A pine cone is a wonderful image for this content. The cone has many seeds from which whole large trees may be grown. And the form of the cone is also a tree albeit one with no branches from the branches, so it is only a one level tree. Now I want to discuss how a tree structure can be used to clarify and organize the content of a list of comments.
Most blogs that accept comments just list them in the order in which they were entered by their various authors. This means that if a blog posting is actually important and elicits many comments, the list of all comments will become uniquely boring and any gems will be hidden among a mass of mostly repetitive and seldom insightful other comments.
I propose an alternative. If the blogging service provides an IBIS style wiki, then the full benefits of a well designed argumentation system would be available when readers decide to promote the best comments into it. IBIS is the Issue Based Information System. The key feature is that questions are king. Until there is a question, the only thing that can be entered is a question. Once there is a question, anyone can add an answer to that question, or a question about that question, or a footnote or link to outside information.
The value of this is that every answer (or position or claim) is greatly clarified by the specific question that it answers. Often a comment to a blog posting will make a claim or state a position on the topic of the blog, so anyone who moves that comment into the wiki will have to intuit and construct the question to which that is the answer.
Now that we have a question and an answer, we have two places to add another question and one place to put an additional answer to the question as well as a place to put either a supporting argument (Pro) or a conflicting argument (Con) tied to the first answer. Of course, we also have two places to put a footnote or a link.
If the comment supplies also some Pro arguments or even some Con arguments, they can now be entered directly. If it makes more claims, then the questions for which these are the answers would have to be constructed before the claims can be entered. And the first decision of the person moving the claim into the QAPC wiki will be to decide if it is a new fundamental question, not tied to anything already in the wiki or if it questions something already entered and should be attached there.
Clearly, it takes some effort to move a comment or even part of a comment into the QAPC wiki. But if people do that, the questions will serve as an index and even if a hundred comments are added to the QAPC wiki tree, finding the part that interests you will be fairly quick and easy compared to searching through the comment list itself.
This scheme lets anyone add a comment with minimal constraint, but if a reader wishes to promote a comment into the wiki and thus make it more findable and indeed more subject to further questioning and argument, then she will have to do a bit of extra work. Should such a facility become widely available, I suspect the material entered into such wikis will quickly be recognized as more valuable that the raw comments and get read more closely.
Do you see a good way to make such a wiki in a way that blog servers could use easily?
If you do, then please leave a comment here or even a comment in the form that it would appear in such a wiki. Or write me. Or tweet me @Nitpicker77 Or implement it.