Gargoyle: Channeling the African Blogosphere

In November last year, Africa Media blog had a post about the blog, Black Looks, winning Best of Blogs (BOB) award for best English language blog. The post concluded thus:

Sokari's terrific blog is — unfortunately — one of the handful of African blogs to turn up in the top 10 (sometimes top 15) blogs in a Technorati search of their blog directory when using the search word “Africa.” Instead, get this, what comes up are some white American guys including a rightwing radio talk show host, a couple of Manhattan “media girls” traipsing around the Third World, and my favorite grass-roots African voice, The World Bank. Silly me, why in the world would I expect to find African blogs when searching for “Africa” in a blog directory?

Black Looks reacted to the post with her own observations and suggestions:

So in the first 20 there are actually just 6 blogs from the African blogosphere listed – check out who the remaining 14 belong to!

I am not an expert on how Technorati works but scrolling through the list it seems the more blogs that link to your blog the higher up you will come out in the search – ok that makes sense BUT thats clearly only part of it as “Samurai Soapbox” is listed and he doesnt even have a category “Africa”? As I was saying a couple of weeks ago we in the African blogosphere dont really link to each other and especially do not build on each other’s conversations so its no wonder that we remain relatively invisible in the mass of millions of blogs out there. I am not sure some sort of “TECHNORATI.COM BOMB” (as in google bomb) type exercise with the tag AFRICA + add your country tag irrespective of topic on every single post for the next 6 months might work? Could work but then again maybe it just doesnt matter and who cares a toss anyway?

In a post titled, Thoughts on African media and blogosphere, Grandiose Parlor joined the conversation with two key words: infrastructure and collaboration:

Basically, Africans should not only be able to tell their own stories via several media outlets, but able to fund/build/implement/manage the infrastructure needed to nurture and support these media structures, and the best way to achieve this is through collaboration.

Gargoyle: Channeling the African blogosphere

That was 2006. Here comes 2007: Gargoyle.

Gargoyle is a new African blog search engine coming out of South Africa.

In an email to Mike Stopforth, Peter writes:

Tentatively called Gargoyle, the idea being that a gargoyle channels a gush of water.

The search engine's About page says:

Here at Gargoyle we realised that although there is the excellent Muti for ranking there is no dedicated search engine for South Africa and African Blogs. We decided to rectify that situation.
This is our very early beta.
The plan is to search volutarily submitted Blogs and other sites with a similar type context in a free and fair fashion.

Reacting to news about Gargoyle, Mike Stopforth notes that:

It’s frighteningly quick. Warranted, I’m on a 1Mbps ADSL line at home, but if this is how fast Gargoyle can deliver meaningful (and quality) results, it’ll be my very first stop when searching within the SA blogosphere – something I’ve needed to do before and will most certainly need to do in future…

It’s not pretty, but that will come. It has the bells and whistles – an RSS feed for every search as an example, a feature I simply love (from an online reputation management perspective).

This site could very quickly become the standard alternative (or augmentation) to Technorati indexing for African bloggers. Well done on what seems to be a very solid platform, Peter.

Gargoyle could become a real alternative to Technorati, argues Paul Jacobson

I agree with you Mike. Gargoyle is a great start to what could become a real alternative to Technorati. Feeds are a must for this sort of thing but I wouldn’t want to see Gargoyle follow the same path as Technorati.

Cowboys engines likes the idea:

Here's my 10c (smallest coin we've got I gather). Nice idea – especially when you consider the volume out there. There's just too much – both competitively and in terms of finding what you want. I've always been an advocate of an African conglomeration of content – both for our Social Media Ranking Tools, our sites and our bloggers.

Some comments on the engine itself. Mike is right. It's blindingly fast – helps to be on a local server. The next PING OFF starts to suggest itself… Search Engines.

It only seems to link to the actual article on the blog, some of the time. Which is odd. I searched for '27 Dinner’ for instance – nice keyword, used in many local blogs one would think. It gets all the keyword appearences but only sometimes links through to the target article.

