Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “blog aggregators”

Goodbye Amatomu?

For several years now Amatomu has been the most useful guide to the South African blogosphere, but for the past couple of years it has been behaving erratically, and now it seems to have disappeared altogether.

It was started by the Mail & Guardian a few years ago, when they tried to entice several bloggers to their web site, but they abandoned that along with Amatomu some time ago. For a while Amatomu limped along on its own, but now it seems to have died altogether. All I get now is

Unable to connect
Firefox can’t establish a connection to the server at

That is sad, because now the only real guide to South African blogs that I know of is the blogrolls of other South African bloggers, and those, including my own, are often poorly maintained.

But perhaps blogging is dying anyway, and internet communication is becoming more and more trivial and inconsequential.

We read headlines like Kate Middleton Just Gave Birth to Nearly $400 Million in Economic Stimulus –, only to discover that most of it is “The commemorative schlock. So, so much schlock.”

And most of that schlock finds its way on to social media sites like Facebook nowadays.

And yes, there were (and probably still are) blogs that are just as bad, but they weren’t quite as “in your face” as Facebook.

So, I’m sorry to see the death throes of Amatomu. For all its faults, it did serve a useful purpose.



Entropy in the blogosphere

Why is it that websites that provide auxiliary services to blogs have a passion to tinker with their sites in such a way that what used to work no longer works, and adding a whole lot of useless stuff?

I’m not the only one to have noticed this. St. Aidan to Abbey Manor: What’s going on with Technorati?:

Not that I notice these things, but in the past week my Technorati ‘authority’ (number of other sites linking here in the last 90 days) has dropped like a stone, and my ranking seems to vary by several hundred thousand depending on which way the wind is blowing at the time. Maybe they’re all getting a bit overloaded. It looks like links from the sidebars of other blogs (like the ones down the right hand side here) aren’t being counted any more.

Technorati is a prime example of people messing with something that previously worked well so that when they have fixed it it doesn’t work at all. When I first joined I found it quite useful, but it has become more and more erratic.

If I’m blogging on a topic, I sometimes enter key words in Technorati to see what other people are saying about it, but now I find Google blog search is much more reliable for that. Technorati keep changing their user interface and moving stuff around so it is far more difficult to find. I used to be able to go to my home page on Technorati, see all my blogs, ping them if necessary, see who had linked to my blog posts, and see the top ten search keywords and the top ten post key words. That’s how I learnt about Twitter, and discovered who Paris Hilton and Steven Furtick were.

But those have all been scattered and are no longer conveniently visible in one place. I suspect that the reason for that is that Techorati hope that you will go looking for them as in a labyrinth, going down numerous dead ends and having to work your way back, and so will be exposed to more advertisements and so they will make more money. That might work for a week, but after that most people will give up and stop visiting the site.

The home page was all over Technology Business Entertainment Lifestyle Politics Sports Gaming Celebrity. One of the reasons I never visited Digg was that most of my interests didn’t fit into any of those categories, and when Technorati went down that route I lost interest.

After writing this I went to have a look at their home page (for the first time in about six months) and I see they’ve put back a little of what used to be there, but still not enough.

And I just did a test: I searched for “hippocracy”, and none of my posts on that topic show up in Technorati, even though they have explicit Technorati tags. When I click on the tag in the post itself it takes me to the relevant tag page on Technorati, which tells me that “there are no posts related to this tag”. And it also goes on to say

Welcome to the hippocracy tag page at Technorati. This page features content from the farthest reaches of the Blogosphere that authors have “tagged” with hippocracy.

Yet it can’t even find the post that has the tag that I clicked on to reach the page — so much for the “farthest reaches of the Blogosphere” claim. The fact is that it doesn’t work. It’s broken.

Even the WordPress page on the topic appears to be broken (or hacked).

So Technorati is pretty useless.

Another site that seems to have similar problems is Amatomu. When it started, was a fairly good guide to the South African blogosphere, and also gave some interesting statistics about what posts on one’s blog were being read most frequently.

By far the most popular post on this blog was Notes from underground: Books to read before you die. But then Amatomu revamped their software, and suddenly it appeared that no one was reading it at all. So either the Amatomu statistics were wildly wrong before, or they are wildly wrong now. I suspect that it is the “improvements” that broke it. One of my widgets tells me that Saint John, New Brunswick arrived on “Notes from underground: Books to read before you die” today, so people are still reading that post, and it is the Amatomu statistics that are as inaccurate as Technorati’s.

After the bad news, some good news: Blog Explosion seems to be improving.

Like Technorati and Amatomu, Blog Explosion was started by enthusiastic people who lost interest in it and handed over the running of it to someone else who didn’t really grasp the original vision. Because of entropy, without enthusiastic input, it gradually ran down. But in the case of Blog Explosion the users organised themselves, and complained, pressed and prodded until the people running Blog Explosion finally acted to arrest the decline, and began to get things working properly again.

