Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On aggregating, harvesting and republishing existing blogs

What's this post all about then? Well, I suppose the title is about as self-explanatory as it can get. I'm looking for a technology which can be used to bring together the output of a specific profile of existing blogs which wish to contribute to a common purpose and then use that same network of existing blogs to republish the harvested content - now repackaged in a coherent whole or magazine - back out to their readership in one shared embeddable product.

As I said yesterday, YourMagz is beginning to look like a good place to start.

Currently, there seems to exist only one approach to creating a common place for debate - and that involves creating a common place for debate from scratch, where everyone has to move their baggage, set up new stalls and get familiar with the technology. Examples I'm familiar with include Labourhome and Labour List. Here, the interested parties in question have decided to set up uniform blogging platforms with differing aims in each case - but similar problems. Blogging, at its best, involves highly individual voices speaking out on a range of issues. Blogging on these kinds of platforms is, from the start, an exercise in corporate unanimity - at least from the visual point of view, if nothing else.

My proposed approach is, however, a little different.

What I'm really looking to create is a kind of souped-up blog aggregator of blogs which voluntarily submit themselves to such aggregation (an existing aggregator, Bloggers4Labour - the one that gave me the original idea in fact and with rather more limited facilities than I am now proposing - can be found here); in my ideal world this turbocharged and editorially focussed search engine would be used to build the content for a multi-author site using both real-life and automated editor functionality. Why both real-life and automated? Well, we can - and perhaps should, democratically speaking - still gather everything in order to republish in one place ... and this we can do automatically; but in reality, as readers, voters, citizens and consumers, we will never have either the time or the inclination to read everything that's out there, nor will absolutely everything that even the best writers publish always make for the best reading experience. Prioritisation of content, to support both the editorial line as well as maintain the interest of the target audience, will therefore be essential.

The virtues of such a system, from an editorial point of view, are that it would allow for the harnessing and training up of new talent alongside the existing as well as making easy its gradual incorporation into a project with solvency; it would help create agenda on a flexible, responsive, rolling and grassroots-focussed way; and it would ensure that individuality and quirkiness - the necessary sparks needed to provoke persistent imagination and the future development of ideas - would always have their place.

YourMagz? Who knows? The idea is now on the table.

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