I have a dream (of social bookmarking)!

By Alex King
Back in the end of 2007, half a year after Google Reader had launched the sharing feature, I had an idea of a new service that would aggregate all the shared items and sort them according to the number of times one post was shared.

As it usually happens with the new ideas, somebody else had it too, and, most importantly, made it real before I had even started coding (actually, I had, but just a few lines). In a short while, a second similar aggregator appeared and, today, we are fortunate to have ReadBurner and RssMeme.

The two services, both dear to me,  have a lot in common with one notable exception: RssMeme employs a kind of spider to find and aggregate shared items  while ReadBurner is an opt in service.

In due course, other feed readers were added as sources: Bloglines, Netvibes, Newgator etc. and RssMeme went  a bit further querying known services to find out whether an article had been bookmarked in any way.

The idea that what one shares through his feed reader is actually a vote or a recommendation is pretty solid, and, once a big number of sharers is reached, the power of statistics comes to play: the articles that emerge to the top are the ones that people truly feel are important. Isn’t this the essence of social bookmarking? And isn’t it also true that this essence is actually gamed in the digg like sites by a rather small group of people, despite the huge influx of traffic these sites enjoy?

One short  visit to Readburner or RssMeme reveals though, that the articles that rise to the top, have been shared by such a small number of people that, with  equal diggs, they would never see the light of day in digg.

Which leads to the conclusion that either the people who share are not that many, or they have not been included in the two aggregators yet.

Speaking of numbers, how many people really use Google Reader? I tried to google the question but came with no answer. I tried to google also the ‘google reader market share’, but came with no recent data either.

Without an idea of how many people use feed readers and share, it is  pretty hard to make any predictions or recommendations. Yet, if we assume that it is only because it is too early  (less than a year) that the sharing culture hasn’t spread and that it, eventually, will, we can fantasize one implication:

Some clever engineer will think of incorporating the share-votes into digg: a little bit of matching (is the sharer a digg user, and has the shared post been dugg already etc) and there you go.

But would that be a good thing?

Yes, it would. Because it would instill the democratic element of Readburner/RssMeme into digg. And, democracy is a good thing, isn’t it?

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Readburner chicklets for WordPress.com blogs

This is not a how to blog, but, as it is still under construction, I will blog about all the little tricks I apply here, that might have some use for the rest of the wordpress.com folks.

Here is a little nice one.

Problem:

Readburner is a service that aggregates all blogposts shared in NewsGator Online, Google Reader and Netvibes.

By counting the number of shares, it creates a popularity list. In effect, this is a truly democratical social bookmarking system, without the hickups of Digg and its likes.

Readburner provides its users with some nice widgets in the form of little chicklets, that display essential statistical measures.

The chicklets come in three flavors:

  • Item of a specific user (i.e. his share page) registed with Readburner.
  • Items authored by someone.
  • Items of a specific source (say, a blog with many authors).

Readburner provides some javascript code that allows anyone to generate the chicklets for his part.

Now, I wanted to put such a readburner chicklet in my sidebar, but I stumbled on the usual wordpress.com problem: no javascript allowed.

Solution:

Since javascript is not allowed, we have to find a way of displaying the chicklet through pure html.

Let’s see what a chicklet is composed of:

  • an image (the colored rectangle of the chicklet)
  • a number (the counted items)
  • a link (the link to the relevant page in readburner)

As a matter of fact, the number is in the image, so we have to find just two things: the image url and the link url.

  • User.

( The number here is my number from the google reader shared items url http://www.google.com/reader/shared/11232096483858520222.

You have to figure out yours, and replace this one):

The required urls are of the following type:

Image: http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?user=11232096483858520222

Link: http://readburner.com/u/11232096483858520222

and the actual html code should be:

<a href=”http://readburner.com/u/11232096483858520222″&nbsp; target=”_blank” title=””>

<img src=”http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?user=11232096483858520222&#8243; alt=””/>

</a>

which produces:

 

  • Author:

Image: http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?author=Nikos%20Anagnostou

Link: http://readburner.com/u/Nikos Anagnostou

and the actual html code should be:

<a href=”http://readburner.com/u/Nikos Anagnostou” target=”_blank” title=””>

<img src=”http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?author=Nikos%20Anagnostou&#8221; alt=””/>

</a>

which produces:

 

  • Source:

Image: http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?source=webtropic

Link: http://readburner.com/source/webtropic

and the actual html code should be:

<a href=”http://readburner.com/source/webtropic&#8221; target=”_blank” title=””>

<img src=”http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?source=webtropic&#8221; alt=””/>

</a>

which produces:

 

To figure out the proper links for yourselves, first of course you have to add your shared items url in readburner. Then replace your name, blog name or user id in the above code and paste it in a text widget in wordpress.

As I said, I am using Google Reader. The other services might have some slight variations in the url schemes, I did not bother to check. Please do for yourselves.

Good luck and ..happy sharing!