URLs worth caring about

I like seeing URLs, whether in the link text or by hovering over a link. They are often truer to their content than what the person adding the link writes. I always have the status bar turned on in my browsers. It annoys me that there is no status bar on the iPad. It pleases me that Chrome shows URLs without taking up space for a status bar, by fading them in when hovering over a link. But a significant percentage of URLs aren’t worth a whole lot. They are either too long, or contain nothing identifying but numbers.

Some say that URLs will go away. But do they have to? If people still care about them, I don’t think so. That’s why we need URLs worth caring about. Just like we need buildings worth caring about, and neighborhoods worth caring about:

So how ’bout it?

(Yes, I realize that this blog’s urls suck, and don’t have to. I plan to change that soon.)

TailRank Has Comments

One of my favorite web apps for finding news is TailRank. TailRank indexes thousands of blogs, and shows news that is that is being discussed by lots of legitimate bloggers. On their page, there are a bunch of stories, each with one main blog and a sampling of other blogs that reference the story. If you click on a link, it shows all of the articles that were grouped with that story. Usually, on pages that make the front page, there’s somewhere between 5 and 50 links to blog entries per story. Things that lots of bloggers comment on tend to be interesting. For example, today I found the following articles:

Each of these has links to a bunch of blog entries where different bloggers weigh in about the stories. Some of the stories attract blog posts where arguments are made. Others attract blog posts where people uncover different tidbits of information. Most are a little of both.

There are other things to like about TailRank — it has a great UI and is based on great technology. There’s a lot of information to be had on the front page. This is made possible because TailRank is well-cached. It’s very smart about which posts it lets into the system, and it keeps out many poorly-written and spammy blog posts. The UI is beautiful, from an aesthetic standpoint. The colors are great and it’s uncluttered. There are visual snapshots of each post. All around it’s an amazingly neat product. For what it does, it does a great job.

The founder has done a very good job of setting up infrastructure and putting together a programming team with a minimal investment. At first, according to him in a podcast he did (which also contains information on the caching), it was just him and he did some outsourcing. Now, according to an article linked to on the TailRank blog, he’s got one developer working with him in person in San Francisco. They’ve just released an API for using their blog search engine (short article).

Since I’ve been spending too much time on reddit, I have started using TailRank more, because a higher percentage of its articles are interesting. I think this is because reddit lets people frivolously increase the ranking of stories that they agree with, even if they aren’t interesting. To write a decent blog post about a subject takes time.

Another nice thing from a productivity standpoint is that it lacks comments in the reddit/Digg sense. It is in itself, focused on comments, though. It is a bit more difficult to write comments. You have to have a blog with interesting content and get it recognized by the search engines.

In my opinion it’s the best way to write comments, though. The person on whose site you’re commenting can’t delete your comment, since it’s on your on blog. They can delete a trackback, but they can’t delete it on TailRank. It also makes it easy for other people to find what you’ve written. And, of course, it’s better for marketing, since it brings people to your website.

Thoughts on Closing Blog Comments

Right now I’m reading David Heinemeier Hansson’s Blog back to front, and it got me thinking:

It’s a common practice to close down blog comments after a certain amount of time, especially on popular sites. I noticed that DHH’s site still allows people to enter a comment and press submit, even on the oldest entries. I think it’s a good idea to encourage commenting on old posts, because someone who’s reading an old post might have some insight about it. But on the other hand, people just aren’t going to notice comments from an old post.

My idea is that after a month, instead of allowing someone to add to the old post, or just saying “comments are closed”, the old post should have a form for e-mailing the author. It could say something like this before the form:

The time has expired to leave comments on this page. However, you can still fill out a comment form and your comment will be sent to me via e-mail (with an automatic link to this post). It may even inspire a new blog entry!

I’m going to implement this for my blog after I change my blog engine (I’m planning to either grow my own in Ruby or move to Typo), but if you like this idea, feel free to implement it yourself.

Also, thank you elzr for giving me the idea to read DHH’s blog back to front.