Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
A look at some of trends in blogging, both good and bad.
Published on November 8, 2003 By Draginol In Blogging

If you've been coming to JoeUser for long, you've hopefully seen a gradual progression in the quality and features of the site. We've been heavily evaluating the various blog features and technologies out there. Some are really good. But some are just dumb. Here are some of my newbie view points on these issues. Feel free to comment and tell me where you agree or disagree.

Good Blog Technologies

RSS

The Good:
RSS is a standard that takes headlines from news sites (particularly blog sites) and puts them into a standard XML format that can be then read. This allows for readers and syndication sites to make it easier for news junkies to get to information faster.

The Bad:
It's relatively feature poor. There is no straight forward standard for publishing. Some have said that RSS will eventually replace Usenet. That ain't going to happen until comments are handled more seamlessly.

JoeUser's Use:
So we have made JoeUser.com very RSS friendly. Every blogger's site here now has their own RSS feed that can be seamlessly syndicated. We embed tags into the actual HTML so that sites can discover JoeUser's RSS feed too along with a button that explicitly links to it. Our XML also has special RSS versions of our articles.

Here is a normal web zoom in of an article:
http://www.joeuser.com/index.asp?AID=768

Here is the RSS zoom in of same article:
http://www.joeuser.com/articles.asp?AID=768

The RSS one is quicker and cleaner so that RSS readers can zip through your blogs much faster making what you write more easy to read.

Referrals

This is a tech more sites need to make use of. I'm amazed at how many sites will be full of complicated, barely used blogging technologies while totally blowing off auto-referbacks.

JoeUser supports Referbacks. If you have a blog here, go back and look at one of your earlier blogs. You'll probably find that someone has linked to it.  I have an article that has over 100 referrals just from Google.

Referrals are important. If you want people to link to your article, one way to encourage that is to have the article automatically link back. If you, from another website, link to this article, within seconds of someone coming to this article from where you posted a referral will appear here and show the user how to get back there.

Audience Control

This is another feature that most blogs I've checked out don't have. Here on JoeUser as well as some other sites I've been to I can control who sees a blog. I've made blogs that only I can read. Things I'm working on but don't want the public to see. I can even make custom audiences. So if I wanted, I could have just my wife and my friends be able to read a given blog.  In the coming weeks, we plan to upgrade the blog group feature to let people write directly to the blog group and have only those who are members of it be able to see it. Then I could have a family blog group where I post blogs that only my family can see and as new people in my family join the blog group they can see my posts to them.

But enough on the good stuff. Let's talk about some of the dumber techs. Then you can comment back and tell me why I'm wrong.

The Dumb Blog Techs

Trackback


Sorry, I find this "Feature" to just be dumb. First off, it takes too much work. Trackback is supposed to be a way for related articles to show up. Basically, articles that refer to a given blog entry will show up in track back if the proper coding has been done. I guess.  To me, this just strikes me as the poor man's version of referrals. Why do track back when referrals work so much better. No fuss with referrals. They just work.

Here's an article I wrote about keeping Windows XP stable. At the bottom is lists 110 referrals. Ever seen a trackback with more than a handful of trackbacks? So now you click on the referral list.  It is sorted by # of referrals and is smart to put domains together (so all Google referrals show up as a single group).  Now, admittedly you end up with a lot of junk referrals in there because of people passing the link to friends via web based emails. But because it's sorted, you can quickly see any major articles that refer to your article. For example, I found that a few dozen people came from a site called AtomicPC. Here is the article that referenced mine. Did they have to put in special code to do that? No. Just just linked to my article.

This brings me to another thing:

Blog Rolling

I like blog rolling -- to a point. But many blog sites have a gazillion links on there. I tend to agree with my friend Steven Den Beste who has made it a point to limit who he links to. My personal page has a blog roll on it to a few friends on it.  Unfortunately, blog rolling has become the poor-man's equivalent of link exchanges.

Go to http://karmagirl.joeuser.com/ and look at her top referrals (bottom right). On JoeUser, link exchanges have merit automatically attached. Anyone outside of JoeUser who links to karmagirl.joeuser.com is certainly going to instantly show up on that top 10 referrals page. To me, that is what link exchanging is about. A reasonable exchange of referrals. Blog rolling should be about picking a handful of sites that you want to highlight. Just personal taste there I guess.

Link Cosmos

This appears to be another technology for encouraging people to link to your articles. I still prefer referrals. Much more straight forward, no having to go to an external site and it's merit based. The other thing that these techs have in common is that because there's a barrier to entry, they don't get used as much. As a blogger, I am partially motivated by the thought of people reading what I write. I write for my own personal reasons but I also hope that people enjoy what I write. Having lots of statistics that show 0 doesn't help that.  But with referrals, the threshold is so low that almost anyone will get some eventually.

The bigger picture

I could be wrong on all this mind you. Or more to the point, my opinion may be at odds with the general consensus of bloggers. But I tend to look at successful blogging like this: People who write blogs like to link to others. And I think they liked to be linked to back.  One of my motivations for opening up JoeUser to others is that as a "little guy" I felt discouraged seeing a handful of sites (Which don't have linkback features strangely) getting nearly all the traffic with lots of little guys linking to what they write. If I link to something, it's nice to be able to see how many people I sent over there as well as have a shot of maybe getting some people over there to come back to me. Merit based auto-link exchange. It encourages people to link more to other people and get something in return.

And anything that puts barriers into that is going to be problematic.

 


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