If you’ve visited even a few blogs recently, including this one, you had to notice widgets here and there that show the faces and aliases of recent visitors. These widgets are served up by at least two similar social networks: MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog. Let’s compare the two, shall we?
Both services employ a model in which individuals sign up and add their blogs (or other sites) to their profile. Other members can then add them as “friends”, and/or join the “community” (MBL) or “neighborhood” (BC) associated with each of their blogs. Both systems provide internal messaging between members that can be public or private. MBL allows you to post messages either to the individual’s page or the community page.
So, what’s the point of these networks, besides being able to display readers’ pictures on your blog? When I first signed up for MBL, I began to find out more about my readers that were too timid to comment on my blog or link to it from theirs. It gave me a chance to send them a message thanking them for reading and/or joining my community. HTML and RSS consumption is (for the most part) anonymous, after all — but if a reader joins one of these networks, they’re granting you a modicum of information about themselves. It can be an unobtrusive way for them to offer their blog for consideration as well, and I’ve subscribed to a number of feeds from people I met on BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog.
But you have to work these services to get any benefit. Respond to messages, look at the profiles of visitor, frienders, and joiners. Send them messages of appreciation, maybe add/join/subscribe to them in return. This all takes time.
In that regard, I find the UI of BlogCatalog to be superior. They’ve employed AJAX sanely to smoothly update pages as you befriend/join/message, while MyBlogLog requires a full page load for each of those activities. That means not only more time loading pages, but also more time hitting the “back” button after you didn’t remember to open each link in a new browser tab.
BlogCatalog gives you more options about what types of email notifications you’d like to receive. With MyBlogLog, it’s just on or off.
On the other hand, MyBlogLog provides useful site statistics that include referrers, pages viewed, and what links viewers clicked. BlogCatalog doesn’t provide any of that information.
The widgets from each service are similar. You can see the BlogCatalog widget in the right sidebar here at [GAS]. If you visit my site, you can see both widgets in the rightmost sidebar. BlogCatalog adds one more piece of information that Mybloglog doesn’t provide: how long ago your last visitors came by. That can get depressing when one of the last five viewers hasn’t been there for days. I’ve noticed, though, that the faces cycle faster through the MyBlogLog widget — perhaps MBL simply has a larger user base.
Recently it seems that some members on both services are spamming: leaving messages for as many people and joining as many communities as they can, all in the hope of receiving reciprocal linkage, without any interest in the person or content they’re virtually embracing. People who bought into those innocent advances got a rude awakening when MyBlogLog implemented a new feature whereby you can send a message to every member of your community at one shot. Spam, meet captive target.
The same gratuitous friending happens on other social networks as well. Concerning Facebook, Shel Israel asks “can you have too many friends?” and wonders where the tipping point should be between endorsing someone you don’t even know versus maybe acting like a snob by requiring some prior relationship. I guess that question has plagued society for many generations, but (like everything else social) it has become more frequent and pressing with the rise of social networks on the web.
Do you use either of these services? Both? What do you like or dislike about each?