Interview with Blogniscient Founder Ben Ruedlinger

I was first introduced to Blogniscient via an email from its creator, Ben Ruedlinger. Blogniscient intrigued me because it attempts to distill the blogosphere’s biggest buzz for categories like politics, technology, and entertainment via its proprietary Article Ranking System. In layman’s terms, Blogniscient provides a snapshot of what bloggers are talking about, somewhat similar to memeorandum.

Blogniscient Screenshot Ben passes through Washington D.C. quite often and as a result, we’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat at length about Blogniscient. I planned this interview with him over a month ago but he’s actually become my client since then. Thus, I’ve edited out my “what’s next” questions because I’ve assisted Ben with what’s planned for Blogniscient in the coming weeks and beyond and it’s more than exciting.

As usual, this interview occurred via email. Enjoy and stay tuned for some breaking Blogniscient news by subscribing to my feed.

Ben, what is Blogniscient? How long have you been working on it?

I originally came up with the idea for Blogniscient in December of 2004. During the elections, I started reading quite a few blogs. Even using RSS, I quickly found it to be too time-consuming to keep up with all of them. This led me to the idea for a service that would aggregate and rank blog information in different areas. The purpose of the service would be to extract the most compelling entries and display them in an easy-to-use format.

I soon realized that in addition to providing an efficient interface to the Blogosphere for seasoned blog readers, Blogniscient would be an ideal medium for introducing the multitudes of people who are not familiar with blogs to this invaluable source of information.

Thus, Blogniscient was born with the goal of providing a bird’s eye view of the Blogosphere. Blogniscient’s Article Ranking System (ARS) continuously scores each of the articles within various blogs as the information propagates throughout the Blogosphere. The top blog articles and top blogs are presented by category in a simple yet rich interface.

At any given time, readers can quickly and conveniently get an overview of the hot topics in a particular category, and zero in on the information they want to learn more about.

How is Blogniscient different than a blog search engine like IceRocket or user generated news services like digg?

The most common methods for finding information are searching and browsing. Searching is an extremely powerful approach when looking for information on a particular topic, such as the 2003 GDP of Uganda.

Browsing, on the other hand, is the method of choice for finding out about the latest developments. Browsing provides exposure to a broad collection of information at a high level, and allows users to locate topics of interest for further exploration. As an example, I visit news.cnet.com to find out what is happening today in the tech world. Of the 20 available articles, I may skim 2 or 3 of them. If one is particularly interesting to me, I may then search for more information on that topic.

While services like IceRocket, Google Blogsearch, and Technorati provide the ‘search’ functionality within the Blogosphere, Blogniscient’s goal is to provide the ‘browse’ capability.

The latest stats I found from the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that only 27% of American adults have ever read a blog with 5% doing so on a typical day. Is there a reason why more people aren’t reading them? Will Blogniscient somehow reach out to those who are not part of the blogosphere?

Blogs have been all over the news and are even featured regularly on mainstream media outlets like CNN. There is an amazing amount of high quality information and analysis available on blogs that cannot be found anywhere else. So why aren’t more people reading them? First, most people don’t know where to go to find blogs. Second, people don’t have a clear understanding of why the information contained in blogs is valuable to them.

To understand how to solve these issues, it is helpful to look at the adoption of the World Wide Web. When the Web was first gaining mainstream popularity (circa 1996), Yahoo!’s Directory provided an organized starting point for people to browse and explore the available information. Millions of people took advantage and quickly came to understand the value of the Web. Blogniscient aims to give similar structure to the highest quality information in the Blogosphere, thereby allowing people to explore the space and to see the value of the information contained therein.

Memeorandum has really captured the attention of those in technical circles because it “it uncovers the most relevant items from thousands of news sites and weblogs.” At first glance, Blogniscient appears to be doing the same thing or something very similar. From our previous discussions though, you seem to have a different approach and different goal with Blogniscient. Can you speak to those differences and your Blogniscient vision?

One of Blogniscient’s main objectives is to allow users to readily find high quality information that is relevant to their interests. As such, Blogniscient strives to provide a broader representation of the Blogosphere than sites like Memeorandum. While Blogniscient’s coverage is currently limited to four main categories (US Politics, Science and Technology, Sports, and Entertainment), our goal is to create a comprehensive directory of the Blogosphere. In addition to adding more top-level categories, we intend to expand the structure of the existing categories to encompass more sub-categories. Ultimately we would like to provide extensive listings for each sub-category, to the point where we have (for example) a separate sub-category for each major sport, and a separate area for each Major League team within that sport. (If this seems extreme, consider that there are over 50 blogs dedicated to covering the Chicago Cubs alone!)

By categorizing and ranking the information at this level we will empower readers to easily locate the best material on all of their favorite topics.

Quickly summarize for me the biggest challenge Blogniscient currently faces and how you hope to address it.

Blogniscient’s biggest challenge lies in reaching the many people who don’t currently read blogs. We will continue to expand our areas of coverage and refine our rankings, in hopes that word about the quality of our product will continue to spread as it has since our beta launch last month. In addition, we would like to partner with some of the mainstream television and online content providers, to allow their viewers and readers to harness the power of the Blogosphere.

How about giving the readers a couple of hints about the exciting Blogniscient changes they can expect to see in the coming weeks?

Well, without saying too much, there are many changes in the works. We are making a number of improvements in direct response to the valuable user feedback we receive daily. To encourage even more feedback, we’re making some changes that will allow us to communicate more effectively with users. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are expanding the site with an eye toward our goal of being the portal into the Blogosphere. We hope that users will find the site valuable and will tell others about it.