Thanks to a gorgeous piece of serendipity which led me from here to here to discover a song called Brockwell Park by Red House Painters, I was reminded that I’ve been meaning to post a quick update on the local aggregation experiment I blogged about here.
Quick recap: using software set up by the clever Dave Cross, I set up three aggregation pages: Planets Herne Hill, SE27 and Dulwich. These are basically pulling in updates from the likes of Flickr, Twitter, Google search and a few other places. They’ve been running for five months now.
The dashboard looks like this:
That’s for the month to October 3 and, as you can see, visits are pretty low, barely two a day for the most popular planet, for Herne Hill. That doesn’t surprise me, actually. Google’s not giving these sites any love, because they’re just aggregators, and the shortage of billboard posters around London will have alerted you to my minimal marketing spend.
So, what am I learning? Well, a few things:
- permanence is even more important than I ever realised. Without permanence, Google ignores you. And if Google ignores you, the world ignores you (are you listening, regulators?)
- the most useful part of these sites is the RSS feed. It’s a joy to consume every day, and ironically it makes the content less ephemeral. The web pages are only constructed to show the n latest things from all the sources; if I wanted to, the RSS feed could keep them forever. I’m wondering if some secondary processing of the feeds might be useful, to generate something with more permanence at a URI.
- there’s a lot of noise in the system. I’m thinking it needs some functionality to screen out certain types of things. Finding out that people I’ve never heard of are going jogging in Brockwell Park isn’t very useful.
- on the other hand, despite the noise and the mess, the Planets score very highly on timeliness. When someone was stabbed on Lordship Lane over the summer, it was on Planet Dulwich hours before it was any media outlet. In fact, I was told about it when someone told me they’d seen it on Planet Dulwich. It’s not citizen journalism; it’s citizen awareness.
- the shock of recognition is as strong as ever. Seeing a street name, or a shop, or a restaurant I know well, or the name of a pub I go to, inside a piece of media draws you into the content like nothing else I’ve seen.
I’d like to share the Analytics data more systematically. Anyone know how to do that?