They were able to do this because of the way works.

At one level it is a kind of Blog Directory, with blogs divided into various categories. You surf through blogs, which it is supposed to show you in random order, giving preference to a category that you choose. As you surf, you get points for each blog you see, and your blog is then shown to other surfers in proportion to the number of points you earn. So it is a good way of seeing new blogs, and getting new readers for your blog at the same time.

The problem was that because lack of maintenance and general neglect, it was shaowing the same blogs over and over, even if they hadn’t been updated for months, also also was not showing blogs in the chosen categories, but in categories that were of no interest.

Blog Explosion users got fed up with this, so they blogged about it, and because of the way Blog Explosion works, other users saw these posts, commented on them, and blogged about it in turn. And eventually Blog Explosion users got sufficiently fired up to nag the owners of Blog Explosion to do something about it. So they removed some of the dead wood — neglected blogs that weren’t updated — and did some general cleanups, which led to a great improvement.

One of the things about Blog Explosion is the more the merrier — the more bloggers who participate, the greater the number of new blog posts there are to see, ones you might never have otherwise seen. So I encourage bloggers to participate in this.

There are still some improvements that could be made, but it’s definitely better than it was a few months ago, unlike Technorati, where they keep changing the user interface and making the site more difficult to navigate while the underlying purpose and the functions it was supposed to provide are no longer there — like finding blog posts tagged “hippocracy” (or anything else).

What’s up with Amatomu?

The Amatomo lists of popular blogs seem to have got really screwed up.

Consider this:

Fastest climbing blogs (overall)
Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Slut (+1453)

by memoirs-of-a-self-confessed-slut
The Spear Does Arabia (+1401)

by The Spear
Entropy (+1401)

by docmoo
Contact Online (+1370)

by David MacGregor
Travis Noakes (+1250)

by Travis

Contact Online has always been somewhere in the top 20 blogs in the religion section, until about a week ago, when it dropped right out of sight, and far from jumping up 1370 places, this evening it hit rock bottom:

65 Muslim Revolution

Proudly Muslim Blogger
| by Forwarders
66 nextchurch

A space to share and shape ideas and theology about what the next church should look like. A South African contribution to the emerging church conversation.
| by Andries Louw
67 Contact Online

An Anglican News and Commentary site from South Africa
| by David MacGregor

And the nextchurch one surely doesn’t belong down there either.

Stuff that doesn’t work

It seems that I’m not the only one finding problems with (see Notes from underground: Ping Technorati, Ping Technorati).

Anali’s First Amendment: Ping Me Please!:

I’ve been trying to get Technorati to ping my blog for 18 days now and it still won’t do it.

Apparently this has been a problem for many people, since PING is a huge topic in their support section. Hopefully they’ll fix this soon.

For this blog, the Technorati site shows:

Notes from underground Last Pinged 25 days ago

and another blog (updated yesterday)

Khanya Last Pinged 11 days ago

And for some of my other blogs it’s been even longer.

And if the problem is as widespread as it seems to be, then it means that other sites that use Technorati rankings and “authority”, like Amatomu, are relying on incomplete and inaccurate data when they rank South African blogs according to their Technorati rank.

1 Adii Freelancer & Business Strategist

| by adii ranked 1288 on Technorati
2 Marco’s Blog

| by marcog ranked 5831 on Technorati
3 Ninja Monkeys!

| by Vaughn ranked 14926 on Technorati
4 Online Reputation Management

| by ViperChill ranked 19454 on Technorati
5 AfriGadget

| by hash ranked 20878 on Technorati
6 Cape Town Daily Photo

| by kerryanne ranked 25556 on Technorati
7 SA Rocks

| by nicharry ranked 28099 on Technorati
8 Vinny Lingham’s Blog

| by Vinny Lingham ranked 28411 on Technorati
9 Cherryflava

| by Cherryflava ranked 30835 on Technorati
10 Web AddiCT(s);

| by rafiq ranked 35747 on Technorati
11 The Vegan Diet

| by Vegan ranked 37082 on Technorati
12 So Close

| by Tertia ranked 38755 on Technorati
13 Skinny laMinx

| by Heather Moore ranked 40190 on Technorati
14 Nic Haralambous Writes

| by nicharry ranked 41404 on Technorati
15 iMod – Anything & Everything Web

| by Chris M ranked 43057 on Technorati
16 Affiliate Lounge

| by dreampunchboy ranked 44457 on Technorati
17 Mike Stopforth

| by mikestopforth ranked 47546 on Technorati
18 Architectradure

| by cati ranked 47970 on Technorati
19 Eric Edelstein

| by Eric ranked 51581 on Technorati
20 iScatterlings

| by iScatterlings ranked 56528 on Technorati
21 Khanya

| by SteveH ranked 56528 on Technorati
22 Wozafriday

| by Ddavef ranked 60261 on Technorati
23 Hunter of Genius

| by MaxKaizen ranked 61585 on Technorati
24 SprayGlue

| by SprayGlue ranked 61585 on Technorati
25 bloute

| by sparrows ranked 64717 on Technorati

The Technorati people are forever fiddling with their pages “look and feel”, which makes stuff more difficult to find. If only they put as much effort into fixing the basic functionality, to make things work.

