Archive for the 'BritBlog' Category

End of an Era

It is with sadness that I announce the closure of BritBlog: the British Blog Directory.

We’ve had over four years of fun with this project, but after a recent hacking incident and with the constant battle against spammers and spam blogs, I have to admit that I just don’t have the time to put into the project that it needs (and deserves).

Long-time members will be aware that the site has changed little since we went live, and although a great deal of preparation, research and investment went into plans for
a new version of the site (”BritBlog 2.0″ so to speak), I’ve just not been able to find the time to actually put them into action.

I would like to thank everyone who helped make the site a success, especially Nancy, who spent literally hundreds of hours checking out new signups.

Perhaps one day the site will return in a new guise — and I really I hope it does — but in the meantime I’m left with no option but to take it offline.

Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause to anyone. Feel free to discuss this announcement below if you like, or contact me if you need any further information.

Blogs and Social Media Forum, and other ideas.

It’s been an interesting day for several reasons:

  1. I reminded myself why I never want to work in London, after I had to suffer the discomfort of a morning train and tube ride at the peak of rush hour,
  2. I went to the second Blogs and Social Media Forum at the Marriott London Grosvenor Square Hotel (more about this in a mo’),
  3. I think I may have found a solution to something BritBlog related…., and
  4. I’ve made some career decisions….ish.

So the main event of the day was the Blogs and Social Media forum, subtitled “The impact of social media and enterprise 2.0“. This was useful for two reasons: (1) it has given me some interesting ideas to play with at work, which could have a significant impact on both our business and my job, and (2) it helped me crystallise some thinking around BritBlog and what the right next step is.

I’m afraid I can’t really go into point 1 much at the moment - I really need to think about more about the pros and cons of what I’d like to do at work, but point 2 is quite interesting.

Those of you that have been following the BritBlog saga over the last, umm, ‘many’ months, will know that I’ve been working on lots of new ideas for the site. Alas I’ve not managed the work very well (the day job kinda interferes…), and it’s been getting quite messy and very depressing.

Anyway, today has given me some time to stand back and think about the project, and I’ve pretty much decided to scrap all of my work from the last few months. A chap called Lee Bryant from a company called Headshift was talking about a project they’ve recently done for BP/Castrol, and he made some very interesting remarks. I suppose the two that may the biggest impression with me were these:

  1. Firstly, they didn’t mind so much about releasing a site to the public before it was finished. There is a theory that an unfinished project encourages members to get more involved than they would otherwise, because they feel like they are able to participate. The example given was MySpace — you know how messy it tends to look? — but it made me think of flickr also, as it was in public beta for years.

    Anyway, this made me worry less about getting things right with BritBlog straight away, and it leads me into point 2:

  2. They would make frequent small changes/releases to the website, and gather feedback from users about them. This stuck a chord too: rather than getting all the new ideas out there in one mammoth go, we could release them it stages, making fairly small changes at a time. This will allow us to get the changes right each time, and will give us the room to fix problems that may arise before they get too complex. There are loads of incremental changes I can see us making to BritBlog, and tackling it in this manner makes it all feel much more achievable.

So perhaps nothing ground-breakingly new there, but I clearly needed someone to spell it out to me…

The final thing that happened today was I was able to give my career a bit of thought. This is something I’ve been putting off for a long time because it’s something I don’t really like thinking about! Anyway, although I’ve not made any concrete decisions today, I have at least had some interesting ideas. Again, I want to discuss these with other people before saying anything here about them, but perhaps the future is bright…..*.

*And no, that is not by any means a clue. I have absolutely no desire to work for Orange. Or at least not yet!

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Blog Ranking Update: Change of plan for Technoranki

The Blog Ranking service, Technoranki, is going to be merged back into BritBlog. With only limited time to spend on BritBlog, Technoranki, and various other projects that I’m involved with, I’ve decided to take this route so that I can focus more on BritBlog.

