Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Technorati: cosmos, and watchlists






This post is an introduction to "Cosmos" and "watchlists" as used by the blogosphere search engine Technorati, and how you can employ them in your own blog - you may have noticed the two extra links at the tops of my posts from a week or so ago. (I'm writing this as demand was overwhelmingly greatest for more on things Technorati according to my survey - which is still open by the way if anyone would like to influence my posting priorities!).

Technorati cosmos

I couldn't find "Cosmos" described on the Technorati help pages as such, but from the use of the term on the Technorati site as well as in blogs such as Technorati boss Dave Sifry's, I figured out what it means, and then I found some info about it in the Technorati developers' section.

"Cosmos" is Technorati speak for "the blogs which link to a particular URL". So the Technorati cosmos for your blog comprises all the blogs that link to your blog, found by searching for your blog's URL on Technorati. You can see the list for my blog, for example, by clicking the "Cosmos" link (the blue bubble icon) at the bottom of my sidebar, or by clicking here. Similarly, the cosmos for a post will be all the blog posts that link to that particular post, again found by searching on Technorati for the post's permalink (the unique URL for the post's individual webpage). Many posts may not get linked to as such, but for one example you can go to what's been my most visited (and linked to) post so far - my intro to Technorati tags - and click the Cosmos link at the top of that post.

Yes, you could find out a blog or post's cosmos by going to Technorati and typing the URL in the search box there, but isn't it much more convenient to provide a link so that people (including you!) can do that search with just one click from your main blog page or individual post page?

To add a Cosmos search for your blog, just put this code in your template wherever you want it (at the top of your main page maybe or, as in my case, in the sidebar). It's Blogger-specific but with other blogging platforms you can just change "<$BlogURL$>" to your blog's URL (or whatever platform-specific code represents your main blog URL).

[Added 18 August 2005 for new Technorati search format](New code from July 2005)
<a href="http://technorati.com/search/<$BlogURL$>" title="Cosmos - search Technorati for blog posts linking to this blog"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/images/bubble_icon.gif" alt="Cosmos - search Technorati for blog posts linking to this blog" /></a>

(Old code)
<a href="http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?url=<$BlogURL$>" title="Cosmos - search Technorati for blog posts linking to this blog"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/images/bubble_icon.gif" alt="Cosmos - search Technorati for blog posts linking to this blog" /></a>

Obviously you can change the descriptive text ("Cosmos - search Technorati for blog posts linking to this blog") that pops up when someone hovers their mouse over the link, to anything you want. I just thought it would be useful to include that as not everyone is familiar with the "cosmos" term yet, or at least I wasn't. The same will apply for the rest of the code in this post, just change the "title=..." text to whatever you want.

To add a Cosmos search for an individual post use this code in your Blogger template between the <Blogger> and </Blogger> tags for main page, item page or archive page as you prefer (i.e. within the MainPage or MainOrArchivePage or ItemPage tags):

[Added 18 August 2005 for new Technorati search format](New code from July 2005)
<a href="http://technorati.com/cosmos/search/<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>" title="Search Technorati for blog posts linking to this post">Cosmos</a>

(Old code)
<a href="http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?url=<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>" title="Search Technorati for blog posts linking to this post">Cosmos</a>
I'm assuming whoever reads this understands Blogger's main page, item page etc conditional tags, but if not see this; if anyone wants more explanation please leave a comment or email me.

Again if you don't use Blogger change <$BlogItemPermalinkURL$> to whatever represents a post's permalink on your platform e.g. <$MTEntryPermalink$>for Movable Type (if I have that right from Nick Chase's MT adaptation of my language translation code).

Watchlists

A Technorati watchlist for a URL (or a search word or phrase) is an automatic periodic search on Technorati for that URL or search term, where the live updated search results are brought to you via an RSS feed, so that you don't have to keep going back to Technorati to repeat the search.
RSS feeds are beyond the scope of this post, most bloggers seem to know about them; I do plan to write a basic intro to feeds and their use for bloggers one day, sooner if there's demand from those who answer my survey...

To use Technorati watchlists, you have to become a Technorati member (and of course have a feed reader or aggregator - such as Firefox's Live Bookmarks, Bloglines, NetNewsWire (for Mac), Newsgator (which integrates with Outlook), MyYahoo! etc - and know how to use newsfeeds). Technorati has a page where you can manage your watchlists - add, delete etc. (The few test ones I set up were labelled "Free", which rather suggests there's a limit to how many watchlists you can have for free, but I haven't found anything further on that yet.)

It's free to join Technorati - you just need to give them your name and email address (there are other benefits to being a member, but I'll leave that to another post).

The standard way to create a watchlist is to search on Technorati for a particular URL, word or phrase; then, in the search results list, it'll give you an option via a "Make this a Watchlink" link to create a watchlist for that URL or search term (you'll be asked to sign in first if you haven't already). If you click that link, Technorati takes you to its "Add a Watchlist" page with your search term displayed in a box, and if you check it's correct and then click the Add button, it cleverly creates a unique RSS feed for that search and displays the URL for that feed (which will be something like this: "http://www.technorati.com/watchlists/rss.html?wid=somenumber"). Just copy the feed URL given and paste it into your feed reader in the usual way, and there you go.

What I've done is to add code to my blog template so that with one click a reader can create a watchlist for a particular post or for my blog generally, if they wish, right from my blog page.

Here's the code to create a watchlist for a post which you can just copy and paste as is into your template (again for Blogger, but easy enough to adapt):

<a href="http://www.technorati.com/members/create.html?url=<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>" title="Create Technorati watchlist to track conversations about this post">Create watchlist</a>

I put it in my template just after the code for the cosmos search, with a little "|" separator between them. (Again this code has to go between the <Blogger> and </Blogger> tags, and you can substitute the <$BlogItemPermalinkURL$> with whatever represents a post's permalink on your platform e.g. <$MTEntryPermalink$> for Movable Type).

And here's the code to paste into your template for a link to create a watchlist for your blog (Blogger-specific but adaptable, again):

<a href="http://www.technorati.com/members/create.html?url=<$BlogURL$>" title="Create Technorati watchlist to track conversations about this blog">Watchlist</a>

I suspect that watchlists are probably more useful to track bloggers' discussions about a particular topic (like ID cards, or latex) than to track what's said about a specific blog or post. Let's face it, most people will be more interested in a general subject than in one blog, so watchlists for blogs/posts are probably more of an ego tool for the author than anything else. But they do no harm, provide a handy shortcut for you (and anyone else interested) to see what others are saying about your blog or posts (if anything!), and the links take up little space, so I figure why not include them?

Coming up with the idea

This one's for Mud (I will get to the Delicious code post soon, I promise - I assume you were the one who voted for it in the survey?!).

I got the idea for the Cosmos links from seeing them on Dave Sifry's blog, clicking a few links to see what they did, noticing the pattern in the structure of the links, and just using that same pattern for the links in my own blog, substituting my blog or permalink URL in the appropriate place in the string. (Much the same way as I came up with my first ever blog trick, the code for a form to search Blogger profiles, which you can see in my sidebar and try out if you wish).

Similarly, when I tried out Technorati watchlists I saw and followed the pattern used in the URLs of the "Add a Watchlist" pages. That's all, no particular magic to it!


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 comment:

John said...

Thanks for the survey of technorati services, and especially for the clean cosmos code. I've been struggling to make this work for a while. The cosmos link for the blog front-page is great too. Much appreciated. Thanks.