MyBlogLog is a distributed service that attempts to bring social network style community to individual blogs throughout the blogosphere.
Applications & Opportunity
I’ve always felt that commenters get the short end of the stick in the blogosphere, especially as compared to participants in social networks or forums. Back in January of this year, Amy Gahran published an interesting post called “Why Blogs are Awkward Conversation Tools.” My contribution to the discussion was to point out what I considered to be the inherent inequality that exists in the manifestation of community on blogs. Specifically, that there is one insider – the blog owner – and everybody else is outsiders. This is hardly the ideal dynamic for a thriving online community.
In the traditional blog format, commenters are at a disadvantage for a number of reasons including:
- There is no easy way for a commenter to present their credentials / background
- There is no institutionalized way for a commenter to develop a reputation beyond folks just remembering his/her name
- There is no way to access the historical comments of a given commenter on a given blog, or across the blogosphere
Just about every blog in the blogosphere suffers from some version of the problems mentioned above, in short because the blog format itself is flawed (when it comes to community). If some third party, like MyBlogLog, is able to provide an easy patch to these community flaws, it could be a big deal.
At a time when it seems that everyone is looking to build a destination social network, MyBlogLog has found an intriguing angle – cobbling together all of the mini communities that exist in the blogosphere through the distributed provision of some basic social networking tools.
There’s a lot of blogs out there that could benefit from some enhanced community. This is a big, useful idea.
After registering with MyBlogLog, users are prompted to enter any sites or blogs that they author. Once you hit submit on a site you own, a snippet of code called “Link Tracking Script” is generated. As a first time user, it wasn’t clear to me exactly what this was – if it was the MyBlogLog community feature that I had admired on other blogs, or if it was something else.
Going by the name, I assumed it was something else, and kept browsing. Clicking on a link that said “Go To MySite.com Community” I was taken to a page that prominently displayed two widget options for my blog – the “View Reader Community” widget and the “Top Links” widget.
I found this page much easier to understand (and I’m not sure why MyBlogLog doesn’t make this the initial landing page). After clicking the “Click to Get Code” link under “View Reader Community,” I was taken to a widget configuration tool that let me set up my community widget.
The configuration tool let me set five different color components for my widget, set the width, image size, and number of rows, indicate if I wanted the widget to display screen names, and select a title for my widget. There is a real time preview tool, but it only shows changes to the color scheme.
Included on this page were widget configuration tools for the link tracker tool again, as well as other random linking widgets.
After poking around for a while, I as able to configure and generate my community widget without a problem. The process was not quite as clean as others I’ve seen however, and not sure why the link tracker widget is given top billing over the community widget.
Under the current set up, starting with my blog submission, it took me three clicks to get to a place where I could set up my community widget. This, I think, is one or two clicks too many.
I was able to implement the MyBlogLog community widget on both TypePad and Blogger template without a problem. Like Widgetbox, MyBlogLog has a special TypePad implementation feature that lets you click a link that is tied into TypePad’s TypeLists widget management system. It’s pretty handy.
One sort of nitpicky point here – my widget initially showed up as just a header, with no body to it. I assumed that this was because there were no visitors yet, so just to get a real preview of the widget, I visited my blog myself while logged into MyBlogLog. However, my avatar still did not show up in the community widget. It was only after other readers started trickling in that I realized that the widget was configured correctly.
It might be helpful for new users if MyBlogLog populated the widget, at least initially, with the user’s own avatar, or with MyBlogLog founder Eric’s photo (MySpace Tom style).
MyBlogLog is already providing clear value to both blog publishers and blog readers. Publishers benefit from enhanced community on their blog because properly executed, online community can complement content as a way to pull folks back to your site. Blog readers benefit, because the MyBlogLog service recognizes their presence and is a step towards putting them at a more equal footing with the blog owner.
In my opinion, the three features that are absolutely fundamental to online community are; 1) enabling user to user communication; 2) displaying a user’s historical site activity; and 3) and providing a reputation / recognition system.
Currently, MyBlogLog is only providing the first one. User’s can message each other through the MyBlogLog site, but they can’t browse through comments that they (or others) have posted, or get a glimpse of members’ community and overall reputation.
This is still very bare bones community functionality – the fact that MyBlogLog has been able to get such impressive traction with the early adopter / influencer crowd so early in their development says a lot about how much blog demand there is for community in a box – or in this case, community in a widget.
When I think of the hundreds of destination site social networks (many of them funded) vying for visitors attention, and a look at the tiny handful of businesses trying to enhance community functionality for the millions of blogs out there, I see a big disconnect. If I were investing in these sorts of opportunities, I’d be a lot more interested in hearing about MyBlogLog’s plans that some “MySpace of ______” site.
My sense is that MyBlogLog is on to something big. If you play this concept out a bit, and you imagine a scenario where MyBlogLog is capturing traffic and user data from thousands of a high traffic blogs, there are all kinds of revenue models and services that could emerge. They could facilitate introductions between people and blogs, blogs and blogs, and people and people. They could capture statistical benchmarks and best practice data for various segments of blogs. They could develop a blogosphere wide reputation management system. The possibilities are almost limitless.
But it’s still very early in the game – MyBlogLog’s execution to date is good, but not perfect. It will be fascinating to see if they will be able to build on their early mover advantage and reach the point where they can actually offer full on community via a single widget.