TECH TALK: RSS, Blogs and Beyond: Mapping Blogs

Tens of thousands of blogs exist, and there are few goodand comprehensive blog directories. That may seem strange, considering that as the Web pages evolved in 1994 and 1995, Yahoo was there to categorise the Web in its hierarchies. But blogs are very different. Unlike websites, they are not so much about topics or companies, but about people and their ideas. People are inherently multi-dimensional, and this is reflected in their writing. The result: a single blog will typically cover a diversity of areas, very much in the nature of its author.

This makes categorisation of a blog (or even a blogger) a very difficult exercise. And yet, the hundreds of thousands of blogs that exist out there beg for some form of classification, as to make them easier to find. If we do not do this (or maybe even if we do this), blogs are likely to end up in two bins: one, of the few and famous bloggers, who become hubs and get lots of traffic, and the second, that of the rest of the bloggers, whose traffic is quite limited to friends and family, unless they are chanced upon by the famous few. Should we try and alter this future?

I believe so. I start with the belief that most bloggers have certain areas of expertise, on which they will dwell on more than other topics. This belief stems from just seeing people around us we know someone who is a movie whiz, another who is great at talking about travel destinations, someone else who knows about MPLS and telecom, or that other person who is a finance guru. Of course, not all of them will blog, but more likely than not, the world of bloggers will be a reflection of the expertise areas that we see in people in the world around us. The challenge: finding these experts.

The point to note is that the world of blogs is a connected world, a networked world. There has been a lot of work which has happened recently in understanding how networks are formed and about the laws which govern them. Clay Shirky has written an article recently about Power Laws and Blogs. Three recent books by Barabazi, March Buchanan and Duncan Watts shed more light on networks. Blogspace is still emerging, so it will be some time before theories emerge as to how blog (and expertise) maps can be built.

This notion of thinking of the blogosphere as territories carved out by experts can be quite useful in helping us think of how to categorise blogs. What we need to think of is to connect areas to bloggers. So, for example, when I want to know anything 802.11b, the first blogger who comes to mind is Glenn Fleishmann. If I want to know more about wireless and open spectrum, Kevin Werbach comes to mind. If I want a general technology expert, Dave Winer is the connector. The idea here is that given a set of words or phrases or topics that we are interested in, we should be able to connect to a set of bloggers, who are the experts in that area. This is the first challenge that a Blog Directory needs to tackle.

Tomorrow: Blog Directory

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.