101 Blogs on Anarchism (and some guides)

I’ve populated the postrank topic on Anarchism and here I explain how it may be of use to you.

PostRank Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Inspired by the latest postrank rankings of the Anarchosphere, I decided to improve upon the initial number of Anarchist blogs that I’d added in the past to the topic of Anarchism. To this end, I’ve basically scoured the internetubes and added around 60 new blogs to the topic bringing the grand (current) total to 101 tracked sites.

Now you may be wondering what’s the point of all this. We already have an aggregator after all. Well the thing is that postrank goes a bit futher than simple aggregation as it offers some extra features and capabilities that I’m certain some of you might find useful.

The Benefits of a postrank topic on Anarchism

  • It allows you to not only subscribe to the RSS of the topic, but also to balance between the quality and the quantity of the content you’ll end up seeing so that you don’t get swamped with posts from more than a hundred blogs. For example this feed will only display the posts from each site which have a very high engagement for that particular blog. This does not mean that you’ll be seeing only the most popular sites as the rating of a post is judged to the relative engagement of all other posts within the same site. More info here.
    It also provides you with more ways to subscribe. While you can do it the usual way of simply subscribing to the RSS of the topic, you can also simply export an OPML file with all the blogs and add them as individual feeds to your own Reader granting you even more control.
  • It avoids a centralized management as is the case of a normal Aggregator like Anarchoblogs. While there’s not reason to expect that the an admin like RadGeek would decide to start arbitrarily banning and removing sites he does not like, it still puts some limitations such as is the case in every benevolent hierarchy. Practically, there’s probably going to be little difference but with postrank you ensure that the control is more distributed and moderation thus happens faster.
    This means that you can go right ahead and add your own blog to the topic if you think you deserve to be there. While I tried to include as many as I felt should be there, doubtlessly I will have forgotten or not discovered them all. If you find you’re not included, just go ahead and add your anarchism-related blog as well. I will post a short guide on how to do this later on.
  • It provides some interesting statistics to see how popular you are, which are your most engaging posts and how active you are on the social web compared to other sites in your topic. Eventually, at the end of the year, you will also see how well you did and how your popularity rose or dropped and you can even get a nice badge for your site 😉

So if any of this is of interest to you, just go ahead and play around with the system and see how you like it.And no, before you ask, I’m not affiliated with Postrank in any way. I just like the way it works and the functionality it provides.

And now, some instructions.

How to add your own site to the Anarchism topic of Postrank

  1. Navigate to the anarchism topic
  2. If you haven’t used Postrank before, you’ll need to create an account. You can use your google or yahoo accounts to login as well AFAIK or simply an OpenID if you have one.
  3. Once you’re logged in click to manage the topic.
  4. Where it says “Add Feed” put the url of your blog. If “nothing found” is returned, it means that your site is not yet in the Postrank index. Don’t worry, it’s a few seconds’ work to add it.
    • Put your site’s url in the search textbox on the top right and press enter.
    • A new page should open from postrank, telling you that they do not know this site but will add it ASAP.
    • Go back to the management page for the topic and add your url to the “Add feed” box. The name of your site should now appear below. If it doesn’t, try removing the http:// in front of your url and leave only the domain name. The site should appear then. If that still doesn’t work, try to remove any trailing backslashes from the url and try again.
  5. Press the little green “plus” sign on the right of your blog’s title. The whole title should now become green.
  6. Click “Save Changes”. Once the page reloads, you site has been added to the topic. If you were just added in postrank you really won’t have any rank or info. Wait a few hours/days and check again. Your blog should appear at some position in the topic feeds. Visit its postrank page to get more details.

Congratulations. You’re now part of Postrank’s anarchism topic 😉

How to get only higher quality posts from the anarchism topic (or any topic for that matter)

  1. Go to the posts area of the topic.
  2. On the top, use the drop-down menu to select the quality you wish. It goes like this in regards of quality: All < Good < Great < Best. The higher the rank, the less posts you’ll get to see but all of them should have relatively high engagement for their blog’s standards.
  3. Once you have the quality you wish, click on the “RSS Feed” link on the right. You will notice that the URL has a number on appended on the end. That is the engagement rank or higher that a post needs to have before you’ll see it. You can change that number to 10.0 to see only the best of the best (note: this will be an extremely low quantity feed. Alternatively if you’re using google reader or bloglines, click on their relevant links instead.
  4. Use your browser’s controls to add the feed to your reader or do it normally via cut & paste
  5. There is a chance the feed will timeout if Postrank’s servers are overloaded. In that case you’ll have to copy the feed’s URL and add it to your reader manually. Once the servers recover, you’ll start seeing new posts.

