UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

MyBlogLog

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 18 January 2007

I recently added this blog to the MyBlogLog service. From my personalised MyBlogLog page I can access manage the information about my blog and subscribe to other blog services. I’ve subscribed to a number of blogs of interest to me (including Mashable and Read/Write Web).

MyBlogLog

Why have I done this? For several reasons:

  • To provide greater exposure to the contents of my blog.
  • To exploring the community aspect of such blog aggregation services.
  • To gain a better understanding of the ways in which blog content can be reused and the implications.

We used to think that information should be held in one location. The information could then be managed by the owner, ensuring, for example, that a consistent and approved look-and-feel was provided.

Many people, no doubt, still subscribe to this view. My preference, though, is that access to my information is maximised by allowing it to be reused in a variety of contexts. Some of these contexts may be very specialised; others, however, may be locations where there are many users who, potentially, may benefit from, serendipitously, finding my blog postings.

The statistics page for my MyWebLog account show that on 8th January, there were 59 views of the blog by 34 readers. This is 34 readers who would probably not have found the blog otherwise, so this has been a useful exercise.

Statistics from MyBlogLog service

MyWebLog does provide access to statistics, although the free version only gives me access to statistics for the last 7 days and the top 10 visited pages.

My main interest in the service, however, was how it could be used to support the development of a distributed blogging community. What I would like would be for a community blog which aggregated content from a variety of related blogs (e.g. blogs from JISC development projects; blogs from members of institutional Web management teams; blogs from museums; etc.) Obviously I could do this within my personal RSS aggregator – but that would (normally) be available just to me. In some RSS aggregators I could share my feeds (e.g. PageFlakes). However I’m not convinced that this provides the sense of community you get from MyBlogLog, which provides a view of people who have read postings recently. (I’m aware, though, that some people may find this intrusive and an invasion of privacy – so it should be possible to view postings anonymously). As an experiment in this community aspect of MyBlogLog I have switched on the MyBlogLog widget in my sidebar.

Is anyone aware of services which will satisfy my requirements? I’ve noticed that the OSS Watch’s planet OSS Watch provides an RSS aggregation service using the Planet open source software, which provides a’ river of news’ feed reader’. But this doesn’t address the community angle. I do need to ask whether this is likely to be a service which people would find useful. Perhaps we’ll only find out through use.

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13 Responses to “MyBlogLog”

  1. I was going to suggest the Planet software, but you’ve already done so :)

    I’d ask who you intend the community aspects to actually be for. Is it for readers or for writers?

  2. I’d say readers, writers and potential writers. If we have a set of bloggers with shared interests (e.g. funded by the same JISC development programme, are institutional Web managers, are located at the same institution and have similar interests) it might be useful to aggregate the contents (people who read my blog might also be interested in not only the blogs that I read but other related blogs which I might not read) – and, as you say, Planet software allows you to do this. SO this might be useful to help readers with similar interests discover new blogs.

    But what if we want to provide opportunities for more active engagement with readers, active readers (readers who post comments) and potential writers. The photos you see of recent readers possibly provides a way of getting to know your readers, and there are similar techniques used in social networking services such as Facebook (a posting on Facebook will be published shortly). Clearly there are issues about privacy – but maybe there are factors based on age, gender, etc. which come into play – so although this might not be a solution for everyone, it might be a useful service for some.

  3. Then I guess it depends on how decentralised you want to be.

    For example if centralisation is OK then a standard WordPressMU install will suit you just fine. Once you go decentralised, you need people to be able to authenticate, or at least be recognised and/or identified, in a standard way, so getting to know active readers (i.e. commenters) may require the writers to be able to identify the same people across multiple systems identified in different ways (for example your WordPress install – no comment authentication, Blogger – blogger account, TypePad – TypeKey, OpenId accounts, Drupal accounts etc.). This is something which, as far as I’m aware, MyBlogLog doesn’t attempt to address, and would be very, very hard to do.

  4. Note that the statistics on MyWebBlog did seem on the high side (from 16-20 January 2007 the numbers of pages viewed were 180, 145, 120, 99 and 66 respectively by 60, 46, 35, 32 and 17 visitors).

    Looking at the pages which were viewed, I noticed this included some of the admin pages, which only I can access. So of yesterday’s 17 visitors, one will have been me who may have viewed 50 pages, with the other 16 visitors viewing a single page each).

    I’ve noticed that I can filter accesses from particular IP addresses, so I could filter out my views of the blog, but as I’m likely to use a variety of PCs and a variety of applications to access the blog, for now I’ll leave it with the default settings.

  5. Brian,

    You wrote: “What I would like would be for a community blog which aggregated content from a variety of related blogs (e.g. blogs from JISC development projects; blogs from members of institutional Web management teams; blogs from museums; etc.)”

    There are certainly many possible ways to use RSS and aggregators, many of them useful, and the community angle is one of them.

    However, one end product of subscribing to RSS feeds, and aggregations of feeds, is that it can become a bit of a burden to scan all the possibly relevant posts, because feeds are ‘push’ technology. They push content from external sources, not all of which will be relevant to the reader.

    Surely what is needed is a smart way to sift all this content for the posts which are really relevant to a recipient. Not just via keyword searching (which can be done), but by matching personal interest profiles to pattern matched content from aggregated RSS feeds of different kinds. The result would surely be a personalised alerting service which is restricted to known good quality content (selected RSS feeds), which delivers the wheat from the chaff. This would surely reduce information overload.

    Roddy

  6. Hi Roddy – I think you’re right. With a growth in the numbers of blogs and a growth in services which ouput RSS, there will be a need for clever tools to help find information which is relevant to the end user.
    Brian

  7. Returning to thge MyBlogLog service (and tangentially related to Roddy’s comments on finding relevent information in blogs), I noticed a couple of new photos of recent readers in the MyBlogLog siderbar. I followed the link to one reader: Joe Dolson. I found that he is the author of the Joe Dolson Accessible Web Design and Accessibility Blog blogs. Accessibility is an area of interest to be, and I have posted a couple of articles on this subject (- wich is possibly is how he found my blog. This may be suposition on my part – but what I can say is that it was through MyBlogLog that I found his accessibility blogs. This is a good example of the benefits of a blog community – not only can blog readers find out about me and my interests, but I have a way of finding out more about my blog readers. And, as I’ve found in this case, readers who are interested in what I am blogging about might themselves blog on topics which interest me.

    Peraps one of those clever tools needed to help users find information of use to them is already available!

  8. As I’m sure Roddy’s aware, there have been any number of attempts in aggregators to perform smart filtering based on custom criteria, among which are using rankings, attention data, bayesian filtering and more. None of them has had any particular degree of success, suggesting that this is not only a very difficult field, but that everyone has a different attitude to deciding what is interesting to them, rendering automated filtering almost impossible. True personalisation of the kind has, so far, proved to be an intractable problem.

  9. Not that I’m saying, of course, that we should stop trying :)

  10. On the subject of software for finding & filtering RSS feeds, I came across the Blogpulse server from an inbound link my referrer statistics for a search for
    bloglines+google+reader+statistics.
    The search results page gives some useful blog postings related to RSS readers, RSS statistics, etc.

    This service, provided by Nielsen BuzzMetrics, might be of interest to you.

  11. [...] into a more three-dimensional interaction has a lot of potential. Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) recently wrote (in a [...]

  12. [...] has been described previously this blog has been registered with the MyBlogLog [...]

  13. [...] Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on August 24th, 2007 An approach I’ve taken to maximising the impact of this blog has been register it (and its RSS feed) in various locations. One of these was the MyBlogLog service, as I’ve described previously. [...]

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