Kinja dig it? Er? No.

by Suw on April 3, 2004

There?s been some chitchat on #joiito over the last day or so about the newly launched ?weblog guide? , so I thought I?d pop over and see what it?s all about.
Kinja is basically attempting to gather blog content in one spot and make it easier for blog readers to explore content that they may otherwise miss. As an idea, yeah, that?s fine and dandy, but the devil?s in the details and the execution of Kinja is pretty poor.
Just reading through the collections of blogs put together by Kinja?s editors, it becomes clear that their policy of excerpting blog posts and then providing a link to the full post on the authors original blog has a flaw or two.
Firstly, the excerpt is so short that one only get a feel for what the post is about if the author has written a summary in the first sentence. Most blog authors don?t put a hook in their first sentence, so many of the entries seem totally irrelevant or uninteresting.
Secondly, when you click on the ?read the rest? link, it takes you to that entry on the original blog. Now, whilst this is great for those blogs? traffic stats, it does mean a huge amount of too-ing and fro-ing from blog to Kinja to blog again. And because the blogs obviously don?t have a ?back to Kinja? link, it means that your browser?s back button gets to see a lot of action. Call me old fashioned, but reliance on the back button is not good design.
And of course, because you?re not going full circle, but back and forth, Kinja has no way of recording which blog posts you?ve read. Furthermore, the ?read the rest? links don?t change colour when you?ve visited them, so you don?t even have that to help you track which posts you?ve read.
Is that a big deal? Well, much of the blog material I read I instantly forget. That?s fine because blogs are suited to that sort of ephemeral use – read, enjoy, move on. But Kinja doesn?t allow for this at all and I can see that over repeated visits one could end up not begin able to distinguish at a glance what one had already read and what was new, particularly as the excerpts tend not to be that memorable.
Then there?s the problem of what happens when the blog you are sent to has a whole bunch of other posts on that page and you read not just the post that caught your eye, but all of the others too. Kinja has no way of knowing that, so when you go back to Kinja you have to manually weed out just which posts you?ve read and which you haven?t. Because posts excerpts from different blogs are all interspersed in one long list, that?s actually a bit of a pain in the neck.
Furthermore, there appears to be a sort of ?flocking? problem – posts from the same author appear to be timestamped together, as if the posts are stamped at the time that they are scraped, rather than with the time they were posted by the author. Maybe this isn?t the case, or it?s an artifact of the lists I looked at, but when I created my own list of five blogs, I noticed that not only did, say, Stuart Hughes? posts all flock together, but also that the timestamps were wildly off from when I know that they were actually posted.
If the idea of Kinja is to provide a list of posts from a number of specified blogs in reverse chron order, then mangling the timestamps so badly is none too clever.
Then there?s the issue of ads. I understand that there has to be some revenue stream for sites like Kinja. They have to have a business model which involves money coming in as well as going out. I also recognise that Kinja probably isn?t making money right now, and may never make money, but interspersing ads with other people?s blog posts sits uncomfortably with me. It?s as if they are trying to make money out of other people?s hard work and creativity.
If individual bloggers want to advertise on their site, that is of course their prerogative, but a site using free external content to raise advertising revenue sucks. Particularly as the very people who make Kinja even slightly viable – the bloggers themselves – are never going to see any of the money brought in by the ads that nestle next to their words.
Now, you might ask, who is Kinja for?

Kinja is not aimed at early adopters. Users wanting to analyze patterns of meme propagation, and other sophisticated data, should try the excellent Technorati.

