Saturday Aug 29, 2009

Are blogs losing their infuence?

Richard Morgan sent me this article, "Are Blogs Losing Their Authority To The Statusphere?" dated March 10th 2009, which argues that while blog authority ranking according to Technorati remains fairly static, the scores of the various blogs are declining. Technorati uses an inlist scoring algorithm which may be part of the problem, but it would seem to me that micro-blogging is impacting the strength of the voice of blogs as a communications tool, which is what the article argued. In some way's not just micro-blogging, but the various places where people can and do record what they do and think. When I started this blog 5 years ago, I chose to restrain what I put here but other media have grown in popularity, and so people's ability to express themselves have grown. There is a diversification of publication sites which makes following people harder, although technorati only set out to capture blogs, not people, blogs seem no longer to be at the centre of how the internet records what people think. I know that I have been writing less frequently.

Internet messaging is built on a growing distributed architecture, consisting of

  • publication,

  • distribution,

  • aggregation and

  • consumption.

Different sites and technologies seek to perform and excel in different parts of the chain. The aggregation stage permits people to view people, if they permit it, or subject matter and most importantly control their own entry points to the mess that is today's content, by which I mean choose to follow people of look for specific expertise. I think that authors should seek to co-operate with this consumer control of the reading process. It should be noted that the behaviour of individuals and corporations will differ. In particular most media companies want to capture the reader/viewer but individuals have no need to copy this behaviour. I try to post content and let people find it; I hope I have developed a reputation for expertise in some subjects over my career.

By keeping the architecture in mind, one can try and avoid annoying your readers, who, if one has any, are likely to be your friends. Bad habits I see are people who syndicate their tweets into facebook, so I, and others, get to know about their breakfast twice, and I am not a fan of syndicating one's del.icio.us feed into blogs using the APIs. This latter habit annoys me because I don't see the blog as an aggregation tool, but a publishing tool, and so I expect original work, of some description in people's blogs. This can be even worse when people then publicise the blog, containing bookmarks using a micro blog. That's three clicks to read something written by someone other than the person who's views you've subscribed to, and if using a wireless device that's a real pain. NB This is also true if you subscribe to Digg feeds, you get to 'interesting' content via the Digg page, so three clicks, three tabs or windows to read content you want. Another offence which I wish I could deal with more easily is the microblogging incontinent. The only way I have discovered how to deal with those, is to unsubscribe.

One can, and I do aggregate my feeds into one place. I originally created a personal planet, which aggregates some of the feeds I create. I have tried to create an everything feed at http://friendfeed.com/davelevy, which also has a nice key of the feeds I contribute to. This means that my readers can construct a feed that interests them. I know that some friends are interested in the technology, but not the politics. I commit the offence of subscribing my friend feed to face book, but I consider Facebook to be mainly a consumer. I need to think about this. Its not great, but I don't syndicate my tweets directly to my face book statuses (sic), nor do I copy them back into friend feed. Manging my facebook feed is not easy and is compounded by Facebook's desire to perform all roles in the architecture while being 'open'. Its this open-ness which has enable site specialisation around, for instance, travel, books, restaurants and even at living social, iphone apps.

I suppose I am appealing for people to consider what tools they use to perform a specific role in the the personal content architecture. Don't over aggregate, if people are interested in your thoughts they'll find them. Don't shove it down their throats.

When I first considered writing this little essay, it seemed interesting to consider, “Is the status-sphere replacing blogs?”, others including Tim Bray have written about this since and argue Not. I hope that the evolution of easy micro-blogging, will free blogs to become deeper and more interesting. I know that I have produced less frequent blog article since I took up with Twitter, but I also considered my del.icio.us feed, to be a microblog of sorts. Another key development is that the use of sites like del.icio.us has turned in-list search ranking from a vote of web authors, where you needed the technology skills and resource to have a web page in order to influence the sort order, into a vote of web readers and authors. The ease of micro blog adoption means that an even large crowd should now be participating in the construction of in list search orders. I am unsure how url shortner's impact the search engines in-list calculations. They make it harder, I 'm sure, as does the fact there's more than one. Many argue that Twitter's best value is as a search engine and that it, and other micro-blogging systems won't replace blogs because there are too many subjects that can't be accurately discussed in 140, characters. Techcrunch published further thoughts on twitter, and it chances of supplanting the blogs, however it takes less time to tweet, rubbish gets lost easier, and twitter in particular is designed to be used by handheld devices. (I don't think I'd like to have written this on my new Nokia 5800, or even my ipodtouch.) It should be noted, that while its very easy to create a 140 character message, it should be easy to create a podcast or even a video, but its not. They are both difficult to create, especially if you don't just record a chat amongst friends but try and 'deliver/perform' a report. This is a skills issue. They wouldn't pay Steven Fry all that money to make audio books if it was easy.

