A couple weeks ago I noticed that Auxiliary Memory was getting a bump in hits and discovered the reason: AlphaInventions.com. This site, the invention of Cheru Jackson was designed to randomly show blogs from around the world, and promote blog reading. If you visit AlphaInventions you can sit and watch a new blog pop up about every 10 seconds, like a blog slide-show. There’s a pause button in case you want to stop and read, and a input box and button to submit your own blog.
I’ve manually done this in the past with blog hosting sites like LiveJournal that used to have a random button, and Blogger which currently has a “Next Blog” button that takes you to a random site. I wish all blog hosting sites offered this feature. It’s a fun way to see the world. Hitting the random button is like teleporting into an unknown home and asking the people, “What’s happening?” At Blogger, over half the sites are in language that’s not English, but the pictures still tell a thousand words each.
I’ve looked at hundreds, if not thousands of sites in this random fashion and I’ve never found a person like me. There are a few bloggers that have similar interests to mine, but we have discovered each other in non-random ways. Most people discover other blogs through googling a topic, from social bookmarking sites, or from the links presented at a blog site they like. This tends to hide the diversity of the blogosphere because people tend pursue more of what they already like.
Patterns do emerge, but it’s surprising how different people are around the world, or even just nearby. All over the web people have tried to estimate how many blogs there are, with some estimates running as high as 200,000,000, which I can’t believe. Here are some numbers from different blogging sites:
- WordPress.com – 5,056,620
- Blogger.com – unknown
- LiveJournal.com – 17,600.000
- OpenDiary.com – 566,956
- TypePad.com – unknown
- Vox.com – unknown
- Windows Live Spaces – unknown
- Famous blog hosting sites in other countries – unknown
Still, even if there are only 20,000,000 bloggers, that’s quite a cultural expression of diversity. Evidently millions people on this planet have an inner-journalist in them. Those sites with unknown numbers are really big ones, so we could be talking about a major cultural phenomenon.
It only took a couple of weeks to realize that AlphaInventions was failing. The first time I looked at it a high percentage of pages caught my eye as being readable and interesting. Now it’s overwhelmed with crap. There are a couple kinds of blogs that turn me off, but they tend to dominate. The first are people trying to make money in some lame-ass way. The second, and more common, are bloggers who like to jot down a few vague lines each day. Don’t put up a public website unless you’re going to make a serious effort to provide content. I hate hitting the “Next Blog” button and finding a site that says, “We went to the movies and then went out to dinner.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to write about going to the movies and out to dinner, but you’ve got to make it into a story, or at least a movie review.
There could be tens of millions of bloggers, but there might only be a few hundred thousand serious ones, and if we distilled those down to just the ones you would love to read if you had the time, there could be hundreds. Finding them is a problem, but as fascinating problem. Think about it, there’s almost 7,000,000,000 people in the world, and blogging has the potential to connect you with the most perfect friends.
I think Cheru Jackson will need to rethink his concept. The blog slide-show idea is great. Letting anyone submit is bad. I’d like to see the blog slide-show feature combined with RSS feeds and StumbleUpon like technology so the random blogs were all high quality sites with a reader rating button. In other words, I want random great, rather than random everything. StumbleUpon is excellent for finding great reading from all types of web sites, but Jackson’s intention was to help the little-guy bloggers, and that’s a good intention.
I think Blogger.com’s “Next Blog” button is the step in the right direction. If they would add a rating button to their top navigation bar, allowing visitors to rate blogs on the Blogger site, then that could be used to show random sites with positive ratings. The social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon and Technorati allows pros to compete against amateurs, and that’s good for that they do, but I’d also like to see an all amateur competition too.
For some reason I mainly read sites from WordPress and Blogger users, with a sprinkling of LiveJournal users. There are many more blog hosting sites around the world that need to get in on the competition. Many advanced bloggers hide their community blog hosting services with personalized domain names. This makes their sites look more professional, but tends to hide their affiliation with their blogging community. I love being part of the WordPress world, and wished WordPress.com had a random button like the Blogger “Next Blog” button.
Of course, for Blogger.com to offer that button requires their users to show an ugly navigation bar at the top their site. I don’t know if WordPress users would like that or not. I see an admin bar whenever I visit my site for administrative purposes, which by-the-way allows me to see a random post of my own. Maybe blog hosting services could make a custom visitor bar at the top of sites an option.
Blog hosting sites do collaborate with standards like OpenID, so it might be possible they could create a random referral standard. I like that people at Blogger or LiveJournal have a certain look and feel, because it makes me feel like I’m visiting a country of bloggers with their own shared characteristics and flavor. I’d like to randomly visit other blogging countries. What’s needed is a central guide like Fodor’s, or a United Nations of blog countries to start a visa process.
Of course, these suggestions would put poor Cheru Jackson out of business. He had a good idea, but each blogging host site could easily recreate it, and in the future, with standards, the cross-border random visits could be set up too.