Honestly, I usually try to stay away from these things. Nothing seems more redundant to me than blogging about blogging – especially since 50% of the blogosphere has that covered anyway – but these are some thoughts that have been mulling around in my head for a while now and it’s time for me to spit ’em out. There will be neither the blowing of chunks nor the passing of gas in this post so regular readers may want to move on.
First of all, I can’t agree with Cindylu and Gustavo enough: if it weren’t for the amazing people I’ve met (both online and off) via blogging, I very much doubt I’d still be doing it. It’s the community that keeps me coming back.
However, I am sometimes reminded of an email I once got from Prentiss. Essentially, it said, “I tend not to read about people so much as topics.”
Topics. Now why didn’t that occur to me? Every night I would sit at my laptop and sift through the digital lives of the same 20 or so people who I’d never met. Prentiss, on the other hand would sit down and read about Malay personal pronouns. This idea of stumbling across people by searching for topics rather than stumbling across new ideas by virtually stalking people seemed revolutionary to me.
A few months after Prentiss’ email and the kind folks behind Global Voices asked me to cover the entire Western Hemisphere for the site. It suddenly occurred to me that I was going to need to reach outside of my daily 20 weblogs.
Here’s how I do it. I have a folder in my rss reader (currently Safari) for every country I cover. Inside that folder is a subfolder called “news” which has the rss feed of a google news search for the country name (ie. Bolivia) as well as any rss feeds from Bolivian newspapers. That way I can get a good idea of what the major media is already reporting on both inside the country and out.
After that, I use a number of tools to help me find new content from each country. Even though Monterrey is a city and not a country, it serves as a good example of what these tools do well and what they do poorly so let’s have a look. First, the brand new service that’s been getting all the attention, praise, and criticism today is Google’s new Blog Search:
As you can see, they give you a short list of “top blogs matching Monterrey” and then a list of posts supposedly related to Monterrey. The first returned blog has a single post which reads “A ver que onda con este Blog…” Probably not exactly what we’re looking for. The second blog, by thoughtful Omar (pictured) has a bit more to offer, but certainly nothing I’d put on Global Voices. (“chupando” by the way is slang for drinking in case anyone is offended after doing a google translate). The third isn’t a weblog at all … it’s a classified ads site which doesn’t even have anything to do with Monterrey. Finally, the fourth weblog turns out to be very relevant and one that I had never seen before. So, one out of four success rate. Not bad, but much less valuable than going here (I realize, I should be scratched)
One thing that is really nice about Google’s blog search is that it allows you to specify language. Unfortunately, looking for good stuff in Spanish didn’t seem to help:
Technorati also has a beta blog finding service. Let’s see what they say about Monterrey:
A little more informative. First of all there are pretty pictures. Second of all, you’d be nuts if you didn’t put Chica Regia – queen of all Monterrey blogs – on the top of the list. Luiz also deserves to be up there. But so does Hipocratico, Catarf, GoLeech, and a bunch of others. And most importantly, I certainly do not. Plus, look at those “related blogs” up there. There’s obviously some work to be done.
What about when Technorati searches inside those blogs:
Like Google, you can also specify language. They’ve still got those (un)”related tags” on top and on the side are Flickr and Buzznet pictures which have been tagged “monterrey.” Unfortunately, they are all of Monterey, California which should be spelt with one r. I look at the rss feed of these search results every single day for every country in the Americas and I might click on one out of every thirty links it generates. Not exactly an overwhelming success rate.
Then there is BlogPulse:
BlogPulse has some extra cool features like trend graphs, but they don’t let you search by language and – like all of these tools – a lot of blog spam finds its way into the results. (when I search for Caribbean islands all I get are “posts” offering me vacation packages to here and to there)
And lastly I check IceRocket:
Without a doubt, the coolest thing about IceRocket is the moblog search. If you search for Monterrey, you’ll find Maru flipping you off. But when you search through the blogs, it’s the same pseudo-relavance that you find on the other tools while some of the best posts on the best blogs get left behind.
After scanning through all these tools (they all output into RSS) and taking a quick look at what Flickr and del.icio.us say about each country, I then move onto the “A-list” weblogs of each country, first in English and then in Spanish. For example:
- El Blog de VeneBlogs
- La Entrevistas de VeneBlogs
- Blog de la Semana
- Venezuela News And Views
- Aleksander Boyd
- Hands Off Venezuela
- Bugs’ Blog
- Rulemanes para Telémaco
- Venezuela in the News
- Venezuelan Politics
- Oil Wars
- The Devil’s Excrement
- Venezuela Crisis
- Ald | afrael live & direct
- El Liberal Venezolano
- Ultimos 15 Weblogs Actualizados en VeneBlogs.Com
- Ultimos 15 Weblogs Registrados en VeneBlogs.Com
- Terreno Baldio
- Blog de RomRod
- Periodismo Interactivo
- Caracas Chronicles
- Ana Julia Jatar – weblog
- Periodismo de Paz ECS-UCV
- La Entrevistas de VeneBlogs
As you can guess, this takes some time. Which is why I’ve probably seemed distracted lately if you’ve bumped into me in cyberspace. Then, from all of that information, from each country, I try and decide what gets into Global Voices and how it is presented. The second part is key. Like Ethan wrote today:
it’s extremely difficult to know whether the opinion a blogger expresses is mainstream or extreme without understanding the full context of the political situation in a country. This is one of the reasons we moved towards asking regional editors to choose posts to reblog – they’ve got a much better understanding of politics in Morroco or Mongolia than I do and understand how to contextualize these posts in a way that it’s hard for people outside the region to do.
The moral of the story is that all of these tools are relatively helpful in allowing us to find context in the blogosphere. But that they’re not yet helpful enough. We still need humans to do the dirty work. Especially when it involves presenting a situation of one socio-political/geographic/ethnic/economic/linguistic group of people to another like Iria did so eloquently a few days ago.
Danah Boyd, a cutish grad student at Berkeley studying what we’d probably all like to be studying at Berkeley recently wrote a smart post entitled Why Web2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization. The only problem is that no one actually knows what Web2.0 means. Not even Wikipedia. But the fact that Wikipedia is the obvious authoritative source for the term is part of it.
I have a lot to say about what she wrote, but it’s already 2 in the morning and I’ve gotta be up by 8 so it’s farewell for the night. I’ll try to finish this one tomorrow night.