I spent a good chunk of the past weekend playing with reBlog, an extremely clever tool put together by the fine folks at Eyebeam R&D. reBlog is a tool designed to let you produce an edited weblog that aggregates and reposts content from other blogs. While this form of linkblogging is pretty far from what I do on this blog, it’s something that’s interested me deeply for Global Voices and Blog Africa, both of which – to one extent or another – are edited linkblogs.
I’ve started a (very lightly edited) reBlog of some of my favorite African blogs. I’ve capped my list at fifty blogs for now, because I’m starting to see reFeed (the part of the reBlog tool that retrieves my subscriptions) having some problems with the amount of time it takes to retrieve all 50 feeds. Basically, I’m using reBlog to retrieve posts from these fifty blogs once or twice a day, and selectively publishing those that I think will be of interest to readers who want to follow the African blogosphere. (For the most part, I’m republishing all posts that actually apply to Africa, not just to the author’s personal life. And I’m doing a bit of editing on the highest volume weblogs I subscribe to.)
The resulting linkblog (also available as an RSS feed) is a little different from BlogAfrica, the reblogging site I’ve helped my friends at AllAfrica run for the past year or so. BlogAfrica is an opt-in system – we only aggregate bloggers who choose to join. Unfortunately, the tools we’re using don’t support Atom well, which is a huge problem as many of Africa’s best bloggers use Blogger, which doesn’t output an RSS feed (grr…) So it reflects a different subset of the African blogosphere than this new aggregator.
The tool isn’t perfect – the authors are working out a few kinks in the module that lets one display these blogs through a WordPress server, so I’m currently just using the output of the reFeed tool. And there are a few more features I’d really like:
– NewsILike offers the ability to subscribe to a feed, run it through a regular expression engine and match only the posts that contain certain keywords. It’s a cool feature, especially if you’re following things like mainstream media feeds and you only want to match stories that mention Africa.
– Bloglines, for all its faults, handles hierarchies of subscriptions well, letting me categorize feeds into countries (though not into regions). It would be great to have an aggregator that could do aggregation and produce feeds for arbitrary subsets of feeds.
– To use reBlog for an application like BlogAfrica, I’d need a way to allow users to suggest (their or others) blogs for inclusion, preferably in a way that an author could approve or reject them in batches. I could write a simple script to generate an OPML file that could be imported into the application, but I think it would be cool to have a “suggestions” feature added to the tool.
But hey, the fact that I’m sitting here brainstorming features makes me think I’m likely to actually use this thing. And I think a future version of Global Voices which used reBlog feeds to aggregate countries and regions, then featured the best posts on the main blog would be a powerful resource for people who want to follow local and regional blogospheres in detail.