I don’t know about other people, but I usually look at Technorati to see what’s going on in the blogosphere right now.

Yesterday, for example, I wanted to see who was blogging about Helen Suzman, who died on New Year’s day. No one, according to Amatomu (Search for “+helen +suzman “ returned 0 results). No point in looking at Technorati, because posts about a January death will only appear there 3-4 weeks later to judge by the ping rate. So in the absence of any posts on the topic, I wrote one on In Memoriam: Helen Suzman.

But of course I should have looked here. That would have told me who was blogging about Helen Suzman now instead of having to wait a month or two for Technorati to catch up.

It’s no use for Technorati to play with the bells and whistles. If the piston isn’t connected to the wheels because the connecting rod is missing, that engine ain’t going anywhere.

How lekker is local?

There’s been some discussion in the South African blogosphere about the merits of local versus overseas hosting.

For example this blog is hosted at the blogspot server, which I believe is in the USA, and so the argument goes that South African readers have to get it from overseas, and ultimately we have to pay for international bandwidth in foreign currency. So the argument runs that local is lekker, and one should use local hosts for blogs.

But for the last couple of days Amatomu, the best-known South African blog aggregator, which I assume is locally hosted, has epitomised the World Wide Wait, and waiting for pages to appear is more boring than watching the proverbial drying paint.

Another disadvantage with local hosting, for blogs, at any rate, is that individual blogs are swallowed up by the host. If you check Amatomu, blogs hosted by overseas servers are listed individually, and not as coming from Blogspot, or WordPress or whatever. But the local ones are not listed individually; all posts are shown as coming from “Blat – to utter without thinking” or “Thought leader” or whatever the host is. So local isn’t really so lekker.

Interpreting Amatomu

Today this blog reappeared on the Amatomu radar for the first time in more than a month — it was ranked 200, and my other blog, Khanya was ranked 150 — nice round figures, so I thought it worth remarking on them.

For more than a month now this blog has been ranked somewhere in the 230-240 range, so why did it suddenly shoot up to 200, and reappear in the top 30 in the News and Politics section? Not because there were any more readers, apparently. The number of readers has remained fairly constant for the last few days. So it must be because there was a drop in the number of readers of the other blogs on Amatomu, no doubt caused by the long weekend, and blog readers going away to where there are more interesting things to do than read blogs.

So where have all the blog readers gone?

I somehow can’t imagine that most of them have gone to Moria, even though a very large number of South Africans do go there on the Western Easter weekend — the top bloggers on Amatomu somehow don’t seem to be the type. No doubt from today until the end of the week we will be able to read on their blogs what they have done, and this blog can sink back into obscurity again.

The other question raised by this is why the number of readers of this blog, even though it did not rise, apparently did not drop off as much as some other blogs. And perhaps that is answered by the Amatomu stats as well. Nobody seems to have read much that I have posted in the last week, and there haven’t been many comments on recent posts. The most popular post, by far, remains one I wrote several months ago, commenting on a list of books to read before you die. It’s still top with 232 reads over the last 30 days. The second one, Easter – Christian or pagan, which was posted even longer ago, has shot up, with 111 reads. Perhaps that explains why there hasn’t been such a drop off.

The other thing that needs some explanation is why my Khanya blog, which I started a year ago, is more popular than this one — it is ranked 150 on Amatomu, whereas this one is at 200.

The only reason I can think of is that WordPress blogs are more popular than Blogger blogs. I started the Khanya blog on WordPress at a time when many of the blogs I read were switching from Blogger to WordPress, because of the “new and improved” Blogger, in which many of the features no longer worked, and there seemed to be a mass migration to WordPress as dissatisfaction with the reduced functionality of Blogger increased.

But that doesn’t explain why readers seem to prefer WordPress blogs to Blogger ones, and the Amatomu statistics don’t give much of a clue about that. They reveal the phenomenon, but they don’t explain it.

Any ideas?

Financial Mail — repetitive boredom

I know! I know! If you’ve told us once, you’ve told us a dozen times.

Hello world!

Welcome to FM Blogs. This is your first post. Keep blogging, FM is watching!… in Blogs @ Financial Mail, at 22:51
Hello world!

Welcome to FM Blogs. This is your first post. Keep blogging, FM is watching!… in Blogs @ Financial Mail, at 22:40
Hello world!

Welcome to FM Blogs. This is your first post. Keep blogging, FM is watching!… in Blogs @ Financial Mail, at 22:28
Shmaak It! | Favourite

Someone needs to get their act together before they start listing on Amatomu.

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