One final thought is that communitarian aggregation is not well done at the moment. One of the strength's of Peter Reiser's approach, 'Community Equity', to knowledge management systems that at its heart is a personal rating engine. (See also http://socialadoption.com/ They don't yet have this as truly n-dimensional, which I think is needed, so you can rate your own content, rate other author's expertise, rate & describe their interest to you. I may play with a Google App or Zembly, to experiment with some of how to make some of this work. A very rich inter-personal network with sophisitcated popular and machine calculated relevance scoring is something that can add value. Content could flow through your colleagues votes moving closer and further away from your viewing window and your friends and colleagues advice and hints would influence or determine what you find. Google reader's share facility is quite close, but there's only one dimension, you can have friends, and they can recommend stuff for you to read. (I think more can be done.)

I hint that one of Technorati's problems is its reliance on in-list. Searching the Workplace Web, written by Fagin, Kumar and McCurley, which I commented on, on this blog in an article called, The Shape of Internet, write about a number of relevance and ordering tests that could be used and specifically argue that within the corporate intranet other sorts and relevance tests may be more appropriate to help solve a number of questions such as authority. They also argue that intranet URL naming is less search friendly and it is clear that the dissipation of people's voice and advice over multiple sites with different naming conventions, often using surrogates or numbers and URL shortners means that the internet is catching up on the early intranet in the chaos of name space. It may be time to review in-list and begin to weight votes for relevance and sort-order.

Are blogs losing their relevance, maybe, maybe not. Well written opinions by disinterested experts will always be valued. As the dross moves to the microblogs, this may liberate the blogs to re-establish themselves as clear voices of expertise. Some of what was observed Richard's post to me may be failures in Technorati, its initial insights are aged and its being out innovated.

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Tuesday Jul 28, 2009

Twitter grows on me

I have been unable to resist twitter and so have become regularly in breach of my original manifesto. I still make posts which imply my location and that I am not likely to be online for a period but have become involved in conversations and more recently I have been trying to build karma on lazytweet. As a result I have removed the twitter widget, which displayed my most recent tweet from this blog, and replaced it with a twitter button, which takes you to my twitter page.

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Friday Aug 15, 2008

Rethinking Twitter

I have been arguing with Constantin Gonzalez about the best way to use twitter. He ended one of his mails to me with the advice to get a better phone and/or client. Yesterday twitter announced that they were terminating SMS transmissions in the UK. Oh Hoorah! So it looks like I need to take his advice.

I use a Sony Ericsson K610i, which I have also been advised to change and so I have the choice of using a WAP service or looking for a Java application. So far I have found

The twitter blog article offers some other advice including http://www.cellity.com/, this looks neat but does anyone know what their business model is? It also suggests looking at a page on getsatisfaction, where a lively discussion is taking place.

I have had a quick look at the two wap sites. tweete.net looks OK, but how shall I get it to discriminate between those I want on the phone and those I don't. Its font size is smaller than twitter's, so harder to read, but more white space.

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Tuesday Aug 12, 2008

using twitter to share

Some colleagues use twitter to notify their correspondents of their blogs. I have discovered 'twitthis' as a remote javascript and embedded it into this article. Actually it was pointed out in an article in the Guardian which suggest maybe twitter is losing its edgyness. I have changed the picture, to make it a better fit on the article affinity line, as a companion to technorati, digg, slashdot and delicious.

twit this: <script TYPE="text/javascript" SRC="http://s3.chuug.com/chuug.twitthis.scripts/twitthis.js"></script> <script TYPE="text/javascript"> </script>

You might recognise this picture better.

You need to be logged into twitter for this to work, maybe through the script. I have run one test and this article is part of the second test. If this works I'll add it to the 'share this' line, and let you know how it works.

It advertises itself at http://twitthis.com/.

I shall probably not add this to the 'share this' line; the script points at the blog, not the article, so I shall put this in the sidebar sometime.

Please let me know if you find the lag as it executes the script unacceptable.

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Tuesday May 20, 2008

tweeting your plaze

Plazes now have a twitter feed for people to publish to. They contacted me, but I need to consider what I think about that. I have made promises to people about how I propose to use it. I hope that other Plazes followers wont be disappointed.

Wednesday Apr 23, 2008

My Twitter Manifesto

Twitter birdAfter my trip to Italy, where there was no broadband in my hotel room, I decided to reinvestigate twitter. So I am now broadcasting using it and also following some colleagues and friends.

I do not intend to use it as a microblog, but mainly to let people know about my access to the internet, "Will e-mail work?", and maybe the phone networks, since some places I may be visiting over the next couple of years may not have such great communications infrastructure, although how I do this without phone or web will be interesting. However, it might be useful, if I forget my charger lead. I do not expect to twit every day, so its not a major overhead for those of you who consume twitter on the mobile phone. I have also forwarded my feed to my facebook profile and I have a twitter feed URL, which can be consumed by any RSS reader, although not it seems my Sony Erissson's reader.

I am consuming those I follow's feeds using my phone. This is, as I said, a Sony Ericsson and has a pretty small screen and although it does have a wap browser, the browsing experience is not very satisfactory. If you are a frequent poster, you'd best stay interesting, as one of the reasons I first dropped twitter was that I found consuming it on the phone too intrusive. This time I shall probably stop following those who post to much. I have already tried and stopped using the sun bloggers twitter feed.

