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  Friday, August 29, 2003

  Coping with complexity: how do you read other weblogs?

Olaf Brugman on downside of blogging:

...skimming through blogs for gems is laborious, timeconsuming and ineffective. Firstly, because it is impossible to keep track of even a couple of interesting blogs. And if you monitor them, most bits and pieces are not relevant to you. Furthermore, the collections of info are unstructured, although some blogs offer channels, chapters and other means to structure (and what is the difference then between a blog and a MS Frontpage managed site, contentwise?). When following links to blog friends, things become more ineffective, since all blogfriends are crossreferences, and bloggers LOVE duplication of info. In fact, a blog is a hyperlinkmultiplier. May be one day we will start fighting hyperlink pollution of the internet.

Even when doing websearches, the number of identical hits is staggering, due to the duplication of links.
Can blogs be useful info sources? My personal experience is that they are NOT. Generating too much redundancy. But the gems and knowledge nuggets hidden in them are extremely useful. The most efficient mechanism for me to mine them is to find info in doing a websearch. I have stopped reading blogs, but go dig nuggets when i have a question that needs to be answered. :)...

Olaf makes a point that contradicts widespread views that weblogs filter noise. This makes me thinking…

As blog-writers we try to provide our readers with good ways to find useful posts in our weblogs (e.g. Tools to digest your own blog), but I also wonder what do we do as blog-readers to cope with information overload.

I have three main goals when reading other weblogs: staying updated, following a conversation and problem-solving. I will try to explain what I do in each case.

1. My main way to stay updated is my news aggregator.

I would like to follow more blogs than I do, but it would take too much time, so I have to make choices. At this moment I subscribe to weblogs falling mainly in one of the following categories:

  • On-going conversations - weblogs about core topics that interest me
  • Niche awareness providers - highly focused weblogs covering areas of peripheral interest to me (I want to stay aware of the developments, but not be involved)
  • Connectors - weblogs linking to a variety of sources I don't read myself
  • New weblogs - I usually subscribe to RSS feed of any weblog that fits my interests and has good quality posts on several pages I visit. Then I read it for sometime and it stays or goes…
  • Technical feeds - Radio updates, my own comments, trackbacks, etc.

Criteria to find out if weblog stays in my news aggregator

  • focus and signal/noise ratio
  • connection to networks/sources other than my own
  • original insight - I value authors writing original posts or offering non-mainstream commentary to a discussion
  • writing style (very subjective ;) - if I feel difficult to read posts of a weblog continuously I unsubscribe
  • probability of being linked by other weblogs I read - if I know that several people I read subscribed to specific weblog I trust them to select interesting posts for me (this is why I don't read A-list bloggers :)
  • personal connections - sometimes I do not care much about all other criteria and read a weblog because I'm interested to follow specific person

For example, I really value a weblog of Dave Pollard, but somehow I find his writing style difficult. From another side I know that many in my news aggregator read his weblog, so I feel safe to unsubscribe: all relevant posts will come to my attention anyway.

This is something I had to learn: trusting that weblogs I read will connect me to all relevant posts (from interesting weblogs I do not subscribed or those that "scroll down" before I have time to read and comment).

2. Following a conversation is different. In this case I'm interested to see how idea from one weblog (my own or one I read) develops across weblogs. In this case I use mainly tracking tools: comments, trackbacks, Technorati, referrals.

3. Problem-solving. If I have a specific question/problem in mind I use search. Could be anything between searching my weblog/ weblogs I read/ all weblogs/ all internet.

Would be interesting to know how other people read weblogs…

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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