Musings On Share Your OPML

Share Your OPML is already a good blog ranking system, and over time it has the chance to become the definitive ranking and recommendation system for blogs. And when I say that, I’m thinking the very long tail of blogs, not just the top 100 or even 1,000

In my original post describing the service, there were a number of commenters who complained this was just another A-List ranking system. Right now, that’s what it is – another top 100 list, little different in actual results than the Technorati 100 and other lists of the most popular blogs out there.

But there’s a real difference between what Share Your OPML is doing and other ranking systems. SYO is completely objective and shows exactly what content people are actually reading right now. Other ranking systems are either subjective, or forced to look at either different data (Technorati looks at links) or only data specific to their users (Bloglines ranks blogs based on subscriber numbers on Bloglines). Over time, SYO can become a true “long tail” recommendation engine if a wide swath of the users out there are willing to upload their OPML feed. And they are only a couple of steps away from being there.

SYO needs more users. My guess is a few thousand have already uploaded their reading lists, but it will take a lot more before the data is really reflective of what most people are reading. To do this, SYO needs to add more value than it currently does for users. New features have been rolling out over time that help do this. Since the last time I looked, SYO has added a top podcast list and a feed reader to the mix.

One way to get more people using SYO is to encourage feed readers like Bloglines to allow people to keep their permanent OPML file at SYO instead of at the reader. This is probably a long way off for Bloglines, the market leader for web based readers. But it is probably something that smaller and newer readers will adopt if encouraged, and if the functionality to make this easy exists at SYO. Well, I’m encouraging them. I want all of my feeds kept in one neutral place. SYO is a good place to do that.

But first I need more functionality. I want to tag my feeds (and tag other’s feeds). I like how FeedCollectors does this, and I think SYO should emulate them. My permanent feeds have a permanent URL at SYO here. I’d like to have a permanent URL for each tag, too, by user or by all users (Flickr does this exactly).

I also need better recommendations. SYO shows me the feeds of users who closely match what I already read. I’d like to see specific recommendations for each feed, too. So if I like to read Scripting News, SYO can tell me what else I might like. This is easy to do with all of the data available at SYO. They just need to build the algorithm and launch it.

This is where the real excitement begins for me. Sure, SYO can list the top 100, or 100,000 feeds and it will be interesting to see where a particular feed falls in popularity. But what I really want to know is what feeds I should be reading based on what I already like. That’s where newer, less popular blogs can get a boost. If only a few people read them now, others will be able to find them via the recommendation engine. And the blogosphere will be a better place.