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Productive Weekend

It’s been a productive weekend. I’ve been a bit ill over the last week, so have spent a lot of time in bed or just in my room (at a constant temperature), and it’s given me a brilliant chance to get on with BritBlog! Starting out on coding isn’t so easy for me at times (especially when you know you’ve got to struggle with lots of old and messy code) but I get into it then it gets much easier. This rewrite has been one of those projects that’s been especially hard to get into, so I’m quite pleased that it’s finally rolling.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve been stripping out loads of redundant code and re-writing chunks for improved performance. I’ve also written a great wrapper class for Memcache that gives me some pretty cool features (like ETags and 304 headers). I’m going to open source this class when I get some more time and I’m happy with what it does. Anyway, there’s still quite a lot to do with BritBlog, but I really am hoping to get an interim release out soon. Don’t hold your breath, but it shouldn’t be too far away now…

It will be good to test the water with this, and if all goes well we can start on all the new features that we promised ages ago. It helps that I’ve finally got a sensible development environment with an identical set up to the production server too. I know that seems like something I should have had ages ago, but I’ve not been so organised on the BritBlog front. We’ve also got everything in version control too, which is brilliant. I’m almost ashamed to say this, but I’ve never bothered with version control for BritBlog before. Now it’s in subversion it seems to make the whole work process actually enjoyable!

Oh, and did I mention that Memcache kicks ass? OK, maybe that’s a bit too strong, but it really is nifty!

Flat hunting tomorrow, so better get to sleep now.

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When I’m tailing logfiles…

[to the tune of “When I’m Cleaning Windows“]

Well Happy New Year to both of my readers; I hope you’re having a thrilling year so far!

Over the Christmas break I’ve been working on a tool to help me flag dead or suspect blogs listed in BritBlog. It’s been quite interesting, and I’ve already removed quite a few none-blogs from the database.

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Gosh, Christmas already?

Christmas has come rather quickly this year! However, as it is now upon us it seems like as good a time as any to wish you, dear reader, a Merry Christmas, however you choose to celebrate it.

I seem to have had a few productive days since my holiday began on Thursday afternoon. I spent yesterday trying to track down splogs in Technoranki using SpolgSpot. Sadly, SplogSpot’s database seems to be full of rubbish. Yes, the do have some splogs in it, but they have more than 100 of our valid blogs in their database too (including our very own BritBlog Blog!). I just couldn’t be bothered checking all the ones it threw up as none that I checked were actually splogs.

So after yesterday’s rather failed attmept to locate splogs, I switched my efforts to locating dead and missing blogs in the BritBlog directory. I’ve written a little tool that goes and visits all the blogs in the directory and decides if the blog us there or not.

I’m going to run it each day (probably), and if a blog is missing more than 10 times in a row say, I’ll remove it from the database (probably after emailing the owner to tell them).

There is some room for improvement with this: for example I haven’t decided what to do with URL redirects yet. I think I need to sort out the trailing slash issue first, then worry about the remainder of these issues. It’s been a good chance to have a practice with Python though. Seems like a good language, but I’ve got a long way to go ;-)

Anyhoo, the tool seems to be doing it’s job so I’ll bolt it into the live application over the next few days. Will be good to remove some of the deadwood from the directory. That remonds me, the spider is running silently in the background. There’s a lot of work to do before it can go live, but it should be another useful tool in the battle to purge dead blogs from the directory.

Right, can’t sit up all night — I don’t want to scare off Santa!

Merry Christmas!

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Tackling Splogs

I’ve been troubled by spam blogs (splogs) for a long time, and in recent months have been looking for methods to deal with them. If you have a blog, then no doubt you will have been bombarded with comment spam since about day 1. If you run a blog service (like BritBlog or Technoranki), then you will also come across spam blogs trying to abuse your service for their own evil gains.

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Blogmeet done.

IMG_4792, uploaded by Mark Sweeting.

Yesterday’s blogmeet went well — I think we had about 15 people at the table at one point. It was a good meet, and as always I look forward to the next one!

Role of Honour

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