The first blog I came across was Kalyan’s, sometime in early 2002, and it struck me quite strange that someone could actually maintain an online journal. For the next two years, blogs appeared in and around places I inhabited, mostly computer science technical, a few on everyday happenings of people I was close to, and a few opinion journals on interesting topics.
The first blog I started to seriously follow was Lance Fortnow’s very technical blog on Computational Complexity. Now, this blog was really serious stuff, and it might even have convinced the ever skeptical Nandu that blogs could be cool. From there, I went over to the Geomblog, and then to the very technical (again) hunch.net. Sometime thereabouts, Sudeep had started Alpha-Q, and his dry wit was rampant through the first few posts. He gave me write-rights and Lo! I was in the web. I have found blogs that were, in the least, informative; or sometimes, intriguing; or inspiring even.
As far as I know, the big search engines do not re-crawl the web frequently enough to get all the dynamic content on the blogosphere. Smaller ones like Technorati and related companies do blog-crawling, trackbacks, analysis, and of course, blog search. One cool thing about this particular blog-search on Technorati is that they subjectively boost up a few blogs’ ranking in the search result-list to encourage quality blogs, and not just heavily linked blogs (a la PageRank of Google).
To digress some more, this boosting up introduces the very interesting “Exploration vs. Exploitation” problem. Say Google decides to tinker with its results-list-ranking function and boost up a few webpages based on some other judgment (other than the in-link count based PageRank), it will definitely help a few webpages and give them the deserved traffic; but Google’s users will also suffer because inferior websites might be ranked high, and the overall quality of the search engine decreases. So, the explorer suffers. While the explorer suffers by boosting low ranked webpages, these webpages’ visibility increases, and they are gradually linked to by other sites, thereby increasing their in-link based ranking. The exploiter waits for this to happen, and enjoys the fruits of having the erstwhile low ranked good pages being highly ranked now. This develops into an interesting game between big search companies, and is a research problem involving ranking functions and game theory. There is an outside chance that I might work in this area in the near future.
On a personal note – I am waiting for Samba, Akshay, Archana, Deepti, Nandini, Nagesha, Jatin, and Raghotham, among others, to either start blogging, or renew their blogs. And hopeth against hope, it’d be superlatively cool if Soumen or Sundar started blogging. Wishful thinking I guess.