Mathew Lowry

Update (13/10/2013): This post has generated a few questions & objections, which I’ve answered in a constantly updated FAQAO post. All posts on the Bloggingportal Reboot are tagged bloggingportal2.

As I’ve mentioned now and then (e.g., BloggingPortal’s 3rd birthday, 2012), a desultory conversation amongst Bloggingportal editors dragged on for several years, before dying after it became clear that the lack of decision-making process made it impossible to move forward.

Which is a shame, as BP is actually essential to the development of the EU online public space.

We actually sorted a decisionmaking process out at the end of last year, but probably only because most editors had lost interest and moved on with their lives – part of a generational change Laurence Modrego (I think) predicted back in 2009.

Nevertheless, we do now have a decision-making process, so a few of us are scoping out how BP2 would look like. Martin Tuebner and I are Hanging Out to discuss my unfinished first draft specs this Wednesday – we’ve reached the Feature Prioritisation stage, so if you’re interested drop me a line or leave a comment.

I’ll put something more complete and professional together soon, but for the moment I thought I’d post a few sketches I’ve made on my mobile phone (I use Papyrus on my Note2) during my occasional Metro commute, trying to encapsulate the problems BP addresses, and the solutions we’re considering.

Don’t judge the project by these sketches – there’s only so much one can do in the Brussels Metro!

Problem statement: SplInternet

The ‘EuroSplInternet’ problem in a nutshell: hundreds of bloggers across Europe, writing about EU-relevant topics in different countries and languages. How to curate their content and build links between them, creating an EU Online Public Space?

How can Europe engage with them, and how can they hook up with each other, if noone knows where they are due to barriers of language and culture?

Solution: BloggingPortal – Blog Discovery Engine

The solution, as explained on the site’s FAQs, was to create a Blog Discovery Engine – Bloggingportal, v1:

  • post titles & abstracts are auto-fed into the BP engine;
  • where they are tagged by volunteer Editors by topic and published onto the site;
  • allowing users to browse EU-policy oriented posts from (currently) 1100+ blogs by topic and language;
  • the best posts are also promoted by the volunteer Editors

Rebooting BloggingPortal with machine-assisted curation

The reboot we’re considering would add machine translation; automatic semantic analyses (some background) of the full posts; and faceted search of the resulting posts.

Together, these would both massively improve post discovery, and take the load off the volunteers, who could then focus on more added-value activities, including promotion, meta-analyses and/or curated sections (next).

And if the volunteers don’t come back, and are not replaced, then at least this engine will chug away, automatically translating and classifying posts and providing a better map to the EU onlne public space than we’ve ever had.

Option: Bridging the blogosphere with curated sections

But if volunteers do want to help, then curated sections would be an interesting option, providing one way to build bridges in the EU online public space through curating specialist topics (see Vacancies: Specialists required to build bridges).

By hand-curating (with machine support) blog posts, tweeps and more in one particular topic area (or from one particular country), such an editor would occupy a very particular (and visible) niche:

  • For those in the Brussels Bubble, s/he would be both a Subject Matter Expert and a gateway to a community of other people blogging on that topic and/or from that country;
  • For the members of that community, s/he would be the member who “gets” what’s going on in Brussels – the ‘go to’ person when they want to find out what’s coming down the pipe from the EU Institutions.

In other words, a bridge.

Full transparency

The specs we’re developing are somewhat more detailed (currently a few dozen pages, without wireframes) but they’re unfinished. When they’re in better shape we will probably publish them, maybe with an explanatory Prezicast.

We’re also thinking about opening up the debate on what we need to include in the Minimum Viable Product via polls, Hangouts or plain ‘ole commenting.

Drop us a line if you would like to help in any way – we’re trying to move ahead on both web and fundraising fronts on volunteer power, so all are welcome.

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Comments

  1. Hey Christophe,

    Yep, a few months back I decided I needed to really focus on finding ways of communicating visually. It’s hugely important, particularly when you blog about a topic as complex and multilayered as the EU online public space, but I was always held back by my complete lack of graphic sense and specialist software.

    And then I just decided that it doesn’t have to be pretty as long as it’s clear, although it would help if the Brussels Metro was a little smoother…. ūüėČ

    PS You’ve got some nice visuals in those brochures, so why on earth are you hiding them inside PDFs? Set ’em free…

  2. Hi guys, indeed multilngual blogging would be useful. Key to “enlarging the circle of EU actors” as we brainstormed last Millenium with Christophe, Laurent and Franck (RIP) Biancheri.

    I’ll provide content, Matthew and might even be interested in doing some curation, helped by knowledge of 5 languages and translation software

    Btw, Matthew, thanks for posting the Nerdtest.com. Now I know I still am one.

  3. Hey @Giorgio, thanks for dropping by, all help gratefully appreciated!

    Particularly if you know the machine translation market. We’ll be approaching machine translation SaaS when we have finalised our specs, as it seems to me that sponsoring the reboot would be an excellent showcase for their software. I’m probably being optimistic, but if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be bothering.

    And then, of course, when we get into testing I’d love a few beta testers of the Curated Sections feature. Native language knowledge – i.e., not having to rely on machine translation – would be an obvious asset for anyone curating blogs from across Europe.

    Mathew

  4. Email sent to Matt, published here at his request (;-)).

    Some thoughts to your sketches:

    * Do not call it bloggingportal or, if you do, make sure it has refounded. It was be ruled with an “iron fist” with perfect coincidence of decision-making and responsibility with a tight executive (1, 2 or 3 people). Not diffuse “consensus” (collective irresponsibility) or “rule by mailing list.”

    * On “curation” I have to wonder what the point is: To actually manually aggregate posts? You end up getting a random splurge of posts from all over the place, according to an arbitrary rhythm depending on whether people feel like aggregating that day.

    What might be useful:
    * Having organized sections (good taxonomy/categories) automatically aggregating posts from blogs by category (country; topic; profession of blogger…). The added value would be in bringing together the major national blogs on that topic in the different countries. So, for example, I don’t think there’s anywhere you could go to see what are all the different Eurosceptic blogs in the UK, France, Italy, Germany etc. Organizing these blogs would be manual, but once done it is permanent. It would be far easier to plan and be far less labor intensive than daily curation.

    * For each section (topic, as above, or language), presentation of the latest posts could be based on “liking” or “+1ing” a post. That way you’d have interactivity, it could be community-driven. Just an idea.

    That’s all my thoughts. I won’t have time to participate much myself so feel free to disregard.

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