Bruce Elgort02/18/2006 01:25:36 PM

I think Bruce also deserves some credit since it was his idea

4. Richard Schwartz02/20/2006 05:51:49 PM

Sorry 'bout that, Bruce. You deserve credit, too. Bring a guiro to the next JamFest and you'll get even more credit!

5. Bruce Elgort02/21/2006 02:35:35 PM

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