datablogging: Value for Bloggers? Slut Factor, Of Course!
Josh Bokardo puts together an excellent piece
on Structured Blogging this morning. With one major flaw. A flaw of omission. Here's what he lists as the value of datablogging/SB for bloggers:
Value for Bloggers
* A structured blogging interface, making it easier to write posts for certain types of content
* A blog tool that produces structured code, with the promise that aggregation tools and search engines will recognize that code and provide valuable services for others
* Increased traffic as a result of being included in these services
* Data in a common XML format, for easy transfer to other formats
Yeah, those are values, but they miss the boat. In light of the two general types of data that we can log
, Josh is focusing on schema data... data that has value when plugged into a community of users... plugged into a network of peers. But there's also continuous data that has value to you, and not necessarily anybody else.
There's a whole set of value for bloggers centered not on the network effect... not on community... not on Web 2.0 mashups. Value centered on personal data mining.
Two of the core things that blogging brings to the table are:
1) A simple click-write-publish UI metaphor
2) The archival of your body of work
Combine these with datablogging and you have a simple UI to collect any sort of data about your life and archive it. Reger.com then goes a step further and adds two key features that have immense value for bloggers:
1) Ad-hoc graphing
2) Saved searches based on data fields
Running data. Conception data. Body weight data. Diabetes data. Headache data.
Collect these over time, mine them and *you're learning about yourself*... maybe learning is old school for Web 2.0, but it's a big part of life. Most current blogging and Web 2.0 stuff focuses on another very important part of life, communing... connecting with others... sharing with others... publishing. But that's only half of the picture. Many of our biggest breakthroughs in life occur while we're alone in the shower or on a long walk. Community feeds our set of ideas and then we have to make our own decisions. In much the same way, datablogging feeds our set of data about ourself and then we have to make our own decisions.
Sure, as Paul Kedrosky says, people are lazy
... but data collection methods will improve and lower the hurdle to datablogging. These days we're all collecting vast amounts of data about ourselves, but nobody's putting it together into a single story for us... a single time-relevant gps-relevant contextual picture of what was happening in our life when we made an entry.
Reger.com attempts to do this: Time Periods
help you get an instant sense of what temporal part(s) of your life an entry from the archive was made in. Episodes
allow you to combine multiple blog entries together into a single story, like a trip to Elbonia that includes a flight entry, restaurant review and interview of an Elbonian. Saved searches allow you to define a query, like "my runs over 10 miles" which always updates with the latest runs that fulfill that query.
Can aggregators and mashups do this sort of thing? Sure. PubSub and Google can today read all Reger.com blog entries via structured blogging or rss embedding of data
. They can then build graphing engines and saved searching engines that we plug into our personal repositories.
But then for users to gain insight into their lives they'll have to have their personal repository *and* Google or PubSub. Which means they'll have to be online. What happens when an iPod can hold 1Tb? You can run the Reger.com distributable datablogging server on it. Would you necessarily want to need a connection to Google and PubSub? I envision being able to carry my entire personal repository (for me, joereger.com) with me on my phone within, what, ten years. For me or my family/friends to get charts about my triathlon progress am I going to want to have Google and PubSub involved?
The answer is: yes, if they do a better job of creating features that leverage my data. Like any software, it's a feature/UI race. But I believe that there's a baseline level of personal data mining that people will expect from their personal repository. From there they'll plug in mashups and services from across the web to add value.
Some of this depends on whether the data people are mining is continuous data or schema data. Continuous data (running data, body weight data) is less network-dependent than schema data (movie reviews, restaurant reviews) so I propose that people will want to be able to mine that locally. I also propose that services like Google and PubSub aren't as interested in mining that data because it's very CPU-intensive without adding network/community value... they'll focus on the schema data.
So the blogging toolmaker of the future needs to be able to collect structured data, mine it and share it... via APIs, standards, etc. so that others can, at the data owner's choosing, add value. The user is always in control of the data... that has to be a foundational element of the toolmaker's ethos.