So, Kinja are saying that Kinja is not for anyone who already has half an idea about blogs already, and then goes on to almost beg us ?early adopters? not to savage them.
I?m not sure how Kinja define ?early adopter?, but I?m guessing they mean bloggers/blog readers who are already comfortable with the medium. Creating a blog tool and then telling the people most likely to find your tool potentially interesting that it?s not for them seems a little strange to me. As there are over 2 million blogs being tracked on Technorati, that?s a lot of bloggers and readers to dismiss in one go.
So we?re left then with the people on the margins of the blogosphere – people how have heard the word ?blog? and are possibly blog-curious, but don?t really know any more than that.
Is Kinja really going to make finding your way through the blogosphere any easier? Well, your first click on a blog post is going to take you off Kinja to a real blog and if you can handle that, well, you can handle blogrolls and you can find your own way forward from there.
Anyone who can drive a mouse and has a degree of curiosity can navigate the blogosphere. It?s no harder than using Google. If anything, it?s easier because you?re basically in a part of the web that relies on word of mouth and personal recommendation and you discover new blogs by clicking on links given to you by authors you already trust.
If you?re looking for something specific or something new and different to your usual blog diet, then there are various indices and search engines which are a lot easier to use than Kinja. You can find new blogs using almost any method you like: keywords, rankings, links in, links out, parent/child/sibling blogs, similarity of content.
Kinja, instead, relies on human editors to pick what they consider to be the best blogs. The obvious flaw with this is that you are limited to their choices, which may not coincide with your tastes. It?s like listening to a radio station – if you?re lucky the DJ?s taste reflects your and they play stuff you like. If you?re not, they don?t and you?d be better off spending more time with your CD collection instead.
The fact is that there are so many blogs that no one can be so familiar with them all that they can actually bring you ?the best writers on the web?. This is what Kinja claims to do, but one look at Kinja?s tech list – which includes Boing Boing, Dan Gillmor and Dave Winer – shows that it?s not necessarily the best blogs that you?re getting from Kinja, it?s the most well known. Big difference.
So, if Kinja doesn?t actually make the process of discovering new blogs all that much easier in practical terms, what does it do? Is it an aggregator in portal?s clothing?
Kinja makes the point that it scrapes HTML, rather than using RSS feeds, and that ?no knowledge of RSS or syndication standards [is] required?. They also say that there is ?no reader application to download? and that Kinja is ?accessible from any computer?. I find this strange because I don?t see any of those as being problems in the blogosphere. I find that I can read blogs perfectly well without any knowledge of RSS at all, and I have yet to find a blog for which I needed a reader application or which was not accessible on other computers.
It's as if they?re trying to say ?We?re not an aggregator?, which is lucky, because as an aggregator Kinja sucks.
Kinja shows me the latest blog posts by my favourite bloggers. So does Bloglines.
Kinja doesn?t require knowledge of RSS standards. Neither does Bloglines.
Kinja doesn?t require the download of reader applications. Neither does Bloglines.
Kinja is accessible from any computer? oh, wait, let me think about this one?
The only thing that Kinja has over Bloglines is an ability to scrape HTML. And frankly, that?s not enough for me to start using Kinja instead of Bloglines. Now, I?m not saying that Bloglines is perfect, but it?s an aggregator, it knows it?s an aggregator and it aggregates perfectly well.
It seems to me that Kinja is trying to be a solution to a problem that doesn?t exist. If there is a problem that some people are having with blogs that Kinja solves, and solves better than anything else, please tell me, because I?m not seeing it. I know I?m not Kinja?s ?target market?, so maybe I am missing something really obvious here.
Or maybe Kinja is just two years too late.

Anonymous April 3, 2004 at 6:17 pm

I spent some time checking out Kinja yesterday too, and came to pretty much the same conclusions you did.
By way of contrast, I have been using Jaeger, a new aggregator (and then some) developed by David Janes of BlogMatrix fame.
Although it is still in beta, after only a week or so of using Jaeger, it has transformed and greatly enhanced the way I read weblogs–and other parts of the web as well.
With it I can drag a link of a weblog (or a weblog entry) that I'm interested in into J?ger's window and the proggie takes care of the rest–even if the particular resource doesn't have a syndication feed.
I can edit the view and change the way the weblogs appear in the “recently updated” list and “skip” items, entire weblogs, or categories. Skipped items disappear from the recently updated list, so when I go back to read later, i don't have to wade through items I have already read or decided I didn't want to look at.
I can even get my Jaeger installation at work to sync with my Jaeger setup on my home computer.
Remember some years back when it was in vogue to make fun of AOL users as totally clueless? Well Kinja seems like it was developed just for that sort of Internet user.

Anonymous April 4, 2004 at 7:43 am

I looked at Kinja before I read your review, and sent them an email saying “What do you have that BlogLines doesn't have?” So I concur with your review. Who is worthy to be a Kinja editor?
I have also played with Jaeger a little bit. Getting a feed by dragging and dropping is definitely clever.
I would be jazzed about an aggregator that tried to do some analysis of the text in the posts and suggested what is a big deal. Something like the capability of Blogdex embedded in one's aggregator.

Anonymous April 6, 2004 at 8:13 pm

Nice analysis. If Kinja is aimed at people who don't know about weblogs, how will they find out about Kinja?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: