Idea Factory: Scanner Blog Network

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As part of my efforts to become more “connected” with others around me (see here, and here), I’ve been a bit more active on twitter lately @maverickstruth — trying to actually (gasp!) converse and connect with people when I’m able.

The other day, I caught this tweet from @BarbaraSher:

Scanners, let’s talk here at #R2C (Refuse to Choose and don’t make me say that again) 😉 (I’m not entirely sure I understand hashtags yet)

Suffice it to say, Barbara and others managed to understand hashtags well enough to get some conversation going. One of the first things I suggested was a blog exchange — specifically amongst those of us who have “scanner stories”. My contribution was, of course, A Scanner’s Journey.

Christy, a fellow scanner who blogs over at More than Mommy noticed the post, and came up with the interesting suggestion that maybe we ought to have a scanner “blog network” so all of us blogging scanners can connect with each other. That really piqued my interest, and so I’ve spent a bit of time figuring out the different ways that could happen.

So, without further ado … the Idea Factory of a Scanner Blog Network. Here’s some of my ideas on ways to go about creating such a network.

1. Formal Blog Network

If you’re not familiar with blog networks, a great place to start is with 9rules, a massive blog community covering a huge number of topics.

Basically, a formal blog network typically has a main page where latest posts from all the member blogs are listed in one aggregated place. Members have profiles and gain exposure from the traffic from network pages, and there is often a forum or conversation mechanism for all the people of the blog network to converse and keep up with each other.

Often blogs can be categorized into one category or another — although for scanners who write on a number of topics, this may not be all that appropriate! Some blog networks also allow people to submit their favorite or best posts to the site, for featuring and cross-posting.

Pros: This is probably best option for aggregating traffic, as it provides a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to read the writings (and ramblings) of scanners. Easiest for scanners to add their blogs — just sign up and go — and the added bonus of having a community feel with discussion areas, etc.

Cons: A fair amount of overhead to set up and maintain. Needs someone to take the lead on administrating (not hard if you know how to do it, but it really needs to be a labour of love if you’re going to do it for free!).

Options: Could do something like a lens on Squidoo to facilitate this, or if we really wanted to get fancy, set up an actual software platform to facilitate the network (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. all could work for this).

2. Informal Blog Network (Blog Rings)

Before there were blog network “hub” sites, there were blog rings. A blog ring is basically a way to connect a circle of blogs together.

Usually, each blog in the ring adds a piece of code to their website (a widget) which automatically hooks the blog into the “ring”. Visitors to one blog canthen navigate through to other blogs in the ring, eventually working their way through the whole community.

Pros: Pretty easy to set-up, you just need someone to create the ring at a place like RingSurf, and then anyone who wants to be a member of the ring can just hook into it. Knowledge of how to copy-paste HTML code is typically needed. No need for administration; once the ring is set-up, it works all on its own.

Cons: It can be difficult to keep inappropriate sites out of the ring. Usually requires basic HTML knowledge to implement on individual sites. Can’t just browse through all of the sites in the ring at once — you have to go through them one at a time, and hope that you come across something helpful/interesting.

Options: RingSurf is the defacto leader in this field; I’m not familiar with other options, but I know they’re out there.

3. Link Exchanges

The most basic form of networking, this one is incumbent on each blogger to get in touch with other bloggers, and post links to each others’ blogs on their respective websites. Basically, this is a specialized form of a blogroll, where typically only links that are reciprocated are posted.

Pros: Most blogging platforms have a built-in blogroll option, so all that an individual blogger has to do is add links to sites. There is no centralized “hub” for blogs, so no administration is needed.

Cons: Link exchanges depend on the individual bloggers asking for links from others, and then posting links on their own site. Because there’s no centralization, there’s no guarantee that all blogs in the network will be connected to each other — in fact, what usually happens is a core set of blogs are connected all over the place, and the rest are left with limited links. Can be hard to “discover” new bloggers.

Options: This is the fastest option to implement, as it only requires scanners to get in touch with each other and ask for links to be swapped. Can be done by individual bloggers, no need for a centralized set of “options”.

4. Guest Posts and/or Blog Carnivals

Often useful in connection with any of the other three options, guest posts and blog carnivals are a good way of driving visitors from one site to another.

Guest posts are exactly what they sound like — one blogger offers to write content for another blogger’s site. This is a very common practice in the blog world.

A blog carnival is an organized effort by a number of bloggers to all post on a similar topic at the same time (in the same week, for example), and then at the end, post an article linking to all of the other posts in the carnival.

Pros: Easy to combine with any of the other options, allows exposure to other scanner’s blogs quickly and easily.  Technically very easy, as it just requires doing what bloggers already do best: writing posts, and posting them.

Cons: Not really a “network” solution, more of a way to let visitors know about some of the other sites out there. Not centralized at all, and doesn’t imply permanent exposure — there’s no sidebar of links prominently displayed at all times, for example. Blog carnivals do require someone to take the lead on setting a topic, timeline, etc.

Options: Guest posts, like link exchanges, happen between individual bloggers.  Blog carnivals are usually set up using a tool like BlogCarnival.

Alright scanners, what do you think? Do any of the options above sound interesting to you? Leave a comment if you have any ideas of your own — or if you see something you like, feel free to take the idea and run with it!

2 thoughts on “Idea Factory: Scanner Blog Network

  1. Another option is to do a widget. I don’t know off the top of my head how easy it is to set up, but members join the widget and post it on their site. The widget then shows posts from everyone in the network.

    My favorite option is the Blog Carnival. It requires less commitment (nice for folks who have trouble committing to projects for long periods of time) and can even be shared by members of the network.

    There is also the possibility of setting up a ning group where people can highlight posts and we can chat and share ideas.

  2. Actually, yeah, I like the widget type idea — it’s like a combination of the blogroll and the blog rings — and all automated. The trick is finding one that’s easy enough to use on all the various blog platforms. I’m not aware of any off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’s something out there somewhere…

    Blog carnival is something I think I might see if I can’t organize something. My tentative idea is to host a blog carnival on a scanner-related topic, maybe to coincide with the end of the Scanner Retreat in April (see if maybe we could get the carnival mentioned at the retreat and get some participation that way? I won’t be able to attend the retreat, but it just seems like a natural timing.)

    That being said, maybe a trial run of the carnival would be a good idea, too, since I’ve never really hosted one. I think I’ll put something together and post it in the next week or so. I’ll also leave a comment on the blogs of anyone who leaves a comment on this discussion to keep everyone in the loop (just make sure you fill in your URL field!)

    The Ning group is an interesting idea too — although I know some people are getting so overwhelmed with social networking online, that the thought of joining yet another one might be the last straw 😉

    So far, I connect with other scanners via Twitter with #R2C, and I also keep an eye on the scanner boards over at Would another group (Ning, Yahoo groups, Google groups, Facebook group, etc. are some options) be too much? Not sure…

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