Monday, March 26, 2007

Recommending blogs for new Blog Watch

The Forum editor is going to put together a weekly Blog Watch article. If you know of a blog post that should be considered, send an e-mail to Gary Reed at or use the form here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Analysis of the Blog Watch project

Below are a couple of spreadsheets that examine the blog watch content generated by the project.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Best 25 Regional Blogs

There is a Web site called Sacramento's Top 25, which was one of the first Sacramento-focused sites I found when I first started looking for regional blogs to monitor. What I need today is a list of the Best 25 Regional Blogs.

The editor of the Forum section wants to continue the Blog Watch feature, but without having to monitor more than 300 regional blogs. So he has asked me to produce a list of the 25 blogs most likely to produce copy that would work in a typical Blog Watch article.

The desired blog posts would be short (less than 400 words since the whole column gets less than 800 words in all), well-written and focused on a personal experience with a regional topic. These are guidelines, not rules. A very funny regional post on a national topic isn't out of bounds.

In the next few days, I'm going to research which blogs I used between July 30 and March 18 and come up with my own prediction of where the best written local posts can be expected.

If you have a favorite blog that's regional (see the list; if its regional -- Stockton to the Oregon border, Fairfield to Tahoe -- and not there let me know) add a comment below this post. I'll gather these up and talk about them in the future.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Changes at ipsoSacto

Close observers will note a couple of major changes at

1. The main page includes unfiltered regional blog content.

2. The Sacramento Bee Blog Watch article connection to has been severed.

When was created I had several hours each day during work hours to devote to this project. That time has been progressively reduced until today it amounts to minutes stolen here and there.

In an effort to keep some relevance in the remaining site, I have stopped the pretense of manually reviewing all of the blogs and sorting them into categories. The time interval between updates had stretched as long as 20 hours. That's just not useful.

Each of the more than 300 blogs that are monitored have been given a basic topic label. These labels represent individual feeds that flow automatically from Google Reader. If a blog has a specific focus, it has been labeled. For instance, the SacPD blog has the label "crime" and "localgov." Each time the feed created by the SacPD blog gets updated, Google Reader updates the stream for "crime" and "localgov." When you click on the "Crime and Law Enforcement" button on the front page, you will see the latest blog posts. Before this change, you wouldn't see these posts until the next manual update occurred.

Most of the blogs don't have an identifiable topic. These blogs have been given the "general" label. Clicking on "All the rest -- unsorted" gets you an eclectic sampling of the regional blogs.

Manual updates will continue, but they will be less frequent and may be less thorough. As I review the posts, I will add additional appropriate labels. For instance, a "politics" blog that posts a discussion of the 2008 presidential primary, will be added to the "2008" category. A "general" blog that comments on the happenings in midtown will be added to "citylife."

Below the category buttons at the top of the site is a notice telling when the last manual update occurred.

This lack of time to thoroughly read the blogs each day during work has made it impossible to continue to be responsible for producing the article in The Bee's Forum section.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Blog Watch disappointment

It is necessary that you first read this Blog Watch article from The Bee's Forum section.
Fridays are exhausting, and coming off two days in bed with a nasty bug I was numb this Friday as I slogged through my daily tasks. So I will admit that a deep dread greeted the news that the Blog Watch article I had put together "didn't work."

As I have explained before (see here), I see myself as the victim of a one-armed bandit that eats my free time and then tosses back a few coins when it senses I might get up and leave (see The Fever). The occasional success of putting together a fun article provides just enough reward to keep me monitoring the regional blogs.

The problem this week? A matter of expectations vs. the reality of the regional blogs.

Last week, the Blog Watch article featured a tale of winter fishing, an explanation of life, death and reincarnation and a discussion of the south Sacramento crime wave. The week before featured the experience of watching the bike race, a psycho chicken and other strictly personal themes.

These locally focused blog posts have become the favorite for the Sunday article. This is a major change from the original idea for the Blog Watch column and has evolved over a period of weeks. (See this discussion.)

