Friday, January 11, 2008

POF21C - The Solution

In my previous post, I described the concerns of Howard Rogers (which are shared by others, by the way) about how the OraNA feed got clogged with "8 things" posts, many of which mentioned things of a decidedly non-technical nature.

If I understand the problem correctly, it occured because OraNA aggregates entire blogs, rather than looking for specific content.

As I see it, there are several solutions to the problem:

  • Leave OraNA as is, but be selective in what you read. In my mind, this is the best solution. Database architects and administrators (or, for that matter, product managers) are not automatons that merely produce technical content 24/7. Database architects and administrators are PEOPLE, and even their technical blogs are a reflection of themselves as people. If I choose not to listen to a video about Eddie Awad's journey to the United States, there is nothing that requires that I read every single item at OraNA. Trust me - I have over 100 subscriptions on Google Reader, and I do not choose to read every item. If you don't like "8 Things," skip it.

  • Modify OraNA to include opt-in content. Another suggestion is to modify the criteria which cause something to be aggregated by OraNA (or, for that matter, any aggregator). For example, this could be achieved by using particular tags or labels in posts if you want them to be aggregated into the OraNA feed. Not only would this allow existing participants to opt certain posts out of the feed, but would also allow people like me with limited technical content to opt the occasional post into the feed.

  • Roll your own. If neither of these ideas appeal to you, then you can simply create your own feed. For example, here's an rss feed (courtesy Google) that captures all "Oracle Database" blog posts except for those that mention "eight things" or "8 things."

[mrontemp business] | [mrontemp politics] | [mrontemp technology] | [mrontemp tags]

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Dizwell said...

I've enjoyed your objective assessment of the situation to date. (I don't know what "haterade" is, but I don't hate anyone for this. I just think Jake, who started it, is an idiot for having done so. But thinking someone a fool doesn't mean I hate them).

Anyway, I digress. The problem I have with this post is that all your solutions mean someone has to do something that they needn't have done had not this nonsense been started.

Number 1 is based on a false premise, by the way. It seems to assume that people aren't selective in what they read and they need to start being so. But I already select out a lot of the Apex, Business Intelligence stuff because it is not especially relevant to me. Lots of people do likewise already, too. The real trouble, however, is that you can't skip over a flood. As new spam posts arrive, they drive ones with more useful content down the page until they disappear off it. One of my own posts disappeared off the front page in about 12 minutes, for example. You can't selectively read things which aren't there at all!

2. Modify OraNA: so now Eddie Awad (and let's not forget there are other Oracle blog aggregators out there, too) has to modify his code because of the actions of others? And I see you suggesting that blog owners now have to remember to tag their posts properly. So because about 50 people (and growing, unnfortunately) have decided to "play a game", we all have to change the way we do things? Does that seem proportionate or fair to you? It doesn't to me.

3. Roll your own. Yup, everyone's saying I just need to learn how to use an RSS feed reader. As if I don't already! How do you propose I install such a tool on a work PC that has group policies set so that only system admins can install software? How do you think I'll go introducing such a piece of software in an environment that has a SOE that doesn't include one?

And again, the asymmetry kicks in: they want to have a game, so I have to install and use new software.

What is so wrong asking people to be aware of the consequences of their actions for the aggregators and to not participate in a pyramid scheme that floods them accordingly? Then Eddie doesn't have to re-write anything, blog owners don't have to remember to tag everything and I don't have to install software that I'm not allowed to install. And meanwhile, as many people as want to are still allowed to post anything they like on their blogs, whenever they like.

I'd also take issue with your opening sentence here: OraNA got clogged with...things of a non-technical nature. I welcome non-technical blog posts. I make them all the time. I've blogged about the backyard wallabies, Benjamin Britten, a visit to Melbourne, Christchurch, conducting, books, music... you name it. I encourage all technical blog writers to share their non-technical sides whenever they want to. It's not the content that's at issue here. It's that this particular "8 things" content is enclosed in a viral wrapper ("pass it on to 8 others") that was explicitly designed to engineer an exponential growth in such posts. It's the flood of posts that's the issue. It's the fact it's a pyramid scheme that's at issue. It's the fact that it's driving out all other content that's the issue. And it's the fact that those participating in the flood either don't understand the consequences or (which is much worse) don't care about them. The latter in particular have given a giant, collective two-fingers 'up yours' to the Oracle community.

Still, though I disagree with your "solutions", I do like the way you've tried to understand this problem, and do at least see that there is a problem. Thanks for that, therefore.

Ontario Emperor said...

I address the second item (tagging/labeling) in more detail here. I acknowledge that labeling isn't the issue (Rogers is more concerned about the "viral wrapper"), but I wanted to say 8 things about tagging/labeling.