Improving Blog Discoverability with Shared Categories and Tags

Just an idea we have been thinking of funding for the blogs.msdn site to improve the discoverability of bloggers and posts that may be more relevent to you.  I’m interested in knowing what you all think.  Is this a problem worth solving? Is there a simpler solution?

To give credit, part of this scenario comes from a conversation I was having with Scott. Another part comes from all the hype around tagging and folksonomies.

Problem Statement
One customer problem with the current blog sites is that of discoverability. There are over 1k bloggers on the blogs.msdn site that all submit posts that end up on the main blogs.msdn page.  This dilutes the main page and makes it difficult for customers to discover posts that may be of interest to them. 

Consider the plight of a VB device developer.  He hears about these cool Microsoft blogs on so he goes to our main blog page as millions of others do per month. Once his is there, however, he only sees posts about SQL server, C++ development, help wanted recruiting ads, etc.  He never discovers the great blog posts from the device teams because they had not posted within the last 2 hours to be on the main page. 

Proposed Solution
Expose “shared blog categories”. This would enable blogger A and blogger B to both create a category for “Devices”. The Devices category would then be exposed in a blog category list off of the main blog page.  The VB device developer would see the category list, find the recent posts in that category, and be able to subscribe to only the “devices” category feed that would contain any posts that blog authors attributed to the “devices” category. 

Other Specifics

Blog Home Page Updates
1. The blogs.msdn home page would expose both a list of the top 10 categories in the left hand nav sorted by the number of posts made to the category within the last X days.  This would make the popular categories immediately discoverable.  Users could click on a category to see the posts within that category or subscribe to that RSS feed. 

2. The blogs.msdn home page would link to an “all categories” page that exposed a sorted list of all the categories.

The “All Categories Page” Experience.
It would include a page (this might need to be multiple pages depending on the # of blogs and categories…be we can cross that later) which will include all of the categories in the site.
ASP.NET (3), ASP.NET Dev (1), Blogging (4) , Blogs (3), etc
Clicking on each category would list all of the blogs which had this category. If the user where blogger a list of their available blogs without this category would be listed below. From here, it would be one click to add this category to his/her blog.

ASP.Net has three blogs:
Betsy’s Blog
Josh’s Blog
ScottGu’s Blogs
Your available blogs (only if you are a blogger on the site)
Bill Gates [Add this Category]
MS Executive Blog [Add this Category]

In addition, if the user is a blogger on the site, there would also be a way of notifying them about another category:
ASP.Net has three blogs:
[ ] Betsy’s Blog
[ ]Josh’s Blog
[ ]ScottGu’s Blogs
Notify the selected bloggers about a similarly named category (or suggest a new name) _____________ [Submit]
It would also be helpful to enable categories to be sorted by # Blogs, # Posts, Alphabetically.

Comments (12)

  1. tlmii says:

    I like this idea a lot. I spend most of my time on the site by either perusing the main listing of recent posts or following through link-by-link from blogger-to-blogger.

    I am positive there are some blogs i havent’ discovered yet that would interest me. I think this would help.

  2. TAG says:

    Post archives in RSS form.

    At the moment it’s possible to read in RSS latest posts only – willing to read all of them.

  3. craigrow says:

    This sounds good, the current is pretty much useless and likely turns away more potential users than it brings in, but how would it be different from the Microsoft Community Blogs search tool?

  4. Alex says:

    Just give bloggers the freedom to do free-form tags. No need to have a taxonomy or anything, most of the people will feel contrained by it. Perhaps when you have enough tags, create tag maps and tag ontologies.

  5. Kinlan says:

    Is there anyway that you can go with the Technorati model of tagging. Except that it would be central to your own systems. Then each developer can tag what they think are the important topics and your system will pick up this. You could have list maps of the most common tags or most prolific blogger.

    The tagged text would point to your own central directory of tags. Each of the tags can be RSS feeded so that if I want to see what is happening for a topic I just subscribe to it. You would suffer less from tag spam too because it would only be your own guys posting to the blogs.

    I like the idea of blog author created categories rather than a centrally created list of topics that are decided by people other than the people editing their blogs.

  6. MSDNArchive says:

    Timii: Thanks!

    Tag: That’s a totally separate, but also a good request.

    Craigrow: That’s a good question. There are two issues with the current community blog portal. 1. It’s a manual sign up process. 2. Its limited to our larger product taxonomies (It stops at the VS level, for example). This idea gives the bloggers more freedom.

    Alex: This is essentially what we will be doing. Converting the blog categories from Community server into tags for each post. Then the additional work described is designed to let readers sift through the content for each tag and let bloggers find tags they should be contributing to.

    Kinlan: This is what I’m proposing… blog author technorati style tags that are scoped to the blog sites. I’m not yet talking about letting all the site visitors do the tagging… they can do that already with services like delicious.

  7. Max Nokhrin says:

    I think that will be a nice add-on. For me, the most difficult thing is when an entry goes into the archives and I don’t remember the username or didn’t bookmark it. I’ve no way of finding it ever again. I tried the search once to try to find the post, but it came back with a lot of other posts. So maybe a nice and easy way to scroll through all blogs off the front page?

  8. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    1) sort by culture. As a French person, I value French bloggers ten times more than others, from a pure community perspective.

    2) threading (simply an extension of the category lists you mention) within the page

    3) archive support

  9. I definitely like the idea. I would love the ability to subscribe to just the "Team System" blog posts, for example. Currently, I subscribe to the entire feed, which usually leads me to pour through 100+ posts to find just a couple I am interested in.

  10. Go for it! It would be great to have that. Also, as a blogger myself, I think it would be nice if the implementation you choose is something other bloggers or at least other .Text or Community Server bloggers can easily implement on their blogs, like an extension type of thing. There are a lot of people blogging about MS technologies and I think there is a some value to consistency, for instance if all bloggers consistently have a ‘Team System’ category for their VSTS posts as opposed to some having categories named VSTS, others Team Foundation, etc. we could eventually have tools that would exploit that consistency in a positive way. In other words (and much shorter) whatever you do, don’t do it having only in mind.

  11. This post goes out to anyone at the Online Community Summit that happened upon my blog today. It’s likely