Blog Pack Kerfuffle

There’s been a bit of a firestorm in the EVE blogging community today about the way the community is organized. This is not very EVE-related, but there are a few points I want to make about it, and this seems as good a venue as any. If you really want the background on this issue, skip to the bottom.

There seem to be a few core issues here that I want to tease apart. First, the issue of the Capsuleer user experience seems to be Roc’s main concern. He doesn’t want to deprive his users of their easy connection to the blogs they love. If, when the block pack updates people all of a sudden lose their connection to blogs they’ve been enthusiastically reading, it looks like Capsuleer isn’t doing its job properly. I’m really sensitive to this issue, but I don’t know that it’s CK’s responsibility to keep Capsuleer’s users happy. Capsuleer pulls the blog pack because it’s a great set of blogs that are interesting to a wide audience. If they want to maintain their own list, they totally can. In fact, I would say that Capsuleer probably should decouple its headlines feature from the blog pack. Letting someone else control the content of your app is always a risky bet. Maybe Capsuleer defaults to showing the blog pack, but can consume other OPML files and create other folders of blogs so other people can curate their own sets.

There are also some arguments (in Roc’s comments, in particular) about the utility of having this kind of list at all. I’m firmly in the pro-blog-pack camp. Pretty much regardless of how they’re selected, having a listing of “top blogs” is really useful for people new to both the EVE community and new to EVE blogging in general. It serves as an incentive for new bloggers to get engaged, provides examples of what effective EVE blogs do, and provide clear venues to engage in discussions with other bloggers that will get your blog noticed. Focusing attention and traffic on some blogs is a totally reasonable and effective way to promote a sense of community. If it feels a little bit exclusive, that’s the point.

There are inclusive alternatives – evebloggers.com syndicates pretty much everyone, but as a result, there isn’t really much of an effect. I’ve only gotten about 50 hits from eve bloggers this month so far, fewer than I received from one mention on Mynxee’s blog (which is in the current blog pack). By comparison, I’ve gotten more than 700 hits this month from Google, out of about 25,000 visits this month. I imagine blogs in the blog pack see quite a bit more daily traffic from their inclusion, and a much broader readership. So a totally non-selective approach makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but doesn’t actually accomplish any of the things that a blog pack is supposed to accomplish. Indeed, diluting the blog pack to include even more blogs decreases its efficacy pretty substantially, and I would urge CrazyKinux to avoid doing that. Twenty to thirty strikes me as a really good balance between size and focus.

But beyond arguing over whether CK should pick the blogs himself versus some sort of popularity contest (which I think is kind of a red herring, anyway – I bet both lists would look reasonably similar in the end, with perhaps a more diverse set if CK curates manually) I think there are a few concrete things CK can do to make the blog pack a more effective community tool. I know he’s a busy guy and this shouldn’t be too much work, so I’ve tried to limit this to stuff that’s not too much extra continuing work:

  • Organize the list better. EVE blogs tend to fall into certain categories – newbie, 0.0, pirate, industrialist, fiction, politics, etc. It would be great to show those tags on the blogs themselves. You could even let blog authors choose which tags they want associated with their blog. This would help a lot with the discovery, especially if the list stays long. As it is, the names of blogs are totally not helpful for figuring out what blogs are about. This process might reveal some blind spots in the blog pack lineup, too.
  • More religiously police inactivity. There should be a hard upper limit on how long a blog can go inactive before getting pulled increases the turnover in included blogs. This helps new bloggers feel like getting included in the blog pack is something they might attain. I think seeing lots of inactive blogs on the list breeds some of the frustration – you might be a really active engaging blogger but know you’ll never make it on the list because it’s not frequently cleaned out. Administering this is tricky, but perhaps CK could deputize some helpers to check once a month if blogs in the pack are sufficiently active. Adding replacements would be tricky, but since CK has stepped up the curate the list, we probably just have to trust his instincts.
  • Have 1-3 monthly guest-spots. It can be really hard to start a new blog, and it would be great if the pack had a monthly focus on a new blog. Maybe it’s open only to blogs that have started in the last month or two. So instead of asking to be in the blog pack, new bloggers can get in the new-blog queue by just emailing CK. There might be a bit of a need for filtering here, but if you limited it to recently created blogs that have posted regularly for a few weeks, there probably wouldn’t be many more eligible blogs than there are spots. This would really help new blogs get noticed and build an audience. (this suggestion inspired from a comment on CK’s post)

I hope this moves the conversation a bit more towards what the blog pack’s role actually is, instead of focusing just on how it’s chosen. I think it can be a really powerful force for fostering a great community if it’s tended well and we think about how it can be more than just a list of links.


Background

For people who aren’t following the debate here’s the situation: CrazyKinux created and has managed the EVE Blog Pack, a list of 40 EVE blogs that are nominally active and which are supposed to form the backbone of the EVE blogging community. They get a lot of attention because CrazyKinux’s blog is the most widely read blog in the EVE world, and is at the top of a google search for “eve blog”. So when you’re on the list, you’re guaranteed a certain amount of traffic, attention, and prestige. The other component to this system is Capsuleer – an iPhone app that, among other things, provides an easy way to read blogs that are in the blog pack (but no mechanism for reading/finding non-blog-pack blogs). All in all, being on the blog roll is great for the people who are on it, but jealousy-inducing for people who aren’t.

So when CrazyKinux proposed a remake of the blog pack that contains only 20 blogs, and opened his comments for suggestions about which 20 they should be, the stakes are clearly high. The main opposition to his proposal comes from Roc’s Ramblings, who is incidentally one of the developers on Capsuleer.

Comments

3 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Roc is a friend of mine and I do love Capsuleer, but I agree with you. It is unreasonable for him to expect to have any influence whatsover over CK’s blog pack content–especially as it is provided at no cost. I personally do not care for how the Blogs are dealt with in Capsuleer; I would far rather view them using the Google Reader app.

  2. As Mynxee said, we’re friends, but I think there may be a misconception. My concern isn’t trying to have any influence over the Blog Pack at all; let CK worry about his own list.

    My statements were more exactly inline with what everyone has suggested: If Capsuleer isn’t happy with it, do our own listing.

    CK has been good to Capsuleer, and we’ve been good to him. The end result of all the drama worked out to be a list of 50 blogs in the pack, actually offering more overall content, so Capsuleer will continue to feature the Blog Pack.

    Please remember, in the end, Capsuleer is focused on creating features more directly related to ingame: market orders, contracts, ship fittings, etc, etc… Headlines is just a nice bonus feature to engage the community, but the less work we have to put into it, the better. We don’t really want to create and manage our own list of blogs.

    • drew,

      I think in the end, pretty much everyone agrees that you should do whatever you think is best for Capsuleer, and trusts your instincts. When it looked like a revamped blog pack was going to negatively impact Capsuleer users, it totally made sense to argue against how the process was working.

      I’m glad to hear, though, that the resolution of the whole process doesn’t mean more work for you guys since you’ve got other stuff on your plate. I’m super excited to see Capsuleer’s feature set expand. I have to agree with Mynxee – I do a lot of RSS consumption and headlines isn’t what I use Capsuleer for. I love the skill notifications most of all, although it’s been a long long time since I’ve gotten one. Oh, Large Hybrids V how boring you are.

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