Sunday, January 06, 2013

NEPA Blogs maintenance

Longtime readers - or new readers who casually glance at my sidebar - may be aware that this isn't my only blog. I've got several others, but one of the most significant is NEPA Blogs, a blog dedicated to blogs and blogging in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I've recounted the history of that site numerous times, so I won't do it again now - though I am planning to do it in a few weeks when I do a Pecha Kucha presentation on the history of NEPA Blogs. Which means I have to gather up twenty images, and be prepared to speak about each for twenty seconds. Ohboy.

NEPA Blogs is still running on a Blogger/Blogspot platform. This is mainly due to my inertia: I know Blogger, I don't know Wordpress, which is a platform that a lot of people are insisting we need to move it to. I'm not really ready to learn a whole new system at the moment, and I imagine transferring over every previous post, every link, and every comment would be an enormous undertaking. On top of that, it seems like every Wordpress blog I know of has gotten hacked or infected at one time or another. In fact, an alert just went out that many Wordpress blogs are vulnerable to data theft because of a security flaw in a popular plug-in. Fun.

But Blogger has some limitations. Google (the owner of Blogger) has taken a standard approach to complaints about issues: provide a forum for users to complain about issues, state that the issues are being dealt with, delete all the complaints, and redesign the complaint forum. Maybe the issue will be dealt with, maybe not.

One of those limitations wouldn't even be an issue for most bloggers, but it is for NEPA Blogs. Blogger allows you to have "live links" on your sidebar that link to both the primary page of the linked site and the latest post as presented by the site's RSS feed. A nice feature of this is that the links will arrange themselves so the most recently updated sites appear at the top. We use this as a way of displaying all the blogs linked by NEPA Blogs, with the most recently-updated blogs appearing at the top of the list. This provides an incentive of sorts for bloggers to frequently update their sites: the most recently-updated sites bubble to the top of the list, while the sites that haven't updated lately sink to the bottom.

We discovered some time ago that there's a limit on how many blogs could be on one of these lists. After that limit is exceeded, adding a new blog would cause another blog to drop to the bottom of the list with no link to a current post. We were never quite clear on what this limit was - it may be somewhere around 120 blogs.

At first we dealt with this by arbitrarily assigning new blogs to a second list. But this meant that the most recently updated blogs on the second list would appear below the oldest blogs on the first list. It wasn't fair to the new blogs, which would never have the exposure of any blogs on list 1.

So we came up with a new approach: list 1 would contain all of the blogs that had updated within a certain time frame. List 2 would contain blogs that had not updated within that limit. Some trial and error determined that two months was a good cutoff. Active blogs had generally updated within two months. Blogs that had not updated in the past two months were likely not being updated anytime soon. Some more trial and error led us to create a third list of blogs that hadn't been updated in over a year. Blogs that haven't been updated in two months sometimes come back, but blogs that haven't been updated in a year rarely come back.

This has turned out to be a pretty good system. Every month or so I need to move a few blogs from List 1 to List 2, and a few from List 2 back to List 1. Every few months I need to move a few blogs from List 2 to List 3, and very, very rarely I need to move a blog from List 3 back to List 1.

I haven't done this in a few months. Since October, maybe.

Today I had to move thirty-two blogs from List 1 to List 2.

That wasn't the end of it. I also had to move about seven blogs from List 2 - and one from List 3! - back to List 1. So the net effect is that List 1 has moved about twenty-four slots away from being completely full. We have lots of blogs still to be added, mostly from the NEPA BlogCon that co-administrator Michelle and the rest of the Fearsome Foursome ran so effectively back in September.  While every blog starts off on List 1, many of these blogs haven't been updated in two months or more, so they will be moved to List 2 at the earliest opportunity.

Meanwhile, we're faced with the issue of presenting a new "Blog of the Week" on WBRE's PA Live! every Tuesday. We've been doing this almost every week for the past sixteen months. With over sixty blogs showcased so far, we've already picked most of the low-hanging fruit. Some of the remaining blogs will not be showcased due to content - featuring nudity or obscenity on your front page is a pretty sure way to not have your blog shown on TV. We probably won't showcase others that are almost certain to offend the PA Live! viewing audience, or blogs that haven't been updated in a long time, or simply don't have much general appeal. At some point I worry that we will be presenting fashion blogs, week after week. (At least those that don't have any nudity on the front page!)

Blogging isn't dead, as far as I can tell, though a lot of the bloggers I met online back in 2004 when I first got started have dropped out of blogging in the past few years. I truly intend to start paying more attention to Another Monkey, but I will continue to put some effort into NEPA Blogs as well.


Michelle Hryvnak Davies said...

So by one token you are saying that Blogger has major limitations, but by another you are condemning Wordpress. Makes perfect sense.

Michelle Hryvnak Davies said...

Also, that flaw has been closed up which was mentioned in the article that I posted to the group within the same day. I simply posted it as a reminder to the group to check plugins frequently. Wordpress will alert you when there are updates for plugins or it's backend.

D.B. Echo said...

Blogger has limitations, but whenever I hear about a blog being hacked in a major way - or a way that, as I believe Shannon described, was very expensive to fix - it's a Wordpress blog. It's a question of limitations vs. vulnerabilities.

Michelle Hryvnak Davies said...

Google is associated with Blogger. In most cases, a person who has a Blogger account has multiple "Google Accounts" all linked together, such as Youtube, Gmail, Blogger, Google+ and etc. If you get hacked with one, it is more pervasive than a Wordpress hack. With a Wordpress hack, it is just the blog hacked....A google account hack? Your whole digital identity can be corrupted. If you don't believe me, read this article:

Just sayin'.