I’ve recently encountered two metablog sites, Blog Engage and Blogatiser. One of them specifically requested a review. What is striking about these two sites is how similar they are. Pretty much everything I say here applies to both sites unless specifically noted otherwise. If I were still a computer science lecturer, I’d think these two lads copied each other’s homework or something. In the real world, it’s called forkage, and it’s considered “building upon the work of others,” It’s OK as long as the “others” are OK with it.
Here’s the idea: You join the site, then you submit your blog posts. The posts hang out in kind of a limbo until a certain number of people vote for them. If they get buried beneath a load of new posts before getting the required number of votes they could hang there forever. Once they get the required number of votes they are considered “published” and so you have another inbound link to juice your Google-iciousness.
When I last checked, Blogatiser had 150 or so members, and Blog Engage was out front with 2000 according to the site owner. On Blogatiser it seems like a small interconnected group upvote each other’s posts and ignore the rest. Blog Engage seems to be a bit more even-handed in this respect, and I believe that springs from the dynamic of a larger group.
Both sites have a social aspect — you can add other members as your friends but I don’t see what that does for you, except artificially make it more likely that they will vote for your posts. Blogatiser allows you to input your Google adsense pub id. They talk vaguely about adsense revenue sharing, but I didn’t see my adsense id on the page with my post. Maybe you only get that once you get published — the site isn’t very clear about it.
Blogatiser offers a browser toolbar. No thanks. Blog Engage offers a WordPress plugin which I also declined, because all it seems to do is make a badge and the documentation on the badges seems unfinished.
Blogatiser borked when I attempted a spellcheck.
Here are the issues with both these sites as I see them.
- Inputting your post is tedious. You have to fill out a lot of formularia, and categorize and summarize your post. It violates the DRY (don’t repeat yourself) principle. When I create a blog post I already do a summary and tags, etc. It would be better if the thing could suck the summaries and tags right out of our blog on the back-end automatically. I’d really rather visit the site and vote if I’m going to visit at all.
- No allowance is made for the bell curve of interests. An idiotic post about the latest shenanigans of Brittney Spears will appeal to a large number of less intelligent people on the fat part of the bell curve. A proof of Fermat’s last theorem would be earth-moving in its own sphere, but probably only 1 out of 100 cruisers would have any interest in it. Such a post would get buried under under five fart jokes, two lame political rants, four linkbaits and so on. The unpublished stuff just piles up in chronological order, much like the unsorted pile of stuff on my desk. You can select a category, but only from a post in that category. Category selection really needs to be in the top bar of the dashboard.
- The assumption seems to be that these sites will give bloggers exposure and that a link would be a high value item. Well, Blogatiser has a GPR of 0, except for one datacenter gave it a 2. Blog Engage seems to have an edge here, with a lot of zero’s but also a number of 3’s. From their pageranks, a link from them would be about as valuable as a link from any other blog.
- Every vote seems to count the same. So, if the laws of normal distribution apply, that means a large number of idiots will get on and upvote a bunch of idiotic posts on popular topics, or do a “friend-whore” thing. Epinions tried to fix this problem years ago by “hatting” certain respected members and giving their votes more clout. But that just turned it into a “suck-up to the hats” fest.
- There is no incentive for voting, other than it might make other members vote for you.
- They lack stickiness. Who wants to go to a site and spend time redoing all the meta stuff you do when you post and then sifting through a bunch of unvetted posts to see which ones you want to vote on. And even if you browse the published posts, knowing that they were selected by popular vote of people who spend their time doing this kind of thing does not give me great confidence that I will find anything I really like among the chaff.
- The vote button is outside of the post. You can vote without even reading the post. After you’ve gone inside, you might not be back.
To summarize, There is an interesting concept here. Here is what would need to happen to make these sites truly take off: They need to:
- write plugins for all the major blogging platforms so that when I make a post I can click a check box that says submit to Blogatiser/Blog Engage and poof done.
- provide some real incentive for voting. Otherwise vetting and voting is just unpaid work.
- provide category feeds for the unpublished posts.
- have some solution for the normal curve problem, i.e. really awesome posts in a small niche don’t get buried under the avalanche of “popular” stuff.
- The vote button should not be active unless the reader has actually read the post.