Time for some mad ranting... beware!
This is my third day blogging, so now might be a good time to rant a little regarding blogging in general and work-related blogs in particular. I'm still a newbie in many respects so I apologize in advance if my ideas have already been discussed in other forums.
Before being aware of blogs, I had a daily & weekly routine of staying updated - skimming the sites, reading newsgroups and email newletters, IMing. As always, the challenge is to find those oh-so elusive needles hiding in the electronic haystack that piles up on my virtual desk every morning. Could blogging somehow improve my routine? Could I become a more efficient information gatherer, learning more in less time?
The more I learned about the concept and the technical standards involved, the more my instincts told me: blogs are a good thing. And then I actually started blogging. By that I mean reading others' blogs online, and later using client-side apps to aggregate the feeds onto my laptop. And of course going online with this blog, the one that you are currently reading. And guess what? My instincts were wrong.
I don't mean that blogs are bad. But basically the way the medium is being used today doesn't add any value compared to existing content channels, at least not for me. It is true that being XML based allows separation of data and presentation, but so do email and news. The threading mechanisms used in newsgroups are more usable then the blog method of linkbacks (although less elegant). XML-RPC is simple and open, but so are SMTP and NNTP. Today's aggregators are not shortening the process of digesting information. They are functionally equivalent to newsgroup readers at best, and their UI is light-years behind modern email clients such as outlook. Another issue is blog discovery - newsgroups at least have a fairly centralized, managed directory with a full list of what is available.
What seems to be missing (or at least I haven't found them yet) are meta services. Services which can span different formats and delivery protocols, and aggregate all my "stuff" into one big repository. That would in turn allow us to take the next step - shortening the distance between electronic information and human knowledge. Data mining, knowledge mining. auto-categorization. intelligent push. feedback/activity-driven ranking mechanisms. In short, somewhere between a personal Google and a Tivo on steroids.
All the puzzle pieces exist today... some of them are even widely available to the masses. What's missing, and why the pieces aren't coming together - I guess I'll need another rant to cover all that. Maybe next week :)
And in the meantime, I can’t even find an aggregator with reasonable full-text indexing. So next time I’m searching for an answer, I will probably find it in the form of HTML content imbedded in a web page, indexed and served up on Google. Thanks for nothing, RSS!
Maybe I'll bake my own XML-RPC protocol handler and RSS ifilter for Sharepoint. Has anyone done an RSS-NNTP-SMTP gateway yet? How about discovery services? Or maybe it is best to start with a P2P based RSS implementation? (Who needs web servers for RSS anyway....)
So many ideas, so little time. And I'm wasting it on long winded posts like this one :)