tecznotes

Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Oct 26, 2005 2:33pm

keeping change

There's a connection between BofA's Keep The Change program and the Attention Recorder, but at the moment I can't articulate it.

Oct 26, 2005 12:30pm

reblog 2.0

Reblog's 1.0 announcement promised "push-button republishing for the masses", and we've been doing pretty well following that track for the past year or so. Last night, we pushed the button on Reblog 2.0. The concept behind the software has always been a form of attention cagefight: many feeds go in, one feed comes out. Reblog closes the loop between piqued interest and publishing by making the act of marking a link for publication a one-step affair. We've long thought this was a pretty interesting addition to the standard functionality of an RSS reader, and I'm surprised to see that in late 2005, there's not a lot of other software that performs the same task.

In the meantime, Reblog has started to see slow but steady growth. Eyebeam and Rhizome both use the software to publish net art blogs, and Eyebeam has an explicit "curator" role in the fortnightly reblogger. Global Voices Online has expressed strong interest in adapting the project to their multitiered reblogging operation, and Reblg from Broadband Mechanics borrowed the term for a similar idea based on microformat republishing from within the browser. A lot of these uses place Reblog in the role of plumbing: like the mixer in your shower, it's there behind the wall but you never see it. Reblog's output is typically meant to be fed into a MoveableType or WordPress plugin, where it surfaces as a series of blog posts on an HTML site annoted with "Originally by so-and-so from..." attribution notes.

We've been thinking a bunch about expanding this role a bit, so that the RSS output from Reblog carries more weight. What happens when you chain a bunch of Reblog installations together, so that the output of one person's attention stream becomes fodder for the next? You get an omnidirectional passive e-mail substitute, great for washes of "FYI" type information and general interest sharing. In a lot of use cases there's no reason for the output to ever make it to a regular blog. Small, distributed groups can use the software to share information among themselves, and only escalate to the relatively disruptive e-mail level when action or response is required. Alternatively, chaining feeds together could result in a progressive-filtering mechanism, reducing the complexity of a thousand feeds into a few pertinent pieces of information through a pyramid of editors.

So, with the interest of making Reblog a more flexible sharing tool, we worked on version 2.0 with a few broad goals in mind:

  • Usability: Reblog's user interface needed to help the end-user manage large numbers of feeds more effectively. Tagging feeds & entries has proven to be the most flexible way to accomplish this. We were also interested in ways of making the interface look less... dorky. There was a lot of techno-cruft that just had to go.
  • Extensible Input via a public API: Greasemonkey is pretty damn cool, so we thought it'd be useful to provide for a way to perform common Reblog editing actions via a programmable API. XML is boring to parse, so Reblog now has a JSON-RPC API exposed.
  • Extensible Output via support for plug-ins: We were strongly interested in seeing some sort of plug-in ecosystem evolve around Reblog. If the software's useful, it makes sense to provide for a way to adapt it to specific uses. My own guide for this has been Blosxom, a simple blog engine written in Perl.

One huge change that became apparent as we wrote 2.0 was the need to post your own entries, independent of any particular feed. Historically, Reblog 1.x assumes that the target blog would be used for this purpose. In 2.0 we've added a "post item" feature, which acts as stripped-down Blogger or Del.icio.us analogue, and handles one of the primary uses cases suggested by Reblg. This idea has been gaining some traction recently, most conspicuously in Mark Pilgrim's microformat atom store concept. Mark decribes the idea as "having your own private database", but my own takeaway from Del.icio.us has been the value of making such micro-information public. Reblog is built to share. Bud Gibson has been referring to this idea as the xFolk Veg-o-matic, a slice & dice greasemonkey-based browser augmentation that trawls websites for microformatted links and posts them into Reblog for you.

We believe this is pretty cool.

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