Shouldn't Google Alerts include blogs?

Summary:In an attempt to stay abreast of all things Windows Vista on the Web (for our Vistulations blog), I've established a Google Alert to keep an eye on the Web. Or so I thought.

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In an attempt to stay abreast of all things Windows Vista on the Web (for our Vistulations blog), I've established a Google Alert to keep an eye on the Web. Or so I thought.  Google's alerts, as it turns out, don't cover blogs.  This is a bit confounding to me because, when you configure and alert, you get to pick whether it includes news, the Web or both.  As can be seen from my screenshot (left), not only do I have it configured for both, I also have it configured to alert me "as it happens."  Other choices are once per day or once per week.  However, the Alert isn't doing me much good since it doesn't cover blogs and blogs are exactly where most of the interesting Vista coverage is taking place.  For example, it doesn't alert me to any new material from any of Microsoft's bloggers who are working on Vista nor does it alert me to anything Vista specific that's being written by Microsoft tech evangelist Robert Scoble.  Paul Thurrott's blog which has judicious coverage of Microsoft, Windows, and Vista is excluded as are entries from Redmonk bloggers Stephen O'Grady and James Governor.

I can understand if Google feels as though the blogosphere isn't a part of "news."  But isn't the blogosphere part of the Web? Or is the blogosphere not the Web?  This problem with Google Alerts is nothing new.  For example, Yahoo!'s Jeremy Zawodny made hay about the exclusion over two years ago.  Google's lack of blog indexing also contributed to the plausibility of outfits like Technorati and BlogPulse, and now, Google's new Blog Search (Technorati CEO David Sifry recently welcomed the competition in his blog). 

I'd do a fact check with Google to find out why the Blog Search isn't included as a new type in Google Alerts (doesn't it make sense for Google to do this?), but, as an employee of CNET Networks, I'm included in Google CEO Eric Schmidt's blackout (see CNET: We've been blackballed by Google).  I'd also ask why the frequency setting doesn't work.  Even though I have it configured to alert me "as things happen," it really only let's me know once per day.  Much criticism and comparison has been levied upon the various blog search start-ups.  Although the evidence is only circumstantial, the fact that Google can't alert me as things happen and that Google Alerts excludes the blogosphere could suggest that it's a lot harder to stay on top of the blogosphere than some would lead you to believe.  Not only does the blogosphere grow like a weed in sheer number of pages every second,  that growth rate itself grows like a weed every day. 

While I was hoping to have a one stop shop, the obvious solution is to fall back to one of the blog search engines which unfortunately, don't cover the rest of the Web.  But even this isn't a perfect solution since not  everyone who blogs about Windows Vista refers to beta operating system the same way.  Some call it Windows Vista. Others call it Vista.  Still others call it by it's old code name Longhorn.  And, since the term "vista" is used in plenty of non-Windows contexts, programming a search to look just for that will net plenty of irrelevant results. 

The answer, Technorati lovers will tell you, is for everybody who is blogging about Windows Vista to apply the same unique tag to each entry about Windows Vista. But such tagging can be cumbersome as evidenced by the number of people using it.  Longhorn, the codename, has been around for a long time.  But, according to Technorati's tag search for Longhorn, there are only 481 entries in the blogosphere that bear the "Longhorn" tag.  693 posts are tagged with "Windows Vista" (the same number applies to "WindowsVista" with no space) and 619 posts are tagged with just "vista" but the results include blog entries that are irrelevant to Microsoft. 

If you're one of those people blogging about Windows Vista and since "Longhorn" can apply to either the  new Windows client or the new Windows server, I'd like to propose that all you Vista bloggers out there who are apply tags go with the very unique "WindowsVista" as the official tag.  That's the tag that I'm going to peg to an RSS feed that flows through my NewsGator subscriptions in Outlook and that's the feed that I'll be watching for interesting Vista blog entries to point to. I'll start doing the same with my Vistulations blog entries (for example, see the very end of my most recent post on how Vista's User Access Protection security feature still needs work).

Topics: Windows

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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