Blogging and the future of USENET

2 minute read

I’ve been making occasional posts to this blog for almost 2 years now - I started at the beginning of March 2002. At that time, I was about as enthused about the publishing capabilities of Radio as I probably am today with FrontPage 2003. Last year, I moved from Radio to my own somewhat simple blog engine written in .NET against a SQL Server database. Although what I have is much more basic than I could get using one of the more established .NET blogging engines, I learned a lot from the exercise of putting mine together. I notice that Don Box posted recently to the same effect, and I’m keen to see what insights Don brings as he goes through this process again.

My goal in keeping a blog was to help myself keep track of things I’d found and to be able to go back and search for them later, a sort of online notebook. From time to time now I can think “I know I read something about that before and I must have blogged it.” Then I do a site search and it helps me find what I need. The fact that anyone else might be interested enough to read what I write was sort of a bonus really.

During the last 2 years, keeping track of the various blogs I read, and hence the use of an aggregator, has become an integral part of my professional life. Keeping up-to-date with what is new in the .NET development community has become much easier given the number of bloggers in this area. So much so, in fact, that I rarely drop into any NNTP news groups any longer. However, I frequently use Google Groups to search for people who might be having a particular problem I’m experiencing and, even better, to find others who have posted solutions. Whilst doing a normal web search on Google does sometimes find answers, there seems to be a much higher noise level than the results I get from Usenet searches. The problem, though, is that this suggests a potential imbalance.

If more and more people stop posting in news groups and start keeping blogs, and more and more people post answers either in comments or in their own blogs, then the usefulness of Google Groups looks set to diminish, at least for people in those communities. On the other hand, web searches won’t quite be so specific. It would be nice if Google had a blogs tab, but how to identify a site that is actually a blog? Maybe they could index syndication feeds (RSS and the like) and somehow link these through the permalinks to the actual pages that contain the content, flagging these pages as suitable for the “blog search”. Sure, there are a hell of a lot of people blogging about things that you probably don’t want to search for, and lots of news sites that aren’t really blogs, but it might be a nice experiment to see what value there could be in such a search tool.