I wrote a while back about the Blogs at Penn State and how we are now seeing people on campus writing in the open. One of the things I was sharing was a growing sense of un-discoverability with the amount of content being created. We created a self-service directory that allows people to add their blog URL so others can find them. Lots of people asked why we weren’t just exposing all the blogs — it is a simple thing to do, but the feedback we received from a handful of our population was that may not be a great idea. As I watch the directory grow I tend to add people to my feeds in Google Reader and that works fairly well, but there isn’t a ton of filtering that goes on there for me — I have a huge folder of PSU Bloggers now without a whole lot of rhyme or reason to how all the content gets structured for me.
I’ve said it before, my RSS habits have been changing over the last year or so. Especially now that my local community is contributing as much as they are I am struggling with ways to find the best stuff, read it, comment on it, and keep track of it. It really means my RSS reader is stacked with local content and my global RSS reading is on the decline. I have honestly followed a path from local RSS aggregation in NetNewsWire Pro to Google Reader, but I am now searching for ways to go beyond simple aggregation and organization of my feeds. I have been keenly interested in making sense out my community of content and I think I am coming around to the idea that as my community of content grows I may need to lean on that community to help organize it.
I have always loved the digg model to comment sense-making as it relates to smart mob content organization … I always wanted to have that kind of control over content (and control is a funny word to use in this situation). We recently organized a Hot Team to look at Pligg (BTW, this is our first International Hot Team — thanks, D’Arcy!). We’ve been running it for a while around here on a development box trying to get a sense for how it all works … no real customization, just working it to see it in action. I like it quite a bit! I can see it taking a very central place in our ongoing and evolving web strategy. You can take a look at it for yourself.
Pligg is essentially an open source digg toolset that does a couple of things very well and very valuable in this new world of mass-community created content.
- First, it offers the social ratings features of digg … you have a little bookmarklet that lets you flag posts (sites) that are of interest, enter tags, and submit them into the pligg site. Others can then browse the “upcoming news” and vote for it. As an admin you get to say how many votes moves content into the front page. In a model like this the community gets to decide what is important and what is noise.
- Second, and perhaps more important to me, is the tool’s ability to act as an aggregator. I can submit RSS feeds for all the sites in the PSU community (or anything) and the content is automatically pulled into the “upcoming news” area for the community to browse and vote on. So in this situation, I could legitimately add several hundred feeds from around the PSU community and watch the posts that the community finds interesting/important/smart/funny rise to the front page.
With that I am leveraging two very important things — the content and interestingness of the community. I have said in the past that one of the reasons I want to see members of my organization writing in the open is to expose the overall intelligence of the group … with pligg aggregating content and the community voting on it I can expose the intelligence of a much larger group. To me that accomplishes a whole bunch of my goals. I am working to understand how it fits into the landscape — and trust me, I’ll be using it in my class next semester as the aggregator of choice for my student’s blogs.