On a dull rainy Friday afternoon, when work is beginning to become a bit strained, I tend to find myself wondering aimlessly onto news sites or watching youtube videos. Occasionally I rein myself in and instead search out new blogs that I could follow using my Google Reader account. This often becomes a random search for interesting historical topics followed by the word ‘blog’ – depending on the search terms this can quickly become quite a dangerous work activity (you’d be amazed how many sites are out there with dubious content which pop up on a History friendly search!).
I have, however, had quite a success rate by following this random method. I discovered the fantastic The History of Emotions Blog from Queen Mary through this means. Since I began to work on this project, however, I’ve been thinking that there must be better options out there.
Of course WordPress provides its own search engine, but this is increasingly difficult to find (they seem to hide it these days), it is also, restricted only to wordpress blogs. Blogger doesn’t have a blog search as such but its creator and owner Google do. Just as they have a Scholar Search they also have a Blog Search option. This can be found through the ‘More’ and ‘even more’ tab options on Google’s homepage. Scan down the page until you reach the specialised search category and you’ll find it there (alternatively just search Google for Blog Search and they will be almost certainly first on the list!).
I’ve only been trying this search engine for a short while but I’ve already found new blogs that interest me and it seems to be better than some of the other blog search options available (see a list of these on Wikipedia. Indeed, there are not many search engines available specifically for blogs. Of those on Wikipedia only a small handful are still current or searching blogs written and produced on English speaking countries. Google Blog Search is the most obvious one, but there is also ice rocket, regator, and Technorati. I’ve had a quick go at these, but most are commercially orientated (and managed) rather than academic, and orientated toward American results (leaving much UK content hidden). Only Google Blog Search seems to work better, but even then, I’m still not convinced that it offers a better option than random searches on the ordinary web search.
For my period (the early modern) there is a great blog-aggregator project The Early Modern Commons. This site largely works by people submitting their blogs (which are generally accepted if they are on an early modern topic and contain relevant scholarly content). It has various methods for finding blogs of interest (key words, word clouds, searches etc.) and, whilst not complete in its content for early modern blogs, is certainly the best around (that I’ve seen). If we could have more projects like this scholarly blogging would certainly be easier to find and discover. I think, currently, this is one of the big problems of scholarly blogging – how do you shift the good from the bad, the scholarly from the commercial or personal? It is a theme that I suspect will continue to raise its head throughout this project, but it is also one that is of concern. If blogs can become a new outlet for academic writing alongside more traditional forms, then it needs to be easier to find and distinguish from the crowd.