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Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Blog Finder Reminder

The geneablogosphere is drawing attention and gaining respect. Heck, they just had a "Blogger Summit" at the SCGS Jamboree (liveblogged here; see also Craig and Randy's reports). I would have attended, but the gas to drive there would have cost more than my car.

What better time to remind you all of the Genealogy Blog Finder? I've spent the last few days (and nights) working on a new "Preview a Post" feature: Clicking on a blog's thumbnail image will now give you a snippet of the most recent post cached. This should make it easier for you to decide that a blog doesn't interest you in the least.

I've also added new entries and removed some defunct blogs (I don't remove inactive blogs from the directory, but I do remove deleted blogs), bringing the number of blogs indexed to 964. Here are some statistics (as of 10 minutes ago):

  • 107 blogs (11%) were updated in the last two days
  • 243 blogs (25%) were updated in the last week
  • 444 blogs (46%) were updated in the last month
  • 678 blogs (70%) were updated in the last six months
  • 773 blogs (80%) were updated in the last year
  • 574 blogs (60%) are published on the (free) "blogspot.com" domain
  • 82 blogs (1%) are published on the (free) "wordpress.com" domain
  • 65% of blogs abandoned before 2007 were published on the "blogspot.com" domain
  • 2% of blogs abandoned before 2007 were published on the "wordpress.com" domain
  • 3% of blogs either don't syndicate their content or have an unusable feed
  • 347 blogs (36%) have the word "Genealogy" in the title
  • 2 blogs have the word "Genealogue" in the title
I created the Blog Finder back in October 2006 because I didn't have room at The Genealogue to link to all the worthy blogs I stumbled upon. Twenty months and 250,000 page views later, I would call it a success. I hope that it's driven a little traffic to some little-known blogs, and encouraged some little-known bloggers to keep writing.

And now, a behind-the-scenes look at my life as a Blog Finder administrator:

I generally get a handful of submissions each week, and find a few new blogs on my own. I usually wait until I have enough new entries to fill the What's New page before updating the database.

I visit each blog to make sure that it's sufficiently genealogical and sufficiently bloggy to include. A large percentage of the submitted sites check out. The "sufficiently genealogical" criterion sometimes requires a judgment call. I've rejected some "family" blogs where the family seems to go back just one generation. I've also rejected blogs where the non-genealogical posts far outnumber the genealogical. I assign each blog to at least one, and sometimes two or three categories. The Personal Research category is by far the largest, with 443 entries, followed by Tips, Resources & Reviews (183) and Locality Specific (169).

Once a blog's vital info (title, description, URL, etc.) is entered into the database and a screenshot is thumbnailed and uploaded, automated processes take over. The first time the blog's entry is viewed on the site, the server reaches out and grabs its feed. It then parses the feed, extracting the name of the most recent post, the time and date it was posted, and the first few hundred characters of the content. This can be tricky because of the different feed formats that blogs use. The parsing script also has to anticipate anything that might cause an error—for instance, an empty title field.

The extracted data is added to the database, along with a cache date. The server will recheck the feed for an update as often as four times a day (for very active blogs), or as seldom as every couple of days (for inactive blogs). If a recently updated blog doesn't show up on the Recently Updated page, it probably isn't due to be checked for a few hours.

Taneya sent me a suggestion last month:
It would be cool if blogs could have locations associated with them where relevant (for example, my nashville black history blog - or, if people are focusing on family from specific cities) and then be able to see blogs on a Google map. That would make it really easy to browse geographically.
That would be cool. But first, I need to get some sleep.

If you'd like me to update your blog's entry with a new thumbnail, description, etc., just email me the request or fill out the Suggest a Blog form.

wendy

I just want to give you my thanks for being the "blog finder" and doing all the updating, etc. that you do. I think you need more than some sleep - possibly a vacation or a big thick steak (or chocolates or wine or whatever!)

Miriam

Thanks for all your hard work on this, Chris. I use your Blogfinder all the time and recommend it to those in my genie society, as well as to those who participate in my online genealogy classes. You provide an awesome and much-needed service!

Taneya

This was a good post - it was educational to read about how you administer the site. Of course you know I think it is immensely useful! Thank you for sharing my suggestion to. Do you think you'll really do it? :-)

Chris

Thanks for your comments, ladies.

Wendy, I'm a vegetarian and a teetotaler, but chocolate is one of my favorite food groups.

Taneya, I probably will implement it, once I figure out the best way to do it. Thanks again for the suggestion!

Trish

Your category 'Locality-Specific', which my blog is probably under, is giving an error: "Locality-Specific Blogs Microsoft Cursor Engine error '80004005' Data provider or other service returned an E_FAIL status. /results.inc, line 93"

Chris

Thanks, Trish! Problem solved.

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