How to find what’s being discussed on "the blogs"

Internet | Access/Network
In more than one context, I’ve heard starting hearing to “the blogs” as the subject of a sentence, much as one would say, “the news.” “The blogs were all talking about the Paul O’Neill book this weekend,” a co-worker said. Also, the phrase “support among bloggers” has starting showing up as well: 8 hits in Google, all related to the political campaign. I think I’ve heard it from talking heads as well, but I can’t place any right now.

But what does it mean? Are these people relying on hard data, or are they just picking generalizations from thin air?

Fortunately, there are some objective measures coming online. But they’re not that easy to find. On the the main blogger sites– blogger,, movableType— give no hint as to what’s happening “on the blogs”. The journalist-bloggers (where many people encounter blogs: Joshua Micah Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Gillmor) may link to the individual blogs of their professional peers, but to no collective blogs (while they certainly link to the non-blog publications which pays their salaries).

Compare this with Internet portals. Lycos mentions, in plain site on its home page, shows its Top 50 Report, a list of the top daily web searches. They also include a tidbit of analysis from Aaron Schatz, their “Sultan of Search”, for the last 3 years. Yahoo’s “Buzz Index, has a little less peronality, and still has a small link on the home page nonetheless. The only comparitive offering from Google is the Google News site, which is composed of fresh content from hard news sources.

What distinguishes the bloggers is that they have a special need to get recognized via the web. In addition, the blog media has been complementary developed alongside syndication standards like RSS (and now, Atom). Syndication allows a single site to aggregate multiple “feeder” sites, much like a newspaper assembles wire stories and original content. A popular word to describe the whole system of blogs is the blogosphere (coined on New Year’s Day 2002 by William Quick here, and written about in more depth by John Hiller.) So there is in fact a website named blogosphere, which gives us a Top 100 list. The list is a start, but doesn’t classify any links; it’s just a top 100 chart, no commentary.

What blows everything out of the water is the new blogrunner, which deserves a paragraph for it– because that’s the courtesy it affords others. The Blogrunner front page has nicely-sized lead-ins for each story. It looks like any intelligent publications on the web. One of the tricks that Blogrunner uses is that it simply syndicates content from all other (and makes a local copy). This seemed to have ruffled some feathers in the blog world (despite the creative commons open-licensing approach that many blogs adhere to), and it may be difficult to grow. But in the meantime, it’s far and above the best aggregation service, and it’s what I was looking for. I hope you were, too.

Postscript (Feb. 10): My Blog IQ keeps increasing; today I learned of MIT’s BlogDex site. And I registered this site there. Sure, by strict definition, this site isn’t a blog, but it behaves like one for the indexing tools. (Feb 12): I got around to asking my aforementioned colleague how she reads the blogs: Technorati, her answer. Also, curious to find out who had what to say on the gay marriage debate, I typed in “Boston blogger” into Google, and I found Boston Blogs. This led to me LocalFeeds, which indexing sites by zip code. And then from there I found Boston Common, a compiled list of local feeds. So here I find out that my neighbor in town is David Weinberger, co-author of the book The Cluetrain Manifesto, and publisher of the Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization.