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Headlemur, sploggers, Rex and why its good to commuicate September 2, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in Big Media, Blogroll, chronicnews, Pontification, RSS & Media, RSS Applications, splogger John B.
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Rex Hammock has a post that perfectly sums up the situation I’ve been facing over the last few days and nights (its a blur).

Thank you Lemur and Thank you Rex.

I’m going to try to explain it in one place and hope a few people care after the

I’ll let Lemur speak for himself but I appreciate these words. He explains our intent better than I ever have.

The Idea of a network of City Specific Websites who primary news sources are bloggers who live there is really a quite good idea. In addition to the elegance of the software he built to aggregate and present posts and the overall design, it is astonishingly good, and as I demonstrated in my previous postings, fast.

He also has a number of features such as forums, a blog, an ad server, for monetizing the network, because despite the fact that it is a home grown effort, the electric bill never stops.

With a good opt-in system and participation this can be a quite nice addition to the internet.

Whether or not there will be any revenue sharing opportunities,should not be your primary motivation should you decide to participate. Nor should traffic to your site. Like everything else in life, you must make your own choices based on your belief and enthusiasm.

Also I think its important to clear up two things as soon as possible. My group of programmers / CMS coders nor I have never made a penny off any of this and I regret ever putting Google Adsense in the applications. (I just got $30 from Text Link ads in my Pay Pal account which is more than Adsense pays [there are some interesting limitations to Googles Adsense algorithm when the page consists of many different ‘voices].). We make our living providing similar types of systems and functionally to thrid parties for a fee. The whole network and the rest has been a good demonstration of what we do but nothing more. In this regard my reaction to Lemur was not unlike the guy who found out his agent was sleeping with his wife when told they were spotted running without clothing from his burning house. “You mean my agent actually came to my house?” On learning the I was being accused of being a splogger a part of me was thinking it was nice to be appreciated even if it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.

While we hope it could become more we especially hold no delusions in this regard. This stuff is really really hard. It takes a lot of sweat and luck just to get where we are which is really nowhere.

The purpose of the whole thing began to change when we realized that in order to attract and keep good content you had to create an enviorment that gave control and reward to the content provider. As Lemur notes we’ve developed a fully functional ad server thats feature rich and extensible There was no other point to creating a tipping system that allows users to directly ‘tip’ content providers with a single mouse click. (The only entity making anything of the transaction is Pay Pal.) The bloggers/content providers can login and input their Google Adsense info to have Adense ads offered with their content (good luck on getting anyone to click on one). All this is available right now on any of our sites.

The Headlemur correctly analysed some other things about the system and while I hope next time he chooses someone esle’s operation to analyes I have to note he proved his point. Some of the other stuff regards how feeds can be individually tweaked for display with thing like logos and teaser breaks. Plus keywords can be attached to the feed’s items.

He also noted the Google calendar functions that we’ve been able to bring in using the Google supplied API. Anyone in Nashville can publish an event and have it searched or automatically appear on anyone’s calendar. For the time being I can pretty much guarantee that if you use the Google calendar and overlay ours (or just enter it into ours either one) your event will be in the top 3 or 4 when someone searchs for Nashville. (There are more than you can believe) They can be anywhere Google offers calendar search which seems to work best from inside the calendar itslelf. Anyone who wants to add just needs to click a calendar and send a request once.
The ad server which includes the ability to inject text ads, banner ads and video insertions; the provider specific adsense and Pay Pall Tipit have all ben available for some time. Additionally and very importantly we needed the ability to email the comments made on the blog posts directly to the bloggers themselves.Adserver_screen_2 All this works well. What we’ve not had time to do is bring it all together under one interface. As it is now the blogger has to login to the adserver, create the ad and generate the insertion code. Next step is to login to one of the sites and insert it in the feed or a specific item or both. As to Adsense and Tipit it is the same without the Adserver step. But you can see and example of the adsense functionality on Flixya which is a site we worked on and very nice I might add. (Before anyone starts its true I’m trying to extract some benefit from an otherwise unfortunate occurrence.)banner

Most importantly and somewhat obviously we lack a coherent communication system. Uhm.. I got the message now. The point of the thing is to be low overhead while feature rich, graphically malleable and good at offering RSS feeds in a way that is web viewable. Its not to be anything like a splog (Wired has a very good investigative piece on splogs that will be online in 2 days). We’ve found out the hard way a system that can centrally manage group mailing lists is more prone to erratic behavior than the ad server functionality, PayPal,Adsense, RSS feeds aross multiple domains all rolled in one.

Sometime on Monday (Saturday Sept. 4th) you can see a crude demo of the all in one management system by going to http://Chronicblogs.com and creating a fake user account with any email address.business punditt

Its an aggregation system that is different, not better, just different than others. We don’t comment on posts or excise the text of the feed or otherwise purposely change the original order or sense of things. The bad thing is there is no human making these decisions on a minute to minute basis. The good thing is there is no human making these decisions on a minute basis. Take your pick. Ther’re both right . The former way certainly gives more control over what people are willing to say and provides for a more uniform type of posting no matter what the stated policy of the medium its still making choices based on content. Slashdot is good example of this and it works better than any.