Be aware that getting your feeds via postrank’s aggregation is going to be slower than going to the source due to the fact that a post needs to be first grabbed, then analyzed and once it has a high enough rank, presented in the feed. Therefore expect hours or even days of delays for each quality-filtered post. This shouldn’t be such an issue in general for non-news related sites as blogs are in general.

If you want new posts to appear ASAP on your reader on the other hand, your best option is to export to an OPML file and add all the feeds as individual sources to your reader. However, with this way you won’t have any filtering based on quality. If you use an online reader, you can use the special tools to achieve the same result instead.

So that’s about it. I hope you find it as useful as I do and feel free to contact me about any issues you find with it or to just let me know what you think about it.

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Last.fm activity now in Complexlife

Last.fm is one of the top, if not the best music service out there and it’s something I’ve been using for quite a while now. While last.fm includes things like groups, friends, forums and other aspects of a social network, your activities in these was never provided. In the latest version these activities (new friends, loved songs etc) were shown in the form of a little block in the sidebar but unfortunately there has been no way to grab that for use in Complexlife.

I knew there is a way to get these activities somehow as Friendfeed does show you when you love a track but having asked directly about it in the forum, I was told that getting this in a feed was just not an option.

Fortunately web-mastered stepped up and created a yahoo pipe which grabs the last.fm latest activities API and returns it as a feed. Very useful but unfrotunately I noticed that it wasn’t exactly in the format I needed. If I used that in Complexlife then you would only see the title (a generic “New activity from <username>”) and having no date info in the feed, b0rked the sort by date of Simplepie.

Thus I had to modify the pipe in a way that

  1. Made the content become the title of the post (removing any html which might break Complexlife)
  2. Provide the date in the RSS so that the item can be sorted

Creating the title

It took me a while to figure it out, but making the content become the title was the easiest part of it all. Since yahoo pipes provides a handy renaming function, all I needed to do is tell it to rename the content as the title

Renaming the content as Title
Renaming the content as Title

The first part copies the whole content as the date field. I will later use this get the date. The second part renames the current content to the title so that it is displayed in whole. If I didn’t do it, I would get only part of the content displayed with elipsis after 30 characters or so.

Now I need to remove all the html code the activity stream has in. As it includes links to my profile as well as to artists and tracks, this would break the link complexlife puts for each row. The only way to remove the unecessary parts is of course through regular expressions and yahoo pipes gives exactly that function.

Removing the unecessary parts from the content
Removing the unnecessary parts from the content

This part actually goes before the renaming/copying as I remove various parts I also don’t need from the date field. Thus when I copy, I save duplicating the work.
The most interesting part is the previous the last field, wherein I tell it to remove all html tags (anything between < and >) and all their settings (i.e. target=”_blank”). Thus I’m left with the title in plain text.

Creating the date

This was a more tricky part as not only does the last.fm activity stream API consider it a good idea to put the date on the content but it also puts it in as a relevant entry to the current date.

Putting the date in the correct field was the easy part as all I needed to do was copy the content in the date field and remove everything except the date. As right before the date there was a fullstop, it was fairly simple to use another regex to delete anything until the last fullstop

The regular expression removes everything until the last fullstop
With a little regex magic, anything except the date is gone

The more difficult part was to make the relevant fuzzy date to become something that is expected to be in an RSS feed, which is something very specific in time and format. Fortunately, I noticed that there is a specific module that does exactly that: Date builder. How convenient.

Unfortunately this module accepts only strings so I could not really parse my whole feed through it unless I had a loop. Oh wait…

With a loop I can make all date items in the correct format
With a loop I can make all date items in the correct format

Sweetness. Unfortunately one problem remains which is that because the date provided is always fuzzy, I end up getting a rolling date for the item each time the pipe is run. For example, an item which has a date of “one month ago” today will point to Aug 28, tomorrow on Aug 29 etc. There’s not much I can do about it other than wait until (and if) last.fm deems it worthy to give us a proper feed.

And now my new shiny feed is in exactly the format I need to have for Complexlife to use it. A little hacking later and version 0.9.8 is ready to go. The last.fm activity stream is finally lifestreamable 🙂

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Aiding the Atheist Blogroll

Like any good atheist, I’ve been trying to keep myself in the loop by monitoring the Atheosphere. Unfortunately, due to the sheer quantity of such content (At the moment, the Atheist Blogroll is at more than 700 individual active blogs) it has always been a bit overwhelming.

