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We released another event-oriented community blog this past weekend: http://devdaysbloggers.net. Delivering these sites never happens without events. Just to prove that I should be immediately checked into a mental hospital, here's a couple fond memories:

Releasing TechEdBloggers.net
After we came up with the intial idea for http://techedbloggers.net, I immediately dove into coding the site. We didn't have much time, having only thought of such a website a month or so before the event. To say the least, I wasn't following best practices, including regularly checking code into source control.

I released TechEdBloggers.net to the web on the same morning that I hopped on a plane for a trip to Japan. The first morning in Japan, I turned on my laptop to see if anything was happening on the site. *Click* *Click* *Click* “Oh #$%@#”, I declared, “Its the click of death.” That familiar sound from days gone by as a help desk technician that meant none other than my harddrive was done...dead...over. And on that harddrive was my source code. Ouch.

I spent the rest of the trip becoming very familiar with Reflector.NET. I've learned my lesson. This mistake won't happen again. Rest assured, what you see on DevDaysBloggers.net today is checked into source control and backed up from there nightly.

Traveling to TechEd
We decided to drive cross-country to Dallas for TechEd. We left on a Friday and arrived on Saturday night. By Friday, it was clear that we had something that people were getting excited about. So, I had my plan - I was going to make sure we stopped at plenty of wireless hotspots, or at least areas where I could connect via my cell phone so that I could keep the site updated. No such luck.

I couldn't find hot spots. I couldn't get a signal on my cell phone. We couldn't even get a connection from our hotel rooms that was over 9600bps.

Yet, I was determined to have current content on the site when Sunday arrived. I had an idea. I'd wake up early Sunday morning and find a Starbucks with a hotspot. No problem, right? I woke up at 6am and began walking. Well, it turns out the Starbucks that had the hotspot didn't open until later that morning. So, I found a piece of pavement, sat my butt down on it and began blogging outside the window of Starbucks at 6:30 in the foggy morning air, pigeons flapping all around me.

First day at PDC
After the TechEd experience, I figured out that I could reasonably handle about 100 blogs using our current tools (SharpReader + w.bloggar + EraBlog.net). I created new site infrastructure and aggregation tool to make life easier and handle a few more blogs. I had no idea. By the time the weekend before the PDC started, we were up over 200 blogs on http://pdcbloggers.net.

We did choose to travel by air to the PDC. And, we actually were one of the last flights on the ground in LA before airlines were diverted to other airports and/or canceled. So, travel wasn't a big issue.

However, during the time we were traveling, the great bloggers of our community wrote several 100 posts, of which most were considered on-topic. Seeing all of those unread posts in aggregator was like facing a beast that I was too proud to be defeated by. So, slowly and meticously, I began aggregating those posts. 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, Refresh SharpReader, 100 unread posts, 12am, 1am, Refresh SharpReader, 75 unread posts, 2am, 3am, PhotoBlogs, 4am, 5am. I think I did get some sleep that night, but I did make it to the keynote on time, so it wasn't much.

That was the pattern for the week. The problem wasn't so much that I couldn't put my aggregator down. It was that if I did put it down, those items would just build up and be waiting for me later anyway. So, it was better to keep up the pace. Check in with a few sessions, and then check back to the blogs. The posts were so good, I didn't want to skip a single one without at least review it for the site. I really wanted to see the site to its completion that week, and at times it just meant brute force effort. I know, it may seem a bit over-the-edge commitment, but have you gone back and browsed the posts from bloggers at PDC!? They are incredible, and I'm overjoyed to have been a small  part of delivering them to readers.

Future
I continue to work on the tools that run PDC Bloggers and sites such as DevDays Bloggers. The primary focus is on reducing the amount of time from reviewing a post to having it show up on the site, while increasing the value-add to the feed through better categorization and site features.

Right now, I'm researching bayesian algorithms to see if they can help with this process. I'm also brainstorming on ways to bring a disributed editor model to the sites so that the community can be more involved in the process. However, our goal is always to not add extra required steps to what the blogger has to do to be included in the site. Bloggers should dump their thoughts in their blogs and then we'll do the work to aggregate and organize it on the site.

Happy blogging!

Some things you may or may not have noticed: 1. The http://PDCBloggers.net site is reorganized with new categories based on the main technologies presented at PDC. 2. http://DevDaysBloggers.net and http://PDCBloggers.net have connected bloggers listings. Viewing a blogger on one site will show on which other sites the blogger is involved. For example, here's my entry: http://devdaysbloggers.net/Directory/Bloggers/Drew_Robbins.category

Posted on Monday, January 26, 2004 11:09 PM Community | Back to top

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