My hunch is that in the coming years we will see blogs evolve into full fledged online extensions of our identities. Here, I’m not talking about identity blogging where people put all their thoughts on their blog, but rather about how more flexible content structures and more machine readable content will change the way a blog is made and experienced.
Ever since they started, weblogs have been mostly about short posts consisting of a title and a short body speckled with links. But recently I have seen more and more weblogs that break this mold. Kottke.org is a good example. Jason has for some time now been posting reviews in a different format from the rest of the posts. He also differentiates between short link posts and regular posts. Another approach can bee seen in Airbag Industries, where Greg has a regular weblog column on the right and another with short link entries on his home page. Xavier does a similar thing with his short reviews.
On beeth.com I have also been experimenting with multiple types of posts, Apart from the regular posts, I have now four more types:
I am also considering some other types of posts, like specially formated picture posts and one-line reviews. A real challenge is to manage what is "hidden" and what is "revealed" for example I might see 10 movies and out of those only two may be worth posting a review of and another three are just worth a rating but not necessarily on the home page.
The trick is to make the publishing part as easy as possible, and that’s where content remixing will help.
It is now quite common to see flickr being integrated into blogs. The same goes for other types of content. Joi Ito, for example has his latest flickr images on his blog but also goes further by integrating his del.ic.io.us bookmarks and what music he is currently listening to. All these little things add to the value of the blog and will become quite common as the publishing tools become more powerful and interoperable.
Personally I would also love to see a simple way to get links back to posts where I have commented; a kind of reverse trackback on comments. I’m not a great fan of regular trackbacks as the quoted text rarely adds anything. It tends to be more like "John Doe has an interesting thought on his blog about XYZ...". Not very interesting when you have just read the original post
Another thing that is happening is the aggregation of blog content. The simplest aggregators, like daypop take the links inside blogs and aggregate them to present a kind of top 40 of the most popular links of the day. Others are more sophisticated, Technorati uses tags to classify the posts and allows you to search among the aggregated blogs.
I expect that aggregation of blogs is going to become much bigger soon. One of the big changes that will contribute to this is microformats and structured blogging. Microformats are a series of html design patterns that make web pages more machine readable. For example, they allow you to mark a part of a page as a review, which will in turn allow a crawler passing by your page to make sense of the review. The clever bit is that they are dirt simple to implement, only requiring some additional classes to the html elements of your page.
On beeth.com both the Quick Links and Reviews are hreview microformated for easy aggregation. I hope to do this with more content on the site soon and that some smart aggregators start coming along.
Just as in the real world we need to manage our privacy. I think the best way to do that is to only reveal what we feel comfortable everybody knowing. Take music for example, I don’t want people to know my whole music library but I don’t mind everyone seeing what favorite stuff is, maybe what I have rated 4 or 5 stars in my library.
In the end I think blogs will evolve into extensions of our real-space persona. You might think that most blogs are irrelevant to most people, but with structured content and aggregation, they can become the base of the ultimate social networking platform, free from the walled garden of current social software.
This could start tomorrow. All you need to do is have is a site that aggregates blogs and then pattern-matches the links in your own blog with everyone else’s. From the results, you could do Amazon.com-like suggestions of links to read, or even suggesting like-minded people you might want to meet.
Structured content like microformats will allow the aggregators to disambiguate the information on the blogs so they can present richer results.
All this will allow even sites with very few readers to become a valuable part of the whole information structure. And remember: there are already a lot more bloggers out there than there are members in any of the big social networks.