It was against this expectation that this week's discussion of Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot and a national columnist's discussion of homosexuality grated.

After 19 years of defending my selection of letters to the editor I'm not a rookie when it comes to explaining the decision process that produces a particular package.

Ann Coulter, I explained, has been a very real subject of discussion in the regional blogs, so much so that I created a "What's Hot" category of Ann Coulter. In addition, I felt the first blog did a very good job of making its point. The next post, which technically isn't regional, offers a quick and direct defense of Coulter. Both posts were well within lengths that could be made to work in the very limited space available for the column.

The blog post about New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch's analysis of Tim Hardaway's egregious “I hate gay people” comments qualified as local in my book because the column had been reprinted in The Bee.

Together, the three also worked well as a package.

And the bottom line: I don't write the blog posts considered for publication. In my reading, which admittedly was circumscribed by two days in a sick bed, I didn't see any of the preferred posts, at least not with enough shelf life to last until Sunday and short enough to be useful.

Since this discussion took place after the article was already edited and ready for publication, the exigencies of producing the Sunday section weighed on my side and the article went ahead as proposed.

But I'm not home free. It has been suggested that an "introduction" or "explanation" should now be added at the top of each weekly roundup, presumably so that readers expecting the more personal posts won't be put off by unexpected content.

More problematic was the additional suggestion that each blogger should be introduced with a brief explanation of who they are. This might work for those blogs that have detailed "about" pages, but this just wouldn't work for many of the bloggers who have been featured in the past.

I am loathe to embrace any concept that eats up even more of the already limited space for the Blog Watch article, and I see very limited value in turning the blog roundup into a personal column about blogs.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Back to the salt mine

Two days in bed (with brief waking periods that coincided with the Champions League schedule) and its back to the salt mine. I need to figure out something else to put on the front page if I'm not going to have time to update the "best" feed. Today, it was 21 hours between updates.

The default categories sort automatically, but they are usually too broad -- politics, business. And then there are the hundreds of blogs without any general category. I think I will work on putting every blog into some category, if it's just "personal" and then my "value added" will be the subcategories and the "what's hot" feature. Of course, those still suffer if I don't have time, but the other stuff will gain some value.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Sick days

Updates at will be intermittent over the next couple of days. I'm home sick. I still need to find a couple more ideas for Sunday's Blog Watch column.

(And, no, my illness doesn't have anything to do with the Champions League schedule.)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Football Sunday

On Sundays I enjoy getting up before everyone else and settling in the family room to watch English Premier League football live on the Fox Soccer Channel.

Today's match wasn't expected to be much of a game. West Ham United is last in the table, with every indication that they will be relegated to the lower Championship League. West Ham was playing host to Tottenham Hotspur, who sit eighth in the standings.

Since the game's outcome seemed a foregone conclusion, what held my interest at the start was how well West Ham's Argentine striker, Carlos Tevez, would perform. Tevez, who played for Argentina in the World Cup, made a name for himself first with Boca Juniors in Argentina and then in Brazil with Corinthians. Since arriving at West Ham he has been a glaring disappointment, failing to score a single goal. On the occasions when I have watched him, his performance has been uninspired. There would be moments of skill. After all there is a reason why he is touted as the "new Diego Maradona." But for me he always appeared to spend too much time whining about not getting the ball and not enough time chasing down the ball himself.

But today it was the "new Diego Maradona" on the pitch and joining him was a squad that looked every bit up to the challenge. The game was made even more enjoyable by a referee who was willing to allow some very physical play on both sides.

In the first half it was hard to understand how the West Ham players could be the same guys who had not won a game in 11 matches. And it was equally hard to see why they had such trouble scoring. Sixteen minutes into the match, Tevez chested a ball to an on-rushing Mark Noble, who fired a low, powerful shot past the keeper and into the corner of the net.

Then in the 41st minute, Tevez was fouled just outside the 18-yard box and awarded a free kick.

