Technorati has just launched the Technorati Blog Finder, a beta service, that is supposed to help users find blogs by subject. How does it work? The Technorati blog points out that the "Finder" is based on the tags that blog authors have assigned to posts on their blog. An algorithm looks at the tags and then auto assigns it into various categories. The directory currently contains about 500,000 blogs.
By default, the blogs are presented in order of authority, which means highly-linked blogs appear first. So each of these Blog Finder pages is like a mini Top 100 for any topic you can imagine. You can also sort each tag by how recently the blogs have updated, or alphabetical by title.
Registered Technorati users also have the option to go their configure blog page and actually decide what tags you want to assign to your blog. In other words, you can determine the categories where your blog will be found. You can also do it by associating tags with a link to Technorati, as described here.
How well does it work? First, it was very very slow to load. I gave up several times.
Second, directories should save the user time and effort in helping them pinpoint relevant material. I'm not sure (yes, I know it's a beta) that Technorati Blog Finder does the job very well.
I browsed various categories and found blog after blog that had little to do with the category or "tag" it was assigned to. For example, is David Sifry's blog really about California? Well, since he assigned California as a tag I guess it is. Would "Sifry Alerts" meet the needs of the typical user looking for blogs about California to be ranked so highly? I don't think so.
What's the first blog in the Google category (sorted by authority)? If..Else Log. Huh? I found only 10 mentions of Google in the history of the site but since the author (or perhaps Technorati itself) assigned Google as a tag, I guess its "about" Google.
I wanted to find blogs "about" Chicago (my hometown) and found "Check Raise" listed at number one. This blog is by someone who lives in Chicago but really doesn't focus on Chicago related issues, locations, etc. At number 2 on the list is "Junto Boyz". Again, this blog has nothing to do with the city. In fact, this blog is about search more than anything else.
Finally, I wanted to find blogs about "weather" and "hurricanes" (you can combine tags) and didn't find anything.
I also tried hurricanes by and found "The Weather Blog" listed twice at number five on the authority ranking. I also wonder how authoritative it could be since it was last updated 49 days ago and has 0 links inbound or outbound links. At number seven is a blog about UK rugby and a team named the Hurricanes. Yes, a term can have multiple meanings. Of course, this blog also has 0 inbound links and hasn't been updated in four months.
By the way, pluralization or stemming is also an issue. You should get the same results when looking for blogs about hurricane or hurricanes but Technorati Blog Finder produces different results. No, I didn't even find a cross-reference.
For Technorati Blog Finder to become a valuable tool to find blogs by subject, Technorati is going to need to do deeper analysis of a blog's actual text (over an extended period of time) and rely less on tags. Right now, I'll have to pass on this one.
Danny's poked at the service a bit as well, finding that so far, it only seems to retrieve matches based on tags. So try to find a blog by its title or description, and that doesn't work. Danny's sent some follow-up questions to Technorati and plans to look again at the service on Monday.
Postscript: Niall Kennedy, Technorati's community manager, sends this feedback on issues:
The Technorati Blog Finder will improve as users purposely add tags to their blogs for increased relevance and discovery. Users will browse a page, identify with the subject, and make a choice to participate. I expect a much better experience as we receive more user-generated data in the coming weeks.
Yes, a single tag can have multiple meanings. We have seen special post tags created to get around this issue for specific topics. A tag of "LocalChicago" might be a bottom-up way of describing blogs writing about the city of Chicago for example.
The double listing of The Weather Blog is a mistake and has been corrected on our backend (it may take a little while for the front end cache to display the change). The Weather Blog is hosted on TypePad which uses a URL structure of username.typepad.com/blogname and most users simply use username.typepad.com as their blog identity and default blog homepage. We received blog submissions for both locations of The Weather Blog and we have now corrected the listings to only search for updates on the blog homepage.
Also, Danny's follow-up article can be found here: Revisiting Technorati's Blog Finder & Listing Issues.