As I'm currently on a quest to find new Domino blogs to read, you'd think that a site like Dominoblogs.com would be the answer to my prayers. Laurette Rynne mentioned this site on Friday and linked to what, I assume, must be her site. It's a shame I now know a name to go with the site, as I was going to criticise it, but now I know the owner I fear it may be too personal. Oh well, here goes.

Hopefully Laurette will take this as positive criticism and hopefully the due-soon updates to the design will fix the problems I am about to describe. The site is a great idea and one I'd happily subscribe to as a source of new reads if it weren't for the inherent problems in using it. While I hate to poo-poo the efforts of other individuals (who am I to critisise!?) I think there may be lessons in usability within.

The first problem with Dominoblogs.com is the homepage (ignoring the delay while you're redirected to it). The first thing you see is all the feeds (apparently there's a 140 or so) arranged in to areas based on the geographical region they come from.

Imagine, like me, you're going there to randomly look for new reading material, then this is the last thing you want to see. With blogging, the location of the blogger is completely irrelevant and something I rarely think about. Although it's nice to know there whereabouts of who you're reading it's not important.

What follows is an alphabetical listing of bloggers in the chosen region, along with links to the blog and its RSS feed.

Finding what you want you want from this list is, once again, a matter of lucky dip. It's now down to random selection of feeds to read to check whether you think they're worth subscribing too. While this isn't the end of the world and is a lot better than there being no Dominoblogs.com, I think a few moderations would make it so much better.

This would be my to-do list were I the owner of the site:

  1. Remove geographically categorised view from homepage and replace it with list of the ten most recently added sites.
  2. Make the whole lot available as an OPML file to download and import in to feed readers.
  3. Add an RSS feed of all the sites ordered by when they're added.
  4. Allow each site to be flagged to show whether it's development/administration, web/client etc
  5. Have a system to monitor each feed and display when it was last updated along with how often it's updated in general. This would allow for flagging/removal of "dead" blogs.
  6. Add a quick-add form for a new blog submission to the homepage.
  7. Add a peer review/voting system to rate each blog. Good way of showing how on-topic a blog is.
  8. Differentiate between blogs about Domino and blogs based on Domino.
  9. Maybe have a "featured blog" section on the homepage, updated weekly/monthly.

There's a lot of potential for the site if the owner's willing to put the work in. Websites are changing. We're now in the age of "Web 2.0". Making a website is no longer simply a case of making the information available. We now how to think about how people want to access this information and make it easy for them to do so. Users expect more of websites and soon grow tired when they can't get what they want and do so simply and easily.

As Laurette mentioned, there's an upgrade due soon. Hopefully this will make it usable. As it stands it's simply a hard-to-acess list of Domino blogs and of little use without better organisation. For now, if you want to get noticed on there, add your blog to North America and call it "123 AAA Domino Blog". You're bound to get noticed...


  1. Jake - positive criticism taken as intended - and appreciated. We already knew the current site wasn't right. In fact, the new design is ready to go and is just waiting on sorting out some hosting issues, so it will be there in the next day or so. As it happens, we were looking to probably take the exisitng site down tonight so we can start the migration process.

    The current site was a quickie, built one evening at Lotusphere - it's based on domBulletin, hence the reason the home page is categorised. One of the big things which came out of the various blogging chats at Lotusphere was about advertising non-US sites - hence the focus on region - so please don't list as 123 AAA Domino Blog from North America - we want other voices heard!

    The new site already has these features:

    - the home page will list the 10 most recent entries (with an rss feed for all new entries)

    - rss feeds/views by blog name, blog author, region (which also now includes country), and category if you only want to know about specific types of blogs.

    - the ability to list categories/languages/content tags associated with your blog

    - ability to add Show'n'Tell Thursday URL/feed (for those who have a specific feed)

    We are still looking into adding OPML links, which, along with searching, are the next things on the list.

    As for a peer review / rating system - we specifically didn't want to include this, as the idea is to encourage new bloggers to advertise themselves and allow new voices to be heard without judgement. We want to leave it up to individuals whether they continue reading or not.

    As for ownership - this site was built by my husband Tim & I as a community thing - we don't consider ourselves owners - just temporary guardians! The new site is being developed in what little of our own time we can find, and is being hosted free by CoreFusion as a community resource - so all suggestions are welcome. There's no fancy AJAX/Web 2.0 stuff yet, but this site may well be one of our training grounds as it continues to be developed.

    I know Lotusphere was along time ago, but time has just slipped away (we managed to get some holidays away from it all in there for a little bit). Anyway, if you give us a few days you can let us know what you think of the new site - any notice on your site is bound to raise the awareness of the site, which can only be a good thing.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 31 May 2006 07:21 AM

    Hi Laurette. Sounds like the changes you have planned will make it a hell of a lot more useful in terms of being a resource.

    However, without some kind of rating system it will always only ever be one long list of blogs. Back (not so long ago) when there were a handful of Domino blogs this wasn't a problem. Now there's just not enough time to hand-sort the lot of them to find those worthy of subscribing to. At the very least it would be nice to see a featured section that highlights the cream of the crop.

