Tag Archives: Reddit

blogging credibility delicio.us folksonomies Google Reader information-architecture journalism maps NewsTrust.net search-engines social-bookmarking tagging Taxonomies trust Tumblr Vox Web2.0 WordPress

Recommendations for an easy, automatic blogging system?

DSC_0066 I’m looking for some help and suggestions, but first a little background on my latest project.

I’m a bit of a map geek – I’m fascinated by maps and how data can be illustrated with maps. I periodically post things on this blog but I actually run across a lot more cool map apps than I can share in mid- to long-form blog posts here.

I use a number of different social bookmarking and social news sites – it’s a research interest of mine, so I probably have accounts on far too many of them. When I come across a blog post on a cool old map or some interesting new real estate geodata site I’ll save/share it in a number of places, including StumbleUpon, Delicious, Reddit, and sometimes others. I also share things via Google Reader.

This is far to diffuse, so I thought I might make a separate mini-blog just for map geekery. But I already spend more than enough time with the blogs and services I’m using now – I’m only able to support another blog if I can automate some part of this giant messy workflow.

This would be pretty similar to how I manage my microblogging / status updates now. I have my Google Reader items posted to FriendFeed, which updates Twitter, which updates Facebook via the Facebook Twitter app. Convoluted, but now that it’s set up I can post something once and have it seen by friends on different services.

I’ve played around with a few different services:

Tumblr – Tumblr makes it very easy to import feeds, which is great for what I’m looking for. The only drawbacks are that so far I can’t narrow down some feeds to really target map bookmarks and I don’t see any easy way to add geodata.

Vox – I’ve only played around with it a bit, but I’m not sure what sets Vox apart from other blog hosts.

WordPress.com – Actually, I thought this would be perfect given the right plugins, but wordpress.com doesn’t have plugins. Setting up and managing yet another WordPress instance doesn’t sound too appealing.

Blogger – Blogger is great, and I should probably use it a bit more considering it’s a Google product. Unfortunately everything I saw in a quick search about posting to Blogger from RSS showed up on somewhat questionable SEO blogs, so I’m wary.

So I’m still looking. Any recommendations on what would be the easiest tiny-blog system to use?

New social news site – NewsTrust.net

I happened across NewsTrust.net, a new social news aggregation site.  I’m a big fan of other sites in the category like Reddit, despite their flaws, and NewsTrust includes a tagging system so I feel obligated to investigate it like any other folksonomy.

So I created an account to give it a try.  The big difference between this site and others is the emphasis on quality journalism.  NewsTrust asks for your real name, and in addition to giving weight to users who write good reviews and get votes from other users, it adds factors like experience as a journalist to the mix.  It makes specific disticntions between mainstream media sources and altenrative media sources.

It’s an interesting idea, and it’s good to see journalists working together with programmers and web developers to make use of some of the social software techniques that newspaper websites so often catch on the trailing edge.  The site’s features seem geared toward providing users with the best that professional journalism has to offer with a dash of brilliant amateur writing thrown in – even the page layout looks more like a newspaper site than a Digg or Del.icio.us clone.

But I’m not sure it will work, at least not without some tweaking.  I don’t know if they put a lot of weight into the “experience” of users, but it didn’t require any verification of my 5-9 years of journalism experience (for the record, that’s four years in college plus more than a year of stringing here and there).  Here’s the problem of trust again, though hopefully mitigated by fellow users’ reviews.

The other issue is interaction design.  The widgets and buttons all work just fine, but when you rate a story you’re asked to score on six dimensions: Recommendation, Trust, Information, Fairness, Sources, and Context.  Only the first is required, but give users options and they are bound to feel obligated to exercise them.  Give them too many tasks and they will tend to give up.  So the simple interaction model of Reddit, where users don’t even have to click through to rate a story, might be information-poor but participation-rich in comparison.

Still, I will play with the site more and I wish them luck, I think they have some promising ideas.  For example, in their blog they talk about gathering sources from other countries based on big world news events, specifically the Russian invasion of Georgia.  Reddit is only fleetingly so reflective and few sites use temporary peaks in interest to get long-term data on source credibility.

Scientific proof that Reddit should add a tagging system

First, a disclaimer: the title of this post is obviously exaggerated. Proof is an awfully big word to throw around, and although I employed pretty good experiment design practices and statistical checks, I can’t really prove that Reddit should do this or that. But I can show that what they are doing now is not working, at least when it comes to search.

So, I got an email the other day letting me know that my article, Tagging and Searching: Search Retrieval Effectiveness of Folkonsomies on the World Wide Web, is being published in the July 2008 issue of Information Processing and Management (here’s the official DOI link to the article). In the study I compared search performance between traditional search engines (like Google), subject directories (like Open Directory), and social bookmarking systems (like Reddit) and their folksonomies.

What’s a folksonomy? The word is a play on the term taxonomy – a taxonomy is a system of organizing and categorizing things, like the Dewey Decimal System. Taxonomies usually follow very strict rules and are controlled by experts. A folksonomy is a system of organization built by large numbers of regular users, who add things to the collection, evaluate them, and usually tag them with keywords.


In my study, the social bookmarking systems with tagging systems did surprisingly well – Del.icio.us was more precise than Open Directory, and at a cut off of 20 results it’s precision was fairly close to that of the search engines.

Reddit, however, did not fare so well. It consistently had the lowest precision, meaning that searches returned very few relevant results. There could be many reasons for this, but the biggest difference between Reddit and the others is the lack of tags.

Now, it’s possible that the folks at Reddit have no interest in search, or information retrieval in general. I think Reddit is very effective at bringing out new and interesting links on a daily basis and encouraging commentary (just my opinion, no stats to back that up). But I think it’s a big missed opportunity not to add tagging and see where it leads.

(One last disclaimer: this post is my personal opinion as someone who enjoys using Reddit and does not reflect on my employer. This post refers to research done independently as a grad student.)