I’ve tried using Planet Atheism, but I quickly realised that it is tracking only a limited amount of blogs (certainly not as many as the blogroll).

I then registered to the all the Atheist blogs through the OPML for a while but that was just overwhelming, not to mention time consuming (to update the folder each time a new blog was added). I then tried simply registering to the Google Reader tag that Larro is maintaining and that was a bit easier but I still had the problem that the quantity of the posts was overwhelming. With more than 1000 posts a month it is simply impossible to find the good ones. I even tried using other services like Reddit Atheism, and Atheism Spot but these have generally very low output and generaly partisan-y.

The Bashboard of AideRSS
The Bashboard of AideRSS

In the end I just decided to see how I could fix this and fortunately, I happened upon AideRSS. After a bit of struggling and some firefox restarts (simply because of the amount of ram all the scripting ended up consuming) I managed to get it organised and ready for the godless.

How does this help? Well instead of simply seeing each and every post people are making, many of which will be not be very relevant to your interests, you can choose to limit the items you see to only the ones that have been more “popular” or succesful.

‘Ah’, I hear you say, ‘Won’t that just mean that the popular bloggers out there like will hog all the spotlight, even more than they do now? Small blogs can rarely get 5 comments on a post where, Pharyngula would be hard pressed to get less than 20.’

Have no fear. This is where the beauty of this particular system is. The posts you see when you filter by popularity, are not the most popular posts compared to other blogs but compared to other posts in the same blog. Thus while I may, on average, get 1-2 comments per post, a post that gets 10 will be considered good and one that gets, say, 30 will be well on its way to “best”. Also, since it takes into consideration diggs, del.icio.us bookmarks, linkbacks etc, you may get “popular” even without any comments at all.

This way, even though my post got 10 posts while Pharyngula’s got 100, we are both simply “good” since, compared to ther of our own respective posts, these are simple “higher than average”.

This does not mean of course that you should stop using Reddit, Digg, Stumbleupon etc. On the contrary, you should keep using them because the popularity of each post is using (Well, not at the moment, but very soon I’m being told) ratings on these services as well. The only difference is that this popularity does not stay in the respective service but it helps people who use AideRSS to see the more interesting posts.

So how can you get in into that action? There’s a few ways.

  1. You can grab either the Atheist Blogroll Good posts of the Best posts OPML files that I’ve created and import them into your feed reader of choice. The Good posts will give you more content as the bar is lower.
  2. You can simply subscribe to my own Top Stories that I’ve set up on my account. I will try to keep this updated with new additions to the Atheist Blogroll.
  3. If you’re using Google Reader, just grab the plugin and you’re done 😉
  4. If you’re using NewsGator, just set your Sort Order the AideRSS Postrank.
  5. You can create an account with AideRSS, grab the original Atheist Blogroll OPML [3. Will become outdated on the next blogroll update though] and the use the import function there. Once the feeds are insterted in your account (it won’t take long as they’ve already been analyzed with my import) you can change the filter settings to what you want and grab you own customised feed. You’ll have to update your blogroll manualy with this method however. However now you can select some on low filter and others on high.

So you’ve got quite a few capabilities to work with this already. If you are getting as overwhelmed with news and posts as I am, hopefully this will help you cut down on the clutter. Plus, if you join AideRSS you can get the stats for your own site and see with one look which of your posts are the more popular. You can see the Division by Zer0 here for example.

Hope y’all find this as useful as I did 😉

To aggregate!

Google Reader screenieΤο παρακάτω κείμενο παρολίγο να ήταν σχόλιο στο ιστολόγιο του Ale3andro αλλά μιας και γινόταν αρκετά μεγάλο, είπα να το βγάλω σαν trackback

Ο Αλέξανδρος λοιπόν έγραψε αυτό το κείμενο περι των aggregators και πως ο online aggregator google reader του φάνηκε πιο χρήσιμος. Μετά απο τα θετικά σχόλια που βρήκε περι αυτό έκανε ορισμένα αρνητικά, το οποία είπα να σχολιάσω:

Το βασικό αρνητικό των aggregators είναι ότι σε απομακρύνουν από τα αγαπημένα σου sites/blogs.

Δεν καταλαβαίνω πως σε ένας aggregator σε απομακρύνει. Μέσω του G-Reader μπορώ να διαβάσω πολύ περισσότερα απο τα αγαπημένα μου ιστολόγια χωρίς κόπο και με λιγότερο χρόνο. Επίσης αποφεύγω έξτα φόρτωμα απο αχρείαστες εικόνες και διαφημίσεις που (ειδικά το δευτερο) που 95% του χρόνου δεν κοιτάω καν.