Like Marc Canter
, I find it funny when Greg Yardley freaks out on structured blogging
... come on man... seriously. With Reger.com you can download the code and run the datablogging server yourself behind your own firewall. You can password protect it. You can decide which data to enter and when/how to share it.
I understand Greg's concern when it comes to online services... even Reger.com's hosted blogging service. There's always risk when you share data. You share data when you make a phone call, ride a train, use your credit card or leave the house. You can choose to write your own blog software or install some existing blog software on your own server and control it fully. If you don't, then you must find value in somebody else doing it and there's some cost for that. Imperialism may be overstating the risk, but I've found it best not to taunt the conspiracy theorists so I'll leave it at that. Message heard: centralized data is scary.
Sure it's scary. People use Reger.com to track their sex lives, pot smoking habits, running workouts and relationship status... all behind private logs... they get their graphs but they don't share their data with the world. We gain an immense sense of pride and responsibility from that fact and stride to do what's best with that trust.
But let's say we cut a deal with Nike to send you offers for shoes at 50% off when we see via datablogging that you've put 300 miles on your current pair? Is that Imperialism? Is that abuse of your data? Seems like it helps you get advertising that benefits you... and since Nike pays less because they can target you better the cost of their products comes down. (We don't have any plans for such a service, btw.)
Back to Josh's points: We see so much value for bloggers with datablogging when they just keep their own data and mine it themselves... no network effect... no mashups... no Web 2.0. Maybe it's simply the perspective we've gained from doing datablogging for many years. Maybe the ratio of private to public blogs on our service is much higher than on, say, Typepad... meaning that people use Reger.com more for storing things that they don't want to share... I really don't know... but I do know that people love tracking stuff that they never, ever intend to share with others. There's value outside of the network there. There's value just in having that data... saving it for a rainy day... or a particular purpose.
My statements don't run counter to the Web 2.0 concept of share, share, share. We're dedicated to that vision. But there's one check box we need before we share, share, share: the user's approval to broadcast their data to every search engine and mashup company out there. Once they check that figurative box then we'll sling data here, there and everywhere... but we won't build our tools assuming that the only way users can gain value is by plugging into networks and sharing their data.
Ok, off the soap box for me. Josh, great piece on SB... my criticism is over an omission... and I understand why that omission was made. Keep up the great work at Bokardo.com
Everybody else... track your life... you'll be amazed at what you find.
Here's a funny story: About three years ago a young woman decided to track her sex life with Reger.com's datablogging service. She was using a Sex Log that tracked sex partner, intimacy rating, orgasm rating, who initiated, etc. And she decided to make it public. Of course, I immediately subscribed to it via RSS like any good horny geek would :)
Over the course of a few months she blogged about having sex with quite a few people. Using our graphing component she created a pie chart of her partners and the number of times she had sex with them. It started out as a solid circle. Then it was cut in half when she found another sex partner. Then in thirds.
Before I knew it her sex partner graph looked like a freakin' pizza pie... small slivers... she must have had fifteen partners inside of two months. "What a slut," I thought... and went on with my life. (After telling my RSS reader to check her feed every hour, instead of every day.)
Then one day something special happened. She was writing about her sexual encounters over the last few months in a blog entry. Reviewing her graphs. Kind of a nostalgic piece. All of a sudden she says something to the effect of "oh my gosh, I just looked at my graph... I'm slutty!"
After I pulled myself off the floor from laughing so hard, I realized that something special had happened. Of course she was slutty... I had noted as much a month before. Anybody who knew her probably knew she was slutty. But she didn't!
She didn't know she was slutty!
Until she tracked the data, graphed it and analyzed it. Datablogging had given this young woman insight into her life. For me this was a watershed moment in datablogging. It was proof-of-principle that datablogging can help us learn about ourselves in ways that other tools can't. Sure, she probably had an inkling as she dropped trow for that fifteenth guy that maybe she was slutty, but datablogging brought it into conscious focus for her... a graph representing her sluttyness... her slut factor.
So, to Josh, one of the values of datablogging is that is can tell you whether or not you're slutty!