    Having said that I've seen (on photoblogs.rog) that this kind of rating system can lead to a "rich getting richer" situation where only the popular blogs get a look-in and continue to get rated highly, while other unrated sites tend to stay away from the public eye.

  2. That latter problem (rich getting richer) is a huge problem with many rating systems on the web. A better system might be a less hierarchical system where people could give some approval mark ("I vouch for Codestore.net") and comments, but the only levels were Vouched For, New, Not Vouched For and Dormant. Any blog would have a sixty (or thirty or whatever) day period as "New" until they were Vouched For by at least two (or three or whatever) people. This would give a good chance to see new blogs whether or not people knew them. After that, any blog that didn't earn a certain number of approvals would be "Unvouched For", and ones that did earn a certain number would be "Vouched For". Finally, any blog which went for sixty (or forty five or whatever) days would be "Dormant".

    This sort of system would avoid the hierarchy of, say, Volker Weber or Ricky Oliver's sites always showing up with super high ratings, but would provide some level of vetting. It doesn't sound like the algorithms would be hard to add to handle this, although I understand Laurette's position as a volunteer, so I'll just make this a general recommendation rather than a specific one.

    • avatar
    • Kerr
    • Wed 31 May 2006 07:55 AM

    Ratings are most useful to those readers new to Domino blogs. They first want to find the top blogs. They should be able to find them pretty easily anyway as the usual suspects often link to each other, but it'd be nice to get a good top listing.

    Other mechanisms are then needed to enable new Bloggers to get an audience.

    The new blog list is simple and effective, but you could also flag the blog as new in any other listing.

    An automatic post frequency indication is a great idea. New bloggers can raise there profile by posting frequently.

    Finally, you could have a spotlight section on the homepage. This would feature an up and coming blog that was doing a good job but needed a boost. This could as simple as just tagging the current spot lit blog onto the top of the top rated blogs, or it could be a mini review of the site.

  3. Obviously, I meant Rocky Oliver. Now I have to be careful or he will break my kneecaps.

  4. I did a small rant a few weeks ago this subject -- specifically the domain name and agreed with Steve C's point of view when he made the inital post.

    I don't see the value of a rating system because some of the best blogs I have read aren't the popular ones. I think the ability to give feedback and comments is more powerful than doing the top ranking. Each blog I read is a different perspective and is unique in that way.

    • avatar
    • larry
    • Wed 31 May 2006 03:12 PM

    www.digg.com rates individual blog posts. Even Jake can have his weak moments and even me can sometimes write great blogs.

  5. I'll vouch for Digg. ;-) I've been reading there for about three months and find the ranking to be useful but not decision forming in what I read. When you go there, it is categorized by sujuct, and you can see the top 10 or 30 rated articles. That is a pretty generous margin and I may read in one day something that has as few as 60 Diggs or as many as a thousand. Since it's by page (news, blog entries and websites in general all together), any given odd source bight get a high sevel of exposure for a really keen post, and as Larry mentions, even the stronger sources soemitems don't even get posted due to weak or uninteresting content. If I was going to do a rating system, I'd start with a model like that.

    • avatar
    • Jerry Carter
    • Wed 31 May 2006 03:32 PM

    I meant "categorized by subject". I have no idea what sujuct means.

  6. I'd like to disagree about the geography... Sure, I look at blogs without caring where they come from but I also specifically check out EVERYTHING from Australia because I want to know what my peers are facing that is particular to my region.

    One of the underlying problems with blogs is that people go off topic. I've got 3 blogs (Personal Life, Movies and Computing). Notes is in the computing - unfortunately, so is a lot of google/Microsoft stuff.

    I'd be happy to include a specific keyword in my Notes/Domino post subject lines that would get it to an autofeed on dominoblogs. That would allow dominoblogs to display a notes/domino only feed from all blogs.

    Does anyone else think that this could work?

    • avatar
    • Patrick Corey
    • Wed 31 May 2006 06:13 PM

    I think we are leaping here to think this idea can compare to digg or even slashdot -- there are people who make their main job to do the blog. A lot of us (and even Jake) have to work to fund our blogging.

    I think if someone is going to create a filter than you should have a policy in place to educate what the site is maintaining and would cause a blog to "off the radar". Specifically to dead blogs: I would hope one would consider it dead from months of inactivity than weeks. But I would not consider a blog dead based on if a topic was publish on a facet of Domino/Notes.

    I think some of the ideas are as humorous as the LotusGeek icon to put on your blogs or the other icons for blogsphere, etc. If you want a blog to be popular, base it on content and not by the social blog networking, regional origin of the blog, etc.

  7. Gavin - I'm with you - this is where tagging and technorati etc comes into its own.

    If people tag with say "Lotus Notes Domino" - people who are not interested in "other" content just subscribe to the RSS for that category or use technorati to display all items from everywhere that have tagged "Lotus Notes Domino"

  8. Just popping in to say the new version of Dominoblogs is now up - hopefully it looks a bit better and answers some of the criticism above. Obviously, it doesn't answer them all, but it's a start.

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