When I wrote my Kinja post last week, I was starting off from a bias-free point of view. I?d really heard nothing about Kinja prior seeing it being mentioned in #joiito, and I had no expectations of what it would be or should be.
The thing that really foxed me, having spent some time playing about with it, was that I couldn?t see the point to Kinja. To me, it didn?t do anything new or interesting or useful. It?s not better than any of the other sites that I habitually use – it can?t currently replace Bloglines, Technorati or BlogRolling.
But then I read Tom Coates? Kinja review and Engadgeted?s review, and suddenly I could see what Kinja could become, that is, if Nick Denton has the smarts to figure it out and implement it.
Tom?s dead right. What Kinja provides is a way for people without blogs (and thus, without a public blogroll) to put together a list of blogs that they like and then share it with their friends. In order to have a public blogroll you really do need somewhere to publish it, and if you?re a blog reader rather than a blog writer you are not necessarily going to have that option available to you. What Kinja does is allow you to collate your blogs in one spot and make them easily available to whomever you so wish. Public aggregation. Yeah, I can go with that.
It is a shame, however, that Kinja?s most useful function, and what should be their USP, is so heavily obscured by the mistake they?ve made of thinking that they are somehow a portal into the blogosphere and that their purpose is to introduce people to the ?best? ?new? blogs. The editors' choices are a smokescreen. (I don?t need to go on here about how these choices are skewed by the blogosphere?s power law – you all should get it by now that those with most links get most traffic and thus more links.)
Instead, Kinja should look more closely at how they can encourage blog readers (we need a word to distinguish blog readers from blog writers? the blaudience? Clumsy, but it will do for now) to form their own communities, sharing blogrolls and favourite reads and posts of note. The blaudience need to be able to interact with each other in a much more flexible and visible way than they currently can.
This is where Kinja could come in. They could provide ways for the blaudience to categorise their favourite blogs, to highlight specific blogs or posts that they feel are worthy of other people?s attentions, they could provide forums for people to discuss and promote their blog lists, they could provide a wider community on the Kinja site. And then, like Orkut or Friendster or IRC or whatever social arena you care to mention, they could draw people in not because of the blogs but because of the conversations they can have there, the connections they can make.
Of course, Kinja will have to move a bit faster than they have done so far in order to capitalise on the opportunity that is now laid at their feet. It would only take Bloglines or Blogrolling to latch on to this idea and release this sort of functionality, and Kinja?s toast. This is particularly true considering the still unresolved usability issues which could serve to drive users away from Kinja once the first flush of novelty has worn off.
One thing that Kinja has done for me, though, is force me to re-evaluate how I use both Bloglines, Blogrolling and browser bookmarking. I recently transferred the majority of my links from a whole heap of places where I?d ferreted them away into Blogrolling, and putting my Blogroll in my browser sidebar means that I can now don?t need my bookmarks anymore.
Bloglines I have now started using not just for aggregating blogs I?m interested in reading, but work-related RSS feeds as well, mainly news. Not a big leap of logic, but a change in usage habits which indicates the extent to which blogs and RSS feeds permeate my life, both leisure and professional.
All I need now is either for Blogrolling to create Bloglines-like functionality where a blog stays marked as ?new? until you?ve read it instead of for a defined period of time, or for Bloglines to start scraping HTML, (one thing that I do like about Kinja is that it can scrape HTML, however badly), and to give me the option of viewing the blog in its native form instead of the RSS feed. Then this whole task of keeping on top of blogs would become much, much easier, and not just on the eye.
Overall, I see future convergence between not just the sites I?ve mentioned, but probably a few others too. The winner (i.e. survivor) is going to be the site that really thinks hard about how people use blogs, finds out how they would use blogs if they were given the opportunity, and then acts upon that information in a timely and effective manner.
If Kinja even wants to be in the running, they need to get their fingers out of their arse and start observing how the blogosphere works in reality instead of trying to impose their version of reality onto the blogosphere.