Επισκεπτόμενος ένα site βλέπεις πολλά περισσότερα απ’ ότι διαβάζοντας απλά ενα post στον aggregator. Το design, blogroll, άλλα άρθρα,

Όσον αφορά το να βλέπεις τον σχεδιασμό του blog κλπ, όπως και να έχει, αυτο θα σε ενδιαφέρει μόνο 2-3 φορές πρίν αρχίσεις να το αγνοείς. Στην δικιά μου περιπτωση, σχεδόν πάντα θα τύχει να δω το design όταν θα γράψεις κάτι το οποίο θα με κάνει να θέλω να σχολιάσω. Εαν θέλω να εξερευνήσω το ιστολόγιο, αυτό θα το κάνω μόνο μια φορά, και όχι κάθε φορά.

σχόλια (τα comment feeds είναι υπερβολή),

Τα comment feeds δεν είναι καθόλου υπερβολή. Πες οτι πήγες σε ένα blog στο οποίο έχεις γράψει ένα σχόλιο και περιμένεις απάντηση. Έχεις 2 επιλογές. 1. Κάνεις bookmark το post και το επισκεπτεσαί σχετικά συχνά για να δεις εαν απάντησε κανείς ή 2. Παίρνεις το feed του και το αποθηκέυεις σε ένα φάκελο (πχ comments) που τον κρατάς κλειστό ώστε να μην παίρνει χώρο. Όταν κάποιος απαντήσει, απλά βλέπεις οτι ήρθε καινούργιο μήνυμα και απαντάς. Υπάρχει και η επιλογή 3. όπου το blog έχει επιλογή να σε ειδοποιεί με email για καινούργια comments αλλά κατά την ταπεινή μου γνώμη, ένα feed είναι καλύτερο.

Αρνητικό είναι επίσης και το ότι με το που τον ανοίγεις σου εμφανίζει ένα αριθμό καινούργιων posts και κατά κάποιο τρόπο σε αναγκάζει να τα δεις όλα, σαν να είναι υποχρέωση.

Μπορείς να τροποποιήσεις το bookmark που ανοίγεις στον reader (ή τις ρυθμίσεις του reader) ώστε να σε φέρνει στο “All Items” αντί για το “Home” οπότε απλά βλέπεις τι καινούργιο έχει γραφτεί.

Να αναφέρω και μερικά ακόμα θετικά σημεία:

  • Shared Items: Αυτά είναι τα posts που μαρκάρεις κατάλληλα απο το reader με τα οποία οι “φίλοι” σου μπορούν να δουν τι βρήκες ενδιαφέρον στο δίκτυο ακόμα και εαν δεν παρακολοθούν το συγκεκριμένο site. Μπορείς να μαρκάρεις οτιδήποτε λαμβάνεις ώς feed σαν share, ακόμα και σχόλια, όπως πρόσφατα έκανε ένας “φίλος” μου στον reader. To feed απο τα shared απο την άλλη μπορείς να το κοτσάρεις σε διάφορα σημεία, όπως για παράδειγμα έχω κάνει εγώ στο facebook και στο navigation στο πάνω μέρος της σελίδας μου.
  • Στατιστικα:Είναι ένα χαριτωμένο feature μέσω του οποίου μπορείς να δεις τι διαβάζεις περισσότερο (και πόσο) και ποιοί είναι οι πιο γρήγοροι bloggers (Πχ ο πλανήτης ΕΛ/ΛΑΚ βγάζει περίπου 3.5 κείμενα την ημέρα)
  • Για να μην μιλήσω για την ευκολία με την οποία μπορείς να βρείς κάτι που διάβασες στο παρελθόν. Μιάς και μιλάμε για google, η πιθανότητες εύρεσης είναι αρκετά δυνατες. Αυτή είναι μια δυνατότητα που έχω χρησιμοποιήσει παραπάνω απο μία φορές όταν ήθελα να βρώ “εκείνο το ωραίο κείμενο περι ταδε που είχα διαβάσει κάποτε”. Εαν χρησιμποιείς και tags δε, ακόμα καλύτερα.
  • Δυνατότητα να παρακολουθείς ένα μεγάλο αριθμό ιστολογίων χωρίς να πλυμηρίζεις. Πχ, αυτή τη στιγμή έχω ένα φάκελο με όλα τα rss feeds του Atheist Blogroll που αυτή τη στιγμή έχουν ξεπεράσει τα 500. Αυτό μου δίνει την δυνατότητα να διαβάσω πολύ περισσότερες φωνές και με μεγάλη διαφοροποίηση απόψεων.