Another reason to be mannerly is that as a consumer, one only gets 250 messages/week, at which point one has to restart the feed.  With twitter, we may have returned to the days of Usenet, where authors were asked to consider reader's bandwidth, but its now frequency, not verbosity that's the potential problem.

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Thursday Feb 21, 2008

Organisation and Communication

Just trying to sort myself out from my last trip abroad.

Firstly, I have sorted out my twitter so that I am now receiving on the phone from all my correspondents. I have looked at forwarding my twits onto my personal planet, but wget fails for some reason. I need to investigate further, although twitter's FAQ talks about a configuration feature. I shall only be using it occasionally, probably in emergencies to let people know that facebook/e-mail is not available to me, and to use other means to contact me.

It might be sensible to ensure that really important people subscribe and follow me, although they might expect a personal message, and also don't care about my internet connectivity.

I have also revised the my flickr application on facebook so that it forwards everything, not just the London pictures, and my facebook correspondents can now see the pictures as I upload them. I am not sure if it auto-updates, but I can force it to write into my mini-feed, so hopefully people get notified when new pictures go up. Now I just have to find time to upload them. The most recent uploads are from Spain and my Madrid trip, the most recent pictures are from Dubai. This will hopefully improve the quality of my facebook feed for those who follow me there.

Its a shame that I am trapped on such an old version of planet-planet, there's a couple of things that don't work as well as I'd hope. The slynkr posts are still broken, they don't display the description, but a generated comment, I have never got round to including either this blog, nor the flickr pictures. The plazes feed My Plazes - Atom feed is also mis-mapped, but  I am working my way through the O'Reilly python book to see if this helps me build a personal feed that does what I want.

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Tuesday Feb 12, 2008

I can't get online...

However, I can't believe that the hotel only has dial up in the room; I don't have the cable, nor the dial up agents to use this. Something to fix, as well as bluetoothing my mobile. The hotel has wi-fi in the Lobby and bar, but need to see my passport so that they can tell the police. I know that in the UK, we have some stupid rules about what we can and can't do without proving identity, but this strikes me as particularly foolish.

The upside is that I was able to use Twitter to let my twitter correspondents know about this and to text or phone me if they required urgent attention. I thought that this was useful, as opposed to the views I expressed last year, and so turned Lou Springer's feed back on to my phone. In future, I shall be using Twitter as a backup to chat, and for occasional broadcasts when the chat or mail is unavailable. If this sounds useful, follow me at Twitter or Facebook, where I also post my twits.

I wonder if I can consume my twits into my planet.

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Tuesday Oct 09, 2007

twitting the CEC

Over the last 24 hours, I have been half heartedly discussing with Shawn Ferry and others if we should consume messages from twitter to augment the Q&A technology we use to get questions to the speakers using mail, text and IM. Shawn pointed out that one can track at twitter now.

I have subscribed using the suncec2007 tag, and some of the correspondents are quite noisy, but I still don't really get it. I prefer IM using a laptop; its easier to type messages with a qwerty keyboard, than any phone I'bve seen.

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Wednesday Aug 15, 2007

Microblogging

And then there were micro-blogs. I have just a finished a conference call about Consolidation with a customer, and hooked up with a colleague Lou Springer with whom I had a quick chat about Twitter. If you don't know what this is, then you'll have to go there.

It's been best described to me as micro-blog site, that delivers to a number of clients, but potentially most interestingly to the phone by SMS. (This means that the article length is limited, you're not publishing essays there!) Lou's not the first to suggest I subscribe, but its quite popular with the people that persuaded me to start out at facebook and there is a facebook integration application so I joined up and bumped into the people who'd invited me.

I've spent two days playing with it and was deciding that I wasn't keen on yet another application that I could use to tell people where I am. However,

  • it seems more popular than plazes, so I get more feeds from from more people, and some from the same
  • it has a phone & IM publication interface, although it uses AIM and is allegedly having difficulty in making the latter work.
  • it can be set to read your feeds on the phone, which is good for days when one doesn't connect to the internet by computer, (I wonder how I'll feel when I'm on holiday), however, this could be the killer justification .
  • Lou says its great for home workers as for him it becomes one of the technology equivalents of people walking past your desk/office, so this might also apply to geographically dispersed teams as well.

I also feel that my del.icio.us feed is a micro-blog, since I always try and comment the URL's and you get some view of what I think of the page, or sometimes why I was reading it. I also gather everything together (except this blog feed) at Planet DaveLevy, which includes the blog entries from my bliki. (These aren't very exciting but it is another window on to my life, although most of this content is just documenting stuff, its facts I want on the internet.)

I think, I'll keep my correspondence at twitter to micro-blogging stuff of relevance to my followers (thats the word they use, I'm not starting a cult), and use it mainly as a reader. If you want to know where I am, you'll have to find me at plazes, and I need to wait for them to fix my outstanding niggles.

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