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Entries tagged 'cat:The Small Web'

Community Based Discovery of Interesting Content on the Small Web

Warning: This entry uses a LOT of words to come to a banale conclusion. Skip to the last paragraph for a tl;dr.

I was thinking about possibilities how interesting web sites could be discovered without relying on general-purpose search engines, web directories or unstructured recommendations in blog posts or threads in bulletin boards. Search engines will likely always be prown to SEO and therefore commercial content popping up among search results when that is not what the seacher is looking for. Web directories can be very nice and helpful if they are maintained well. But the criteria by which links are selected and categories don't always fit the needs of the visitor who is in search of new interesting content. Personal recommendations are worth a lot and I like it when people care enough about a web site or blog posts to share a link in chats or web forums. But they don't satisfy the use case that I have in mind. What I mean is the use case of wanting to create an aggregated feed of content (blog posts, other text posts, videos, audio podcasts, etc...) without learning about every single source of interesting content individually first. If you've been a member of a large social media platform you probably know how helpful it can be, especially to somebody who is new, to be able to follow sources that produce similar content quickly, making it worthwhile to stay, even though you'll want to do a finer selection of what goes into your feed over time. On Twitter I used the retweets of some few accounts with similar interests to build a very interesting feed quickly, and follow and remove single accounts over time to build perfectly individualised lists for myself. On Reddit, you can join a few really big subreddits and have some interesting stuff instantly, then over time find smaller and even more interesting subreddits that weren't among the search results of your favourite search terms.

With weblogs and the small web though, you have to know or find some web sites first to get just a little bit of interesting stuff, then click through a lot of blog rolls and link lists to find some more. It can be a very interesting journey and pastime. Maybe it fits the mentality of bloggers who don't publish on large platforms. But not everybody sees this as a good thing. And looking at it practically, somebody who wants to switch from consuming a single large social network to reading many small independent content producers does not have it as easy as somebody switching from one large social network to another.

Lists on Twitter and Shared Circles on Google+ are the perfect intermediate between picking out yourself what you want in your feed and following what everybody else follows. You do pick yourself, based on a list of interesting sources a friend or like-minded person has shared with you, but you don't have to pick every source individually. Likely there will be content among the possibly hundrets of authors you've started following with one click that you don't like to read. Then it's up to you to put them into a different circle/on a different list or to unfollow them completely. But to start out with a good set of interesting bloggers, you didn't have to search through thousands of web sites yourself first.

I don't see a reason why this isn't done more often with weblogs and other interesting web sites. I've shared and received OPML files for this purpose before. But for some reason people don't usually post their collection of great RSS and Atom feeds on a topic publicly. I'd like to encourage you to do so. If my feed collection wouldn't be embarrassingly outdated, I'd make a start. But the reason why I started thinking about this topic is precisely that I don't have a well looked after list of feeds on any topic. I just haven't cared about them enough for years. I will get it in order and post it here at some point though.

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