And the “noble open source gesture” blows his non-mathematical hair back:

What really blows my non-mathematical hair back is the explanation of the algorithm. THIS is a noble open source gesture – giving away your index maths. And a decimal point nightmare. Looks cool anyway…

Why I want Localised, Specialised Search

Dennis McDonald
questions the rationale behind such a specialized search engine:

Mike, I love the idea of specialized indexes and search engines. Can you point me to one or more discussions of the situations where they are particularly valuable, i.e., the fact that the objects being indexed and therefore searchable are in some way restricted in advance according to some criteria? Also, how would you explain the value of such search engines to people who have grown up with Google as an all purpose search engine?

Mike responds with a new post, Why I want Localised, Specialised Search:

The answer to the question was worthy of a new post. You see, the idea of a dedicated, local equivalent to Technorati or Google has been on the minds of many connected Africans for some time. We get lost in the sheer volumes generated on those sites. Yes, we are living in a global economy. But geographic boundaries still apply sometime, especially from a business perspective.

1. I want to be able to see Africa’s, and more specifically, South Africa’s blogosphere in one place. I want to be able to quantify it. I want the indexed sites to be reliable sources (moderated either by the community or by a dedicated team) to ensure the sites are indeed African in content or authorship (although this does raise some interesting questions about what would be ‘in’ and what would be ‘out’).

3. I want to be able to tell me clients when their customers are speaking about them, with some degree of reliability. I want to be able to set up watchlists for the SA blogosphere, which includes .com domains and M&G or blogs… a watchlist for Standard Bank on Technorati will produce 99% irrelevant result, whereas a similar search on a platform like Gargoyle will be 90% effective from a brand reputation management perspective.

A skeptical Dennis McDonald:

Thanks Mike, this is a terrific explanation. We should be able to “slice and dice” the web anyway we see fit — even if it’s just to be able to search a specialized collection of movie reviews or a specialized set of blogs related to social media and social networking. Geographic orientation is an obvious segmentation variable and certainly one of the most important criteria relevant to personal and professional networking.

Two possible caveats arise if we add metadata-based or infrastructure-based identifiers that simplify geographic aggregation of sites:

First, do we risk some “balkanization” of the web if different regions adopt different geographic tagging or aggregation techniques?

Second, do we make it easier for internet-unfriendly governments to track and restrict the free flow of information?

Mike Stopforth responds:

Both very real dangers, but on the first point I believe if enough power is in the hands of users we’ll maintain a global approach to local categorisation, and possibly interface with the existing tools to avoid that issue. In terms of Internet-unfriendly governments – prohibition is guaranteed to do one thing – encourage growth. Ask the US in the 20’s and today, Egyptian bloggers. Same patterns.

We’re Not Cloning, We’re Making It Relevant

South Africa has been at the forefront in developing sites based on established models such as YouTube: MyVideo, Craigslist: YouPost, Digg: Muti, etc.

Is this a form of cyber-cloning? Writing about this trend, Reed Tyler argues that South Africans are not cloning, but making it relevant:

YouTube, Flickr, Technorati and Blogger contain South African content and content from South Africans, but all this content gets lost within the vastness of these sites. They are all international so therefore the content comes from all over the world. South Africa does not produce as much content as the rest of the world, which means the content we do produce needs a home in order to prevent it from becoming lost among the rest of the worlds content. So we do just that, we create sites for our content.

South Africa is starting to boast some really impressive sites based on international models. I prefer not to call them clones, they are built on foreign concepts / models. They are fundamental in the growth of the South African internet. Mike Stopforth has already expressed his need for a South African version of Technorati.

Hash of White African agrees:

Tyler, I couldn’t agree more with your analysis. The simple fact is that much of what Africa needs is already developed, there’s room for customization, but the model is already there.

Tyler Reed lists such sites and Mike Stopforth writes about a new site, an African

If you explore a bit you’ll also see that Peter is working on an ‘African Hive Mind‘ Knowledge Bank – a sort of semantic search alternative. Brilliant. Looks to be a for Africa-type idea.

Is Africa making itself a room in the Second Superpower?


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