Structured blogging--what's in it for users?

Structured blogging--what's in it for users?

Summary: Paul Kedrosky's blog has a provacative post on structured blogging and a number of comments have been posted. He doesn't think that users get enough value to invest the time to mess with adding structure to blogs:There is simply not enough benefit to the average blogger to compensate for the added irritation of having to pull up a separate form for each type of content you post.

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TOPICS: Browser
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Paul Kedrosky's blog has a provacative post on structured blogging and a number of comments have been posted. He doesn't think that users get enough value to invest the time to mess with adding structure to blogs:

There is simply not enough benefit to the average blogger to compensate for the added irritation of having to pull up a separate form for each type of content you post. It’s a little like the reason why the average Outlook user has around 2,000 emails in their inbox at any time: The cognitive effort of classification is enough to keep people from bothering. The same logic holds for structured blogging.

Pete Cashmore comments on Kedroksy's blog post:

I tend to agree with you that structured blogging won't take off right now - too much effort, not enough reward for the blogger. We need to decrease the effort and increase the benefit - that might involve algorithms or a community-based solution. Either way, it seems inevitable that blog posts will become more structured - and we should aim to do that without modifying user behaviour.

Bryan Rieger also comments:

One of the big problems I have with current proposed structured blogging/microformats is the value proposition is backwards - the only ones to benefit in are PubSub, Technorati, Google and the likes.

It's not a bad idea, but will require a few iterations before we get to something really useable. IMO - relying on "intelligence in the network and algorithms" will never amount to much with essentially dumb (for a reason) networks.

Basically, post-introduction (or second intro since it was first introduced at the Web 2.0 conference in October by PubSub) reasonable people seem to agree that structured blogging is good in theory but difficult to achieve in reality. For more opinions, Phillip Pearson is keeping track of the various conversations about structured blogging.

Backing up a bit, structuredblogging.org describes its user benefits as follows:

Structured Blogging will make it easy to create, edit and maintain different kinds of blog posts. The major difference is the structure will let you add specific styles to each type. For example, you'll be able to add links and pictures to spruce up your movie reviews. They will look completely different from, say, your calendar entries. Better yet, someone looking for a review of the movie Titanic will be likely to find your post about it. Structured Blogging gives you a bigger megaphone; a taller soapbox from which to be heard and to grow a bigger audience. Once Structured Blogging is in place, you can start building applications on top of it. Because Structured Blogging plugins embed information in both the HTML blog and the syndicated feed, applications can run in web browsers (like a Firefox plugin for comparison shopping which also reads product reviews); aggregators (such as one that adds your friend's calendar entries to your date book); or web services (like a feed for everyone who is attending the same conference as you). Structured Blogging plugins have been designed to support open formats—as new schemas emerge from community usage, the tools allow anyone to build applications or services based on the structure in each entry.

The debate will go on. Structured blogging isn't going to happen overnight, but it's an important step in giving Web content more expressability, leveraging social media. Now that the microformat group (led by Technoratis like Tantek Celik) working on open data formats and the structured blogging group have agreed to work together, more and faster progress should be made toward standardizing formats and making it easier for users to overcome what Kedrosky calls their laziness.

What we need to keep in mind is that implementing structure is key to creating Web currencies--a medium of exchange that allows users to avoid walled gardens, share their data and create new kinds of applications and services themselves. A top down approach isn't going to work, but bottoms up, grass roots, keep it simple, take a few seconds to apply formats until manual is replaced by automation because you get value from contributing to the pool is least likely to fail. What is lazy is not even trying to push the rock up hill--if enough people are behind effort, it will then be like rolling a snowball downhill, as Doc Searls likes to say.

Topic: Browser

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  • Excel

    Trying to make ordinary users add more structure to a blog entry is a non-starter. The way to go is to find people who are already entering structured data, and allow them to do it directly to their blogs.

    One clue here might be spreadsheets. Dan Bricklin is on the right track with WikiCalc. But what about a plug-in that lets you post to a blog directly from Excel?

    Someone who's already filling some prestructured form in Excel could easily be given a button to publish the result as a microformat.
    interstar