I don’t think some of the comments I saw elsewhere are factually accurate regarding this. I’ll check some more.

Also its important that people realize that a site like this is not competition for established old media outlets (or related blogs) nor been intended that way. The old ‘stick it to the competition sort of thinking sort of breaks down here. Or it should.

As I said there has not been one blog aggregated in the last 6 months, if not longer, that we don’t have a letter in the file. For those that don’t we’re freezing the feeds sending letters and anyone who wants to stay please do. After a week with no notice we’re removing their items, then the feed. We thought about just deleting them — much easier — but that might appear spiteful and despite some of the statements otherwise the links are real and no doubt have some benefit. The way we plan to work this is by invite or request and we need to have the other bloggers vote the content in or out for after all it will affect them and to do otherwise is an invitation to becoming a splog for real.

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Balance August 31, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in chronicnews, Copyright, Kangaroo Copright Court, Law & Politics, unbundled content.
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Yesterday I received a letter from Godaddy, our hosting provider, that they were suspending one of our servers due to a claim that there had been a copyright violation. A blogger claimed his content was being aggregated without permission yet we had not received notice. Had we had even the slightest inkling the content would have been removed immediately.

This was the capper to a bad few days and not really necessary nor does it actually help anyone or prove a point. The sites we run all ask for permission before aggregating a blog. Mistakes happen allot so we have a big printed note on the front saying that if you find your content here and didn’t give permission then please send us a note and we’ll remove it.

We got two such notes from other bloggers on Phoenixsnews.com last week and removed the content immediately. Both bloggers had given their written permission to aggregate but the swirling accusations made them decide to remove. No problem in both cases it was done in less than 24 hours.

I wrote hime. Here is what I said last night. I was really tired.

This is the first I’ve heard about this really.

All I can do is say that I”m really and truly sorry.

They’ve taken taken our server offline. If you sent an email notice we didn’t get it to my knowledge but we very well may have and our systems just didn’t work.

Since I’ve been personally involved with this we’ve been sending letters to the blogger — for over six months — before aggregation the feed. I’m attaching an example.

I”ve been spending way more money keeping this thing going than I’ve ever brought in — zero actually. My wife just had a baby so I’ve not been paying as much attention to what’s been going on and missed your pleas. Again. I’m sorry.

John B
your sploggoer.

We’ve deactivated Phonexsnews.com now. Godaddy would let us reactivate at any time. Its just that despite what was said we don’t make money at this. Our intent has been to do so but at this stage its not happening. We’ve actually been investing in finding ways to help the bloggers make money and therefore make the whole thing make sense economically. I’ve written allot about this on these pages. Sorry its not more interesting.

The upshot of this was that Godaddy analysed the facts I provided and responded quickly (in under 1 hour) to restore service.
The Chronicnews Network runs network of blogs that are aggregations of blog content focused on various topics. Prior to aggregation we send a letter to every blogger. Here is an exact replica of the most recent letter.

BELOW IS THE LATEST VERSION OF THE EMAIL WE SEND TO EVERYONE

RE: yourblog.com
We would like to ask permission to aggregate your blog’s feed on on our site – http://www.selfemployedworker.com . The site is an aggregation of the best feeds we can find on subjects concerning self employment, freelance employment and the attendant issues.

We believe there is a need for good high quality aggregators on these subject and we’re looking for blogs that either deal directly or touch on self employment issues.

All you need to do is reply to this email and tell us if you are okay with that or not.

To see the initial version of one of the sites go to http://selfemployedworker.com/ Creative huh?

Why would you want to do this?

There may be little traffic at the site for the moment because we’ve not started a general ad campaign. We will soon start an Adwords campaign but want to set the initial blog slate and let the site settle down.

We’ve done this for a few other cities. To see some of the results click on the following links:

http://nashvillesnews.net [this is our oldest and least advanced site however it gets a lot of daily traffic]
http://tucsonsnews.com
http://houstonsnews.com
http://LAsNews.com

You may get more readers as a result of our adwords campaign. It’s not guaranteed however there’s nothing to lose in this regard.

We only promote aggregated content we like and actually have pretty high standards. Our taste and judgment might be impaired but we like your blog’s feed items and believe this can only help you get more readers.

You need do nothing more than reply to this email giving the go ahead. If you should want admin control over your feed at a later time you need to create and account which of course is free. This is completely discretionary and doesn’t affect your feeds aggregation one way or the other.

The site should give you a pretty good idea of what it does and if you allow us to aggregate you can find your feed several ways. First you can click the sources link in the left menu or either the ‘categories’, ‘sitemap’, or ‘content list’ tabs along the top.

The feed items should show as being contributed by you or whomever you have designated in the originating blog or content feed.

Each feed had a link to ‘original article’ AND ‘source’ to be a redundant as hell.

There is a feature on the site that allows you to add your Pay Pal info and give the readers the ability to “Tip” you with gratuities for writing such wonderful content. Again you can deal with this at some other time. You can see a demo at http://www.tipit.ws or on Phillysnews.com.

