I have been working hard and furious on the next generation of POP Rage. Originally I had designed the site to be a one-a-day article about pop culture. The idea was that if you didn't have time to scour all the popular sites on the Internet, you could come to POP Rage and see the 1 story that mattered for the day. The one thing that everyone would be talking about tomorrow. It didn't work out that way. The first few articles were about what was hot that day. Of course if it were hot there were already a billion articles about it and it was super well covered. So the question became, 'what makes this site different?'
To fix this perceived problem we started covering things that nobody else was covering or things that hadn't been covered in a while. We did some great articles but finding subject matter became difficult. The problem was if it were something nobody else was covering; how could it be a pop subject? We did some great articles in this format. Staring with an article about Mashups. Then moving on to subjects like, image generators, celebrities with blogs, and one about why celebrities seem to move frequently.
The articles were great but didn't generate much interest from the cold cruel world. So I decided it was time for a change. Of the topics that we covered the two most popular were 'blogging with the stars' and 'your locks are unsafe and useless.' The one about celebrities who blog caught my eye.
I decided that a really neat thing would be to have a site that cataloged celebrity blogs. Not bloggers who became celebrities but rather celebrities who became bloggers. I thought this would be a good resource because while I was researching the 'blogging with the stars' article I discovered how hard it is to track down quality celebrity bloggers. I ran in to un-official blogs that claimed to be official. Found sites that used to be actively maintained but had been abandoned. And kept running into sites where it seemed like a publicists told someone, 'you need to blog to reach these kids today,' the celeb did but only for the duration of that promotion.
I remembered how much I was impressed by Wil Wheaton's blog and thought 'how about not just listing the blog, but telling people how good it is?' This is what gave me the full idea for the celebrity blog rank.
So I set out not only to catalog the blogs but to rank them. How do you rank a blog for quality? Turns out it is pretty difficult. One of the easiest things to measure is frequency of posting. (That is if they have an RSS feed.) I decided this was the most important factor in determining rank. Next I thought about the problems with sites that are not blogged by the celeb themselves but rather by an agent. I didn't want to discriminate against these sites but rather wanted sites that were made by the celeb to rank higher. (Or at least that seem to be by them.) So I added some qualitative measurement to the formula. Things like: "How often does the celeb respond to fans?", "Is the blog just — I will be here on this date and here is what I am working on — or is it here is how I feel about what I'm working on" and "does the celeb allow fans to comment or discuss on their site?" Moby as an example not only has a board where people can chat but he even goes so far as to try to allow it to be self moderating.
Now the tech. The site is basically a RSS aggregator. The feeds are collected and analyzed in a 6 hour cycle that updates something every few minutes. A cron script runs lynx. Lynx pulls up a page that that sets off the update. Why do it this round about way rather than call the php script directly? Logs. The PHP script downloads the feed parses it with Magepie and stores the results in a MySQL database. Then another script is called that runs an analysis of all the data not only from that rss but from previous ones. I wanted to judge frequency not only on the few items in the RSS but over longer periods of about a month. Once these scripts run and determine an new rank for the blog the master table is updated to reflect the new rank. No ground breaking tech. Actually the tech side is fairly boring on this project.
So there it is. The why and how of the celebrity blog ranking. Will it do better than the article-a-day POP Rage? We will see.