Tag cloud from AustralianBlogs.com.au

This is the second in a series of posts in which I highlight innovative or just plain cool Australian websites and web applications. You can read the first post here.

Jon Yau and his team have been busy the last few months building RSS aggregators. First was AustralianBlogs.com.au, followed up quickly by AustralianPodcasts.com.au and more recently News2.0. Although it seems that half the web is an RSS aggregator, they’ve taken the clever approach of targeting Australian content, therefore building a niche, which seems to be working for them.

I recently asked Jon five questions around what they were doing.

Hi Jon, can you tell us a bit about what News2.0 is?

News2.0 is a news aggregator updated every 30 minutes sourcing headlines from Australian blogs (listed on AustralianBlogs.com.au). News2.0 displays the blog post headline and a small teaser. Clicking on the link will take you straight to the original full blog post+comments. It’s another way of showcasing Australian blogs by highlighting ‘What is the Australian blogosphere talking about today?’. Blogs bypass the gatekeepers of traditional media (eg. newspapers, radio etc) but have failed to gather critical mass. By aggregating local blogs, we hope to bring together a collective ‘voice’.

News2.0 attempts to bridge the gap between the bloggers and mainstream internet users by doing away with fiddly RSS aggregators and the like. The late-adopting mainstream internet user can still source, search and browse local blogs from a simple, one-page newspaper-style website, without having to learn how to operate Bloglines or dealing with the mountain of unread posts. They get to read local content, written by local bloggers without the technological or human-gatekeeper obstacles.

So Jon, I hear you’re not a web developer at all – what made you decide to start these projects?

I like reading blogs and listening to podcasts because I liked having choice about what I consumed (read/listened) and when I could do it. I was also frustrated at having to wade through North American-centric websites so I could find local content. It pissed me off that I could not do keyword searches on Technorati with geographic filters. I don’t spell ‘recognise’ with a ‘z’!

RSS is one of the core pillars of BYO web (I just made that up – it sounds much less controversial than Web2.0). As a content sharing standard, it has gained critical mass and has the all important Date/time dimension.

I’m definitely not a web developer! The backend is a nightmare – no documentation, lots of hand coding – I rely on my SAMS book and very kind offers of help from people like Kay Smoljak. She picks me up on web standards (I didn’t know there were standards!) and CSS (catastrophic stylesheets). As a consequence, all the sites look the same (no, really – go look for yourself).

How are you measuring success with news2.0?

I randomly browse the comments section on AustralianBlogs (over a few weeks after they list with us) to see if the comments have been left by other Australian bloggers. I figure that if I can see Aussies commenting on blogs written by other Aussies, then we might have played some part in helping make that connection.

It seems all three properties are strangely devoid of advertising – it is a business, right?

It was never meant to be commercial in nature and this remains the case, however if James Packer knocked on my door with an open cheque book…(my wife would be very happy….though I think she prefers Lachlan Murdoch). It was a personal itch that needed to be scratched.

What can users expect to see in the next few months?

Kay, CW and Genevieve Tucker are helping me beta our new site, AustralianBookmarks. It’s a poor man’s (Australian) del.icio.us with locality tags. Kay tells me it’s also got some SEO positives for webmasters (but I was just keen to be able to find sites without having to use the ‘pages from Australia’ radio button in Google).

I will continue to build on the ‘local content for local audiences’ mantra as long as I’m getting my kicks (and I’m having a ball reading local content and meeting local bloggers/podcasters/webdevs/designers as it’s completely outside my square). I have two more ideas in my head that I haven’t been able to shake in the last month, so I will start on these now that www.AustralianBookmarks.com.au is ‘Live’ (Any offers of help gladly accepted).

Well thanks for your time and your enthusiasm Jon, and I look forward to seeing your current and new projects gain momentum. Bring on the BYO Web.

Image: Tag cloud from AustralianBlogs.com.au

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