On the 50 State Blog Network | WisCommunity

On the 50 State Blog Network

Cross-posted from my blog on

I have for some time been interested in the fate of the old 50 State Blog Network, and what could be done to help revive it.

At the moment there are two different projects going on that Open Left readers might be interested in.  One is the revival of the old manual 50 State Blog Roundup, which has been appearing weekly on Open Left and other progressive blogs around the country.  Thanks go to Eric Hoffpauir for all of his work on single-handedly getting that going again.  I think this is a great effort, but it brings up again what I had seen as the problems in the blog roundup in the first place.

It's just too damned much work.  This particular progressive infrastructure project has fallen by the wayside a few times, always because it's too difficult to herd all the cats involved. Bloggers need to submit their articles every week for inclusion.  Someone needs to gather these all up, and build a digest out of them. Then it needs to somehow magically get distributed to the different blogs so it is syndicated widely.

Gist of it is, although this starts out in each rebirth in a ball of flame, it quickly fizzles out. To do this properly someone really needs to manage to read all of these blogs every week, pick out the winners, put them together, and then get it distributed out to the world.

I've been concerned for some time that we're not using computers effectively enough to help with these sorts of projects, so I've undertaken a proof of concept that is now up and hobbling, and which I hope will in the long run support the blog roundup in a more effective way.

There is now a new web site at which is an attempt at aggregating many different state-issue blogs from around the country.  Currently it is aggregating a small number of blogs that have volunteered to join up.  I've been making an effort to produce a sort of "sliding" blog roundup that gets edited as often as I can get around to it.  At the moment the general effect is to have a firehose of articles on the right, and an edited list of featured articles on the left.

This is a step in the right direction.  At the moment I'm working on some editing tools to make production of the digest a little less daunting.  There has been some progress on this - in the long run the idea would be that an editor would be able to select the articles for the roundup every week just by selecting articles from an aggregated blog of all of the articles from all of the blogs.  This is currently working, but it's a little clumsy.

I'm hoping in the long run  to build a little more sophisticated editing model.  Some of this is already in place --- articles that are pulled in that contain the tag 50StateBlogRoundup automatically go into the roundup queue for the week.  I'm hoping to shortly work out a system where the editors of the individual blogs will be able to select a few of their articles to be feautured each week by going directly to the Roundup site and just clicking a box on each of the articles.  That's not quite there yet.

Of course, there are also innumerable other issues to work out, such as some formatting issues and some of the future functionality that I would like to see.

In the pipeline I have a few other issues in mind.  I'd like to create a few methods for re-syndicating the 50-state Blog Roundup back to the participants and other sites.  This will include:

1.  Widgets of various types (which I'm planning to have buildable on-the-fly directly on the web site).

2.  RSS outgoing feeds as well as incoming feeds.

3.  More organization by taxonomy.

4.  A country-wide progressive calendar that can aggregate Ical feeds from other sites.


A few technical mentions.  The current aggregation site is built with Drupal. It is aggregating in content from other sites using the feeds module, and takes in small amounts of content every 6 minutes.  This content then is automatically tagged with a standardized set of taxonomy tags by using the quite wonderful Calais implementation from Thompson-Reuters.  

At the moment we're using the nodequeue module to build a queue of articles that are promoted to the blog roundup - there's an editing page that consists of all of the articles from the past week, sorted by blog and then by post time.

At the moment I'm interested in several different issues:

1.  How will we continue to fund this (it's not terribly expensive, but it's sucking up a lot of resources on my servers and some financial help would be just great).  

2.  What suggestions do you all have for better ways to do this, or other features you'd like to see?

3.  More blogs -- it's about time to start to open this up to more bloggers besides those who volunteered for the initial testing.

4.  More programming --- this needs to have more time devoted to it -- unfortunately I'm at the moment really snowed under by organizing Netroots Wisconsin, and trying to keep my own business going.  This is going to need more love from everyone to make it blossom.  

Please go take a look at and let me know what you think, or what you'd like to see.  


July 11, 2010 - 7:23pm