Almost all the bloggers are happy to be carried. But if you decide its not for you just send us a note and we will take down your feed.

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The myth of the citizen journalist July 17, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in chronicnews, local search, Pontification, unbundled content, Unbundled Media, user interface.
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I’ve been in a dialogue with someone whose been involved with the whole citizen’s journalist thing and asks a good question.

How do you plan to get people in each of the communities to view the sites and more importantly contribute to the site? The whole contribute thing is a big problem for a lot of people and it is one that I have yet to see a solution that works on a constant basis for multiple communities.

My response:

Our approach is slightly different. But this tiny difference matters in terms of the sustainability. Without going into the long history of how we got here I’ll explain.

We target certain bloggers in an area based on criteria yet to be formalized (nice way of saying we just wing it). Then we send them letters and ask for permission to aggregate their blogs and its almost always given. Once the slate is set we proceed to automatically aggregate the feeds. The software displays the product in a fashion designed to emulate a human editorial team – i.e. not too many items from a single blog at once and a good mixture of content types and voices.

The aggregation creates natural urls and pings the blog directories and search bots to say its updated every hour or so. It creates a huge index and search visibility rather fast but can be a technological problem keeping things fast.

So to answer the question in a round about way the content isn’t dependant on group participation from average readers..I tried this and its not really a business model that works consistently enough. Dan Gilmour started Bayosphere at the same time and learned this as well. The citizen journalist is a myth. You are either a journalist or you are not and theoretically we are all citizens of the web.

Think of ours as tapping into a new source for content from a semi-professional sort — the constant blogger if you will.

I guess the last thing here is that we are trying to create ways to attract and keep the better bloggers but that’s another discussion.

That is our key difference and we’re working on ways to massage these content sources better. Its the current focus and will be manifest in http://chronicblogs.com relatively soon — sometime this week I hope..

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Chronic Advertising June 9, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in chronicnews, Pontification, unbundled content, Unbundled Media.
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Chronicnews shows network bloggers its ad system that flows text and rich media through blog content in place of static banners or text. Node Flow ads allow publishers and bloggers to set a synchronized or semi random placement of text, flash, image or streaming video content inside ‘ad nodes’ which flow along the page with the content as it moves from top to bottom.

The service is free to bloggers in the network. Chronicnew is a Nashville company operating a web based publishing network focused on local content. It utilizes RSS for content delivery and relies on search visibility for its site promotion. The results of their initial experimental development were evident in late May when NashvilleSNews , the original development site, reached number 8 in Google search results for the search phrase "Nashville News". That key word combination is one of if not the single most competitive in the market.

http://chronicnews.com/home.htm
Full PDF

Advertising whereever you look…!!!

No actaully this works nicely and while it isn't going to revolutionize the web it will help productive bloggers get paid for their output whereever it may end up.

Why is Chronicnews ? What is Chronicnews? May 16, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in blog wars, chronicnews, Pontification, Publishing.
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This is the first of 4 posts regarding the Chronicnews network.

WHAT

Chronicnews is a network of locally focused websites powered by blogs. In other words they are mostly written by local bloggers — aggregated continuously via RSS and Atom (XML-RPC) and displayed more or less automatically on the pages.

The software system is designed to help rather than supplant human editorial judgements and actions. Its purpose is to free humans from the endless pains in the ass associated with publishing anything but poetically web publishing. After over a year of fairly intense screwing around (often called development) it works more or less without too many bugs or strange occurrences.

The focus is on the content producers or bloggers. We've two primary principals

  • Create a rewarding environment for the content producers both in terms of recognition and remuneration. [NOTE: The next post will deal directly with the what and how of this.]
  • Create a product and interface for the end user that is uncomplicated, comfortable and enjoyable.

WHY

We like to stay up late and need something to do for 16 hours every day of the week including holidays.

Okay we actually believe in this and want to share some quick visuals. These graphs were borrowed from Google Trends which has the nifty feature of allow you to compare search terms over a long term.

We start with the old standby to get a calibration.

Good Vs. Evil

Some things to note here. Good seems to be making a strong comback from its lackluster performance over the last 7 .. cough.. cough years.

Now that we have our baseline lets move on to something relevant — blogs vs. books.Blog VS. Book

Notice the steady decline in books and nearly equal climb in blogs. It seems that what books lose, blogs gain.

Next up is my favorite.

Blog VS Sex
Notice how there is no relationship at all. However its interesting that people get horny around the holidays. Did you know that September and October are the biggest months for new babies? I'm making that up. But still its interesting to note that people seem to search what's on their minds and sex is always on their minds in one way or another.

Now for more in the department of no effect what so ever.
Blog VS. TV
Abosolutely nothing to report here. TV has nothing to worrry about in the short term I suspect.

Before you think blogs are not really effecting the traditional media take a look at this.

Blog Vs Paper
Opps.. looks like Knight Rider got out while the getting was good.

Its that last slide that makes us think these blogs might be around for a while.
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