Technorati’s CEO David Sifry posted another of his excellent “State of the Blogosphere” reports today. Despite my concerns about Technorati’s disproportionate mindshare in the blog search space (I think other options deserve more use than they get) this kind of communication is just one of many ways Technorati continues to provide great value to users.
A few thoughts that came to my mind as I read the report:
Spam blogs: It’s a cold-war type conflict that blog search engines are engaged in with these parasites, so secrecy is rampant as to what the various players are doing to combat the problem. I’ve had several circuitous email exchanges with other blog search providers to try to get some reportable info on what they are doing about spam blogs, to no avail. So the fact that Technorati communicates publicly about this at all is much appreciated; that kind of open communication as an exercise in building informative relationships and trust represents the best the medium of business blogging has to offer. Sifry says they take an eco-system approach to watch out for link farms and they work with a variety of partners providing different functions in the blogosphere. Cool.
Tagging: It’s been a year now since Technorati started indexing tags, and Sifry reports that there’s been a steady rise in their use. But what do you notice about this text? “Almost one half of blog posts use tags or categories.” There’s a big difference between tags, based on the microformat rel=tag, and blog categories.
Now that Technorati Tag search includes categories in blog software like Movable Type and WordPress, does this raise questions about how truly widespread tagging itself is? It does for me. I know that I only use 6 or 7 categories in my personal blog, but tag my posts with far more specific terms like company names, sub-topics and concepts that I don’t want to have an entire category on my blog for. I often explain tagging to new users as analogous to subject headings for books. Category level subject headings like “civil rights” may be so broad as to be significantly less helpful in rendering a post discoverable than would be more specific tag-level metadata like “housing, New York, race.”
I think that it makes a big difference whether people are employing tags themselves or just using blog software that supports categories. That’s part of why I encourage people to use a bookmarklet to make such tagging easier.
Why doesn’t Technorati offer a bookmarklet like that? The blogosphere is full of people who would rather eat their own fingers than add the HTML for each tag link with a rel=tag at the end of each post. Requiring them to do so is a real limit to the specificity of tags being applied by non technical bloggers. That’s part of why people like WYSIWYG blog editors.
Furthermore, I’ve talked to a number of people for whom getting their tagged posts indexed by Technorati has been a real struggle. Using Feedburner’s Pingshot service to ping Technorati, for example, appears to require proper placement of your Feedburner URL in your header code. Of course this is something you’d want to do properly, but each step in using these essential tools makes it progressively more complicated for new users and more likely that practices like actual tagging will be adopted only by those of us at a certain comfort level with the software. This mitigates the likelihood of a future filled with well tagged blogs about every topic under the sun, as well as the democratizing vision of the blogosphere in general.
Sifry says tomorrow he’ll post about moving beyond search and into discovery. Sounds interesting…