place blog aggregation – how to make it interesting

Lisa Williams has posted an invitation for a sneak peek under the hood of placeblogger, a project she’s been working on. Placeblogger will be a searchable directory and aggregator of placeblogs which she explains are:

Placeblogs — sites that focus on geographical communities — are the living laboratory of citizen journalism: they say interesting things about how nonjournalists approach covering a fire, or a town council.

There’s a screenshot of the site, currently undergoing development work, on flickr. So will it work? Well, there are already lots of sites out that there agregate placeblogs, GlobalVoicesOnline being my favourite example but there are also tons of national and city blog aggregators like britblog and LondonBloggers (which organises blogs around a tube map).

So would I go to a site like Placeblogger? Maybe to have a look, but I can’t imagine that if I lived in a specific city or town in America, I’d really be interested in people in other places blogging about school fetes, a house fire in the neighbourhood, or a scandal involving a local priest. It just wouldn’t be relavent to me.

Aggregation is great when it helps people find stuff that’s relevant but, in this case, I suspect all the aggregation will do is fill the page with stuff that’s exactly the opposite of that – stuff of little interest from places I may or may not have ever heard of before. The directory aspect of it, however, would be of interest to me, particularly if the site allowed me to pull in headlines from JUST the placeblogs in my area, as well as things like feeds for place specific keywords on technorati, local papers, local discussion forums, local email groups, etc.

I guess I’m imagining something like Squidoo’s Lens service but where much of the work of building a lens is either done for me already or done collaboratively. I’m looking forward to seeing if placeblogger does any of this stuff or if it misses the mark by focusing too much on multi-place aggregation and not enough on focusing on the local stuff I’m really interested in.

One Comment

  1. One thing that any site that aggregates blogs has to avoid is what I call “the rattle bag problem.”
    That is, when we read something like the Times, we get a sense of cohesiveness and comprehensiveness that most sites that get content via aggregation can’t match. If not done properly, the aggregated sites feel like a “rattle bag,” a random jumble of stuff. The best sites that rely on many contributors — like Global Voices — avoid that problem via a very old-fashioned route: editing. One thing I’ve often said is that we have plenty of citizen journalism but no citizen editing, or citizen assignment desks. I value that old-fashioned editing, and part of what I want to do with Placeblogger is provide the kind of digest that sheds light on national events via local examples.
    I see the initial part of the project as a way to bootstrap my way to something I’m really interested in: geotagging. I’d like to work towards a widely accepted and used standard for geotagging. After all, the majority of writing on blogs about places isn’t in placeblogs but within more general blogs where the blogger is writing about someplace they live or someplace they visit. As of yet, there’s no good way to get a feed of “show me what people are talking about within a 20 mile radius of X place on X topic.”

Comments are closed.