Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
A detailed look at blogging at indie editorialists
Published on October 9, 2003 By Draginol In Blogging

What motivates bloggers? I can't speak for all but for me, I look at blogging as indie editorials. As such, I like being able to express my view on something or provide information to the public that traditionally only full time journalists were able to do.  I suspect millions of other bloggers are of the same mind. It's a form of self-expression.

If I had cats, I wouldn't talk about what Mittens did today. Rather, I like giving my two cents on pretty much everything. Not that my opinion matters really. I'm not a politician. My vote matters no more than anyone else's.  But that's just the thing. Blogging lets us all get out there and have a voice. I suspect Google feels the same way -- that maybe someday nearly everyone will have their own blog.

But blogging for those reasons can also be extremely unrewarding.  That's because most blogs go unread. I don't mean not read by more than a few people. I mean literally, no one, besides the author, reads them.  And I think that's a real shame because there's some really great stuff out there.

Consider one of my favorite sites, Parapundit. He's put together a really impressive site with great insights such as this article about the war in Iraq. But it's clear that his site isn't getting a lot of visitors.  It's not because the content isn't great. It is. It's just the nature of the web.

That's why I feel like such a fraud. Randall Parker is a true winner. Me, I'm just a tape worm. I'm cheating. While his Alexa ranking is at over 1.1 million, JoeUser's traffic is increasing steadily because 1) I have a talented development team (Pat, JR, and George all 3 working on this site full time) putting in features that help make JoeUser increasingly compelling and 2) I can write articles that get linked on sites like WinCustomize and Stardock that already get millions of visitors.

So how am I atoning for this? Well, several months ago after visiting Instapundit (I got there daily like many others do) I got the idea to expand JoeUser to have other sites. Instapundit is the most popular blog site on the net (other than maybe Andrew Sullivan). He links to stories on the net.  But he does it purely on what strikes his fancy. Which is fine since that's the whole point of going there -- to find what Glenn Reynolds finds interesting.

But on JoeUser, I wanted to take that to the next step. Let other people have their blogs here on JoeUser. And then, based on the merit of the article it would float to the top.  Some blog sites show what the newest blogs are. But JoeUser shows that plus the most popular articles of the day and then of the month (and eventually a hall of fame of some kind).  It does the same for the actual blogger sites themselves.

This is based on a point system that loosely works as follows:

You get points for # of views. You get points when people respond to your blog entries. You get even more points when someone refers to your blog on their site (i.e. links to you). And users get points too for responding and such. This isn't all fully fleshed out yet but it basically works. You can already see the referrals after an article to see if anyone is linking to it.  It's totally automated. 

We also added a top 10 referers to not just Joeuser.com's home page but on a per blogger basis. So you can see on http://draginol.joeuser.com that the referers are different than on http://www.joeuser.com or from http://adam.joeuser.com. I think this is important because let's face it, when someone links to you, they're putting some effort. Linking back to them is a nice gesture and I think encourages more people to do the same.

Anyway, under this system, rather than one agent deciding whose article is worthy to be mentioned, the point system does. It's not super cut and dry of course. What gets featured right now is based on a user's access. Which means, right now, only admins.  But we actually have several different access levels. As users go up in access, their vote on an article or user counts for more points. They will also be able to recommend an article for posting and the higher their access level the more their recommendation counts.  And access levels will be heavily influenced by their user score on the site and other contributions to the blogger community.

The goal is to provide a way for bloggers -- indie editorialists -- to be able to write worthwhile things and have it "show up" without being at the mercy of the "big blog sites", a fortuitist link, or guerilla marketing by the author. If it's an article of interest, then it should float to the top on its own.

This is what we've seen on WinCustomize.com over the past 2.5 years. The system works well on "skins" and "themes" and "icon packages". Which are, like articles, judged not by some objective criteria but on the basis of individual tastes.

I don't know if we'll ever be as popular as some of the mega blog sites but I do think we will be able to offer bloggers a lot of good (and free) opportunities to express themselves in such a way that it has a fighting chance to be read.  It's the quality of the blogging that should determine popularity, not inertia, after all.

 


Comments
on Oct 09, 2003
I do love the concept alot. The only fear i have of it is if it gets "too big".

Right now it's great, mostly because of the channels. If someone feels like looking something up on a particular subject matter, they can do so and it gives the bloggers a good chance to get new visitors. (even though to a user there's no obvious way to see that person blog-home-page once they see an article)

However if it gets to the point that on a given day there's 50-100 new posts on "Gaming", then that quaintness and discovery could get lost. I'm not sure how to combat that, if there is even a way. Or maybe the amout of hard-core bloggers that would want all the features of joeuser is small enough to limit it on it's own.
on Oct 09, 2003
That's where the point system comes in. When you see something you like, you can give it a "interesting" or "insightful" rating and that boosts its score. By doing that, it will get more prominence.
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