Do click-throughs indicate relevance and value?

Have you noticed since the reBlogger 3.1 update (on 22nd of Feb) that the reBlogger we have getting a LOT of posts in every day now? About 49 per day – a whole page!

reBlogger.com will have this problem AND MORE, so I was thinking more about how to encourage relevance – how to find the signal in the noise, how to find the needle in the haystack.

Of course, since RB will not by default display the newest daily content (there is too much anyway) it will ask for a search term first and THEN display the newest content – AJAX style. 🙂

You can then add more search terms and exclude words… and if you want, you can group those search terms together under a label (keyword/category) for easy storing. To store, so you can come back, you make a login. So that is an easy solution to having too much information thrown at you.

However, I have been thinking, we can count the number of people who clicked through to the original blog. I think when you have clicked through to the author, you have decided that in fact this author knows their stuff. You're voting for the author. So we can infer "authority" based on number of click throughs.

After using the search terms, and exclude terms, if we then order the content based on authority (not on time) we will be displaying the best content is at the top!

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Web 2.0 Open API thoughts

How To Roll Out An Open API.

I now have full access to your APIs. Total time taken: 2 minutes tops.

If it takes 15 minutes to fill out the form and then two business days for a human to “approve the request”, you’ve already lost a huge percentage of developers. Think of it like this: you want the developers to advertise your service, carry your product, or pitch your full service to their bosses. Why would you make it hard for them to do this?

Nat sets the record straight and shares excellent perspectives….

Making it fun to explore

Flikr has as their goal to make photos interesting. So I checked out their calendar. Click a day and you see pics from that day. It's interactive. It's quick. I love it. How does this differ from how I want to be able to explore the best that blogs have to offer? Not at all. Now look at the context in which they present a photo – tags, related items, scollable thumbs, a photostream and more. I absolutely love the ability to add notes to photos. Could we add notes to blog posts?

So they are really making photos more interesting! It's fun to explore well design photo collections (and it looks fun to store my own photos – had I not already invested MASSES of time in already storing my photos here at textamerica.com)

Now look at Yahoo Avatars. By playing with this (absolutely amazing Ajax) application I've told Yahoo a phenomenal amount about myself – my taste in clothes, sports preferences and hair etc. That's interesting, but what really captures me about this application is the way I explored and built up my data. How is that different to what I want to be able to do when I explore blogs?

I'm drifting from the user interface we designed for reBlogger where:

  1. step 1 is to define and include keyword and then
  2. begin to define exclude keywords and gradually build more includes
  3. until I have so many includes that I really should define a category… which is essentially the name of my "view".

But when I look at flikr and Yahoo Avatars, I'm wondering if we could invent an entirely new and better visual way of exploring literally millions of blog posts to fnd just what I want?As I wrote those words "add notes to blog posts" I suddenly remembered Ivan's idea of building a layer OVER blogs, so casual visitors can add meaning. I can smell the idea breakthrough… it's coming soon, sooooon.

Filter + popularity /= exploring

Ivan is right on the money in saying we must build exploring software rather than searching software. You can red blogs and their contents on bloglines but can you find and extrapolate what you're searching for?

I'm convinced we must target a company like Microsoft and given them a way to find and compare data contained in blogs. On a corporate intranet which I saw, they were clearly wanting to collate data from blogs, but it was useless.

I'll be honest and say that reBlogger is good. It uses include and exclusion of keywords to ensure it's always on signal (there's no interferance) but what I've come to see is that when I'm trying to find lots of info on a particular topic, there is still so much info on there, it's hard to collect next to each other exactly what I want.

So we're always on topic and on signal – but the signal waxes and wanes so much. We need a way to bring good content to the fore and drop bad content to the back. Yahoo knows this and is buying up social applications left right and center, because people are indentifyng what content is good and what is bad.

Technorati also sees the need to find what sources are better than others. They have an authority slider. Interesting perspective here. But it's a filter. It reminds me of this awesome Amazon AJAX Diamond search.

No, I really think filtering and popularity is not far enough up the tree. We need to go higher.

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Ten Things To Think About

Guys, as we build our system, let's keep these in mind. (Thanks to Dion Hinchcliffe) What a tremendously insightful list of guidelines! Rachel Cunliffe simply calls it "me first". both posts are excellent reading.

Encourage Social Contributions With **Individual Benefit**

Make Content Editable Whenever Possible

Encourage Unintended Uses

Provide Continuous, Interactive User Experiences

Make Your Sure Your Site Offers Its Content as Feeds and/or Web services

Let Users Establish and Build On Their Reputations

Allow Low-Friction Enrichment of Your Information

Give Users the Right To Remix

Reuse Other Services Aggressively

Build Small Pieces, Loosely Joined

I think the key point that Dion is making, which underpins all the rest, is this:

The idea is that most people will not spend the time to contribute content or enrichment to a web site unless they are getting something out of it. With social bookmarking, it's the fact that your bookmarks are uniquely valuable to you personally, regardless of whether they are socially shared.

No matter how great our ideas are, how flexible, how WS integrated, how small, how layered how whatever… the contributor must receive real and immediate value. Only after that can we expect submissions and only then after that can we expect our social software to kick in and begin mashing or enhancing the value of having brought information together.

blog content ownership and control

What if a website doesn't want Google to index it and redisplay their content in the index? What do they do? They set up a robots.txt of course.

