Almost a month ago I posted a question on my blog - “How do you get your technical information?” 18 folks took the time to respond (thanks!). The reason I asked that question was because I was kicking around of some sort of Web site / RSS feed that aggregated the “top notch” blog content out there. (I sort of blogged about this back in October 2003 in: A “Killer Blog” Directory.)
What is a bit frustrating to me is that finding great technical content in blogs is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Yes, there are some bloggers whose writings are technically prolific, but even those who try their best to focus strictly on their technological expertise still usually wander into political meanderings, jokes, personal anecdotes, etc. And as well they should, blogs are a form of personal expression and self-publishing, but if you are looking for non-personal, technical information and know-how, the search can be tough.
The signal to noise ratio is unbearably low, but there are some very high quality technical posts out there that would make excellent articles on techincally-focused Web sites. To name a few:
Along with many others. I imagined that a Web site and RSS feed that listed just the high quality blog posts focusing on a specific technology would be invaluable. So I spent an afternoon creating a database and writing some data-entry software to allow me to quickly add these “great” blogs to a database. Once I had enough, I reasoned, I could slap on a Web front end, provide an RSS feed to the data, and, voila, create something thousands of developers would find useful.
My collection of blog entries stopped about a week ago - I had reached slightly more than 50 blog entries. I stopped for a number of reasons:
- It was taking too long to weed out the “good“ entries. I had to wade through a lot of entries that were personal, too short, light on detail, or just not interesting enough.
- Many of the blogs are on alpha/beta technology. Microsofties are blogging like crazy about products like Longhorn and Whidbey which are still a stretch away from even being considered beta products, let alone ones that are widely used.
- It was hard to find entries that focused tightly on a specific technology. Hence, I started taking in any blogs about .NET, from ASP.NET to VC++.NET tips and tricks. The result? 50+ recommended blogs on a wide spectrum of loosely-related topics.
- I got bored / frustrating with the success ratio. It was not fun having to wade through the many non-technical entries to find the few diamonds in the rough.
In conclusion, while initially it seemed like such a compilation of resources would be invaluable, I think the upkeep and collection would be overwhelming. Now, one option might be to distribute the work, let people recommend particularly interesting blog entries, and then have a team of moderators either approve or reject the suggestions.
I guess what it boils down to is it would be cool if there were a better way to have the blogosphere (I hate that word) keep track of interesting posts. The way this is currently done is others post a link to the entry of interest, but these recommendations, like the interesting entry itself, fade from the front pages over time. What is needed is some centralized data store that maintains “recommended” entries, and ranks the entries by the number of people that recommend it. Ideally this centralized data store would allow full text searching of the recommended content and, again, weight the search by how many folks have taken the time to recommend it.
<idealism posture=“bravely looking off into the sunset“>
Blogs have the capability to be the biggest means of idea transference to date. (I just made up that term right now.) They can open a means for truly democratic conversation and publishing. There are still some vital pieces missing - a unified persona across all blogs, an improved commenting system, a tamper-proof way readers can rank/rate blog entries, etc. - but once these pieces have been added it would seem that blogs could provide an unparelleled means for democratic communication, publication, and knowledge sharing.
Of course, anytime I find myself ideally romanticizing the possibility of self-publishing and what it affords, I force myself to read Why Your Movable Type Blog Must Die.