Friday, February 17, 2006

The Blogging Meta

This post rambles wayyy too much, as Dave points out in the comments. Skip it, and read the next one instead. --Mike--

The history of the internet is rich in details and many examples of technologies that have come and gone. The overall pattern is one of new systems solving the problems of older technologies, then winning popularity. Sometimes the advantages of the new system are readily apparent, and at other times the differences weren't so easy to spot.

I'm writing this in an attempt to highlight what I think are the reasons for the popularity of blogging up to this point, and to help provide a wider foundation for discussion about future directions it might take.

Blogging is a relatively new form of social networking to appear on the internet. The owner of a blog makes a series of posts about topics they find interesting, on a regular basis. The entries are usually titled and dated, and presented in reverse chronological order. The entries are usually in the form of commentary on other blogs, web content, news of the day, person observations, or centered on some theme.

There is a subtle yet profound difference between blogs and previous methods of communicating on the net. Blogs are anchored to a location, which requires ownership. This difference is the major factor which lead to it's current popularity.

Now... you might just think I'm full of shit, but consider this:

When you read a blog for the first time, you're deciding if you like the author or not. This is a personal relationship based on ownership and content of the blog. It grows over time. You'll develop a set of favorites that you read over time.

When someone makes their list of favorites available, it's a blogroll. When you put someone on your blogroll, it's more than just a person reference, it becomes an endorsement. This means that people think twice before adding someone to a blogroll... which helps keep the quality up.

Blogrolls and easier tools made blogging popular. This lead to the current rush of traffic. All because of the ownership and identity and relationships inherent in the simple fact of a URL anchor.

The tools make it dead easy to link to other blogs, and build the live web. This means that the sheer amount of stuff to discover will probably continue to grow for quite some time.

When we were strictly manually building blogrolls, any spam blogs (splogs) that arose would quickly be discounted, and just not added to the growing web of links. This is the only form of spam defense which isn't likely to be overwhelmed in the near future. It's pretty much 100% effective.

Now that the search engine tools are arriving, we're starting to hear about splogs. This is due to the fact that the seach engines lack the reputation metadata that is inherent in blogrolls and the personal discernment of content quality. We need to find a way to supply this metadata, or create a suitable replacement.

That is the challenge we face, to build search engines that can use reputation to moderate out spam before it gets a chance to grow. It has to be based on relationships, and identity. If there's any way that it can get gamed, it will, so we need to be very careful.

At this point, I bow to the collective wisdom of you, gentle reader, and the rest of the community. I'm open for any and all suggestings that don't spam me. 8)

I thank you for your time, and I hope you found some new thoughts to consider.



Anonymous said...

Mike, I'm trying to follow what you're advocating here, but I haven't seen you explicitly lay it out.

Are you saying that readers need the ability to add some meta-data, in the form of a tag or something similar, to individual blog posts, and that data is then interpreted in some fashion to establish a "reputation" for the author?

If so, I agree that that would be one way of adding an additional dimension to the search equation, but it has a fatal flaw.

It remains a popularity contest, and it favors the established players at the expense of new ones, and it establishes an incentive to not be a contrarian, or not to "rock the boat."

A popular blogger who has had his ideas challenged might link to a disagreeing blogger with a disparaging comment, suggesting that the argument was without merit and the blogger writing the post was "trolling" for attention. This would get the largest amount of attention from the readers of the popular blogger, who likely already agree with his or her views, who would then go off and tag the offending post as "troll" or some such thing.

Established, popular views are insulated from effective criticism, even more than in the current "echo chamber," because those who value those views can - anonymously if I understand your idea - remove or attack the authority of the critics of those views, thus pushing them down in search results, making their voice even less "heard."

Also, established, popular authors are the beneficiaries of easy, convenient "votes of confidence" from "fans" or others who agree with the popular blogger's views, further increasing their "authority" (regardless of whether or not their views are "correct" of have any genuine basis in reality), and further biasing their material higher in search results ranked by "authority."

The tagging reader has no skin in the game. No "reputation" to think about when they anonymously tag someone as "troll." There would have to be some mechanism for tracking the tagging history of readers in order to assess their biases, ideally to further weight the "authority" of their tags, which is more complicated than what I've seen you advocate thus far.

Dave Rogers

Mike Warot said...

Dave, I think you're right... I layed a goose egg.... not sure if I should just delete the whole thing, or what. I'm open for suggestions.