Tottenham set up a wall of its tallest players in front of the goal, but Tevez expertly struck the ball so that soared over the wall and dipped down just under the cross bar and over the outstretched fingers of the Tottenham goalie.

I have never seen a goal celebration like Tevez put on. He took off his shirt, waved it in the air as he ran to the stands behind the goal. He leaped over the field boundary ad wall and into the arms of the cheering West Ham fans. Tevez literally disappeared in the crush of bodies as security personnel attempted to reach him and pull him to safety.

It is simply hard to imagine a person who makes as much money as Tevez for playing football demonstrating such overwhelming enthusiasm, and especially his tribute to the fans.

The West Ham goalie did his part to keep Tottenham off the score sheet, and with the score 2-0 at the half there appeared reason to hope for a stunning upset. But six minutes into the second half, Tottenham was awarded a penalty kick that former West Ham player Jermain Defoe easily converted into a goal.

A side that wins many games can weather a challenge. A side that lacks faith wilts, and that's what happened to West Ham. In the 63rd minute Tottenham found its equalizer and it looked like a miracle would be needed to keep Tottenham from finding the winner.

But then, with five minutes left in regulation time, West Ham was awarded a free kick well outside the penalty area. Tevez took the kick and sent the ball looping high toward the far end of the six-yard box where Bobby Zamora rose high to head the ball forcefully into the net.

But West Ham could hold the lead for just three minutes before Tottenham found another equalizer.

The score was 3-3 when it was announced that four additional minutes of stoppage time would be added. Both sides did their best to put the game away as the minutes ticked off. But for some reason the referee didn't call the game at 94 minutes and instead let play continue. Then, with 95 minutes showing on the clock, West Ham made what was surely to be the final effort on goal, only to see Tottenham launch a counterattack that saw Defoe fire a shot on goal that West Ham's goalie could only block, spilling the ball into the path of Paul Stalteri, who knocked it into the open net for the game winner.

As the BBC story after the game pointed out: It was a dramatic and cruel end to the game for West Ham.

It was certainly a memorable Sunday of football for me.

Friday, March 2, 2007

A matter of time

The Blog Watch voting is fun. The random blog page is amusing. The Watch List of all the regional blogs is useful. But what about all of that stuff on the front page of -- the stream of "live" content?

The whole reason was built was to create practical applications. But just how practical is "live" content that's more than 13 hours old?

In theory, content could be streamed unfiltered. The timeliness would be controlled by how often the bloggers update their feeds. Everyone would be getting the stuff at the same time. There are two problems with that: sorting by topic and what I will classify as suitability. Many blogs could be categorized as "personal," but they also contain "politics" and "citylife" and "schools" content. Suitability encompasses the issue of profanity, taste and other value judgments. A lot has changed in the decision of what's interesting (see this Blog Watch project post), but does anyone outside the immediate family care about the indoor soccer game?

So far, the only way to deal with those issues is to have a real person (me) read (or at least skim) everything. This does provide an additional value to the content when it is timely. But when it is not timely, it devalues the entire effort.

On a weekend such as today, I can fit in a few minutes here and few minutes there and keep up with the flow of new blog posts that Google Reader identifies for me. But on work days, I'm limited to breaks between my regular production work. And those breaks have become much fewer and much shorter.

Last week was a good example of why the original idea to create live feeds of regional blog content just can't be done if I'm the only one working on the project.

Monday should be the day with the most opportunity to monitor the blogs. Certainly, it is not as bad as, say, a Thursday or a Friday. But last Monday I didn't have any time to look at the blogs until 12:40 p.m. -- 15 hours after the last time I looked at the blogs Sunday night at home. Wednesday wasn't much better -- 14 hours until 12:40 p.m. And Friday was a disaster. I didn't have a chance to even look at the blogs until after 5 p.m. and didn't clear the day's posts until well after I got home.

And what about all of this time I'm working on this at home?

OK, so its a hobby that also has some application at work. I should either quit monitoring the blogs or quit whining about it.