RSS/ATOM/RDF feeds were initially set up so people could use it for free. It was free beer (meaning: at no cost) and free speach (meaning: freedom) all rolled into one. But now all this free content is being used cleverly by companies to earn money. So my free beer in my RSS feed is becoming beer for sale on your website. No wonder people cry 'no fair'.

What's the solution? I think there are three ways to go about this:

  • All bloggers can include YPN/Google (or AmazonSense) into your post and then set it free to show up everywhere, on any website as long as it continues to contain your publishing ad (the tax for displaying the content)
  • Bloggers force people to click through to their own website by stating somewhere that commercial publishers can only use the first X chars of the post
  • Bloggers stating somewhere that no one (not reBlogger, not Technorati, not bloglines) can reprint their content.

OK, so I've said this before – perhaps not as clearly. I italicized "stating somewhere" because that is the key thing.Setting boundaries:

  • If you have a website, you set boundaries (go/no go) areas for a bot on your website you use a robtos.txt
  • If you write software you have a terms of use (free, shareware, etc.)

But how do you set boundaries and publishing rights for your blog or news feed?

On this page, which is a list of posts by the blogger called "Search Views"
http://www.seodata.com/Keyword-weight-density/blogger/re-76_SearchViews.aspx
we must develop something like 'this is my feed, I want to remove it' which leads to a page that says something like:

Remove my feed

We recognize that the author owns their content and we are taking steps to enable the author to protect their content. If this is your blog feed and you do not want it to appear here or on any other website which aggregates content, you need to insert xyz into your rss feed and on the next fetch by our software, we will automatically remove your feed and remove all pages related to your feed. Inserting xzy into your rss feed is the same as placing a robots.txt onto your site, to tell robots you do not want to be crawled. We apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.There is perhaps an attribute which you can set in the element XYZ in your feed:

  • XYZ 1 – full feed syndication (it is assumed that the displaying website does not remove your adverts from Google or YPN or other, and a link back to your site is provided)
  • XYZ 2 – Partial syndication (In RSS 2.0 the website must use the shortened description, not the full feed, in other feeds the website only displays the first X chars and the reader is forced to click through to the originating website)
  • XYZ 3 – No syndication (this removes the feed and all posts from reBloggers, blogline, technorati etc.)

The XYZ element is a tricky thing in XML. Straight forward to do, but to get it right is important.

These are just my ideas. I don't know what it should be – but it should be extensible. Clearly it is something that will need eventually to be submitted to a standard body. But this solution right away will get their stuff (which they do own and should control) off reBlogger (and other aggregation) websites.

Aggregation is the way of the future, because society always mashes things together to form new super-structures, but only when the rights of the person/company providing the various contributing aspects are protected.

Syndication, mashing, aggregation will become a tidal wave… so we have to find ways to protect the authors. If only we had done this for painters and sculptors – they sell the content once and can never collect a usage tax ever again. 😦

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1 billion blogs by 2010… exploring the tree

1 billion blogs by 2010? How did this happen?

Truly the next killer app of the internet is 'self expression'.

Email and IM were the first killer apps. Why? Humans are social creatures and therefore making contact with others is vitally important. In terms of technology, that's the low hanging fruit. People connected to the internet to get in touch with each other.

When they connected, I guess we all thought the same thing: what do I do now? Higher up the tree is not just connecting to other people, but interacting with them. So then we saw podcasting, blogging, discussion lists, owning your own website, leaving comments after reading an article someone else posted. These are all further up the tree and a little more interactive, dependant on other people already. A term called prosumer (consumer + producer) would best describe these types of people: they are very active.

I think we're about to see something newer. (I'm late to this game, I can't claim any credit for this. I'm simply standing on everyone else's shoulders who have gone before.) The next level up the tree is all about expressing yourself and showing your world view and how you piece life together.

Clearly blogs which are used for self expression are a form of this. Podcasting is the epitome of the prosumer, the highest that level will get. Podcasts are linear, from the beginning to the end. The viewer is a passive consumer, they are not as interactive, they are more of a throwback to TV. Portable TV.

Podcasts have "normal" humor (did you hear the one about…) while blogs can invent new kinds of interactive jokes. I'm saying Podcasts are the end of the previous trend.

Blogs tend to be more about self-expression, interactive, non-linear – and self-expression will only pick up steam because there are so many things we can express about ourselves. One of these things which we are always trying to express in every conversation we have is: our world view. How many times have you said "well, I don't see it that way" or "I respect your opinion and you have to respect mine too!".

Self expression is currently about writing out your thoughts. That's cool. Self expression can also be about tying together many many other people's comments and bringing them together in a way which defines your view on life.

While everyone else is simply tagging the river of news as it flows by, we will allow you to make your own streams and rivulets and redirect them where you think they should go.

It's the whole tomato, tomato thing. I see the word stream and think river. You may see stream and think "Standard Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method", or "Stratosphere-Troposphere Experiments by Aircraft Measurements", or "Stream Transport and Agricultural Runoff of Pesticides for Exposure Assessment Methodology" which all have the acronym stream.

The news is the same, but my context is different to yours. You only have to look at the whole cartoon debacle to see that people view the same information completely differently and with different intensities!