BlogRovr - Overview
BlogRovr is a simple extension for your Firefox 2 browser, which adds a range of extra features along with a slide-out tray of news items that can be accessed at any time from the website you are currently visiting.
This proves to be a great way to see, at a glance, what is being said elsewhere about the subject you are currently reading about and is a nice step closer to the semantic web we've been hearing so much about lately. Not only will the BlogRovr extension scan your list of feeds for related content, but it will also create a tag cloud for you, letting you know how these sites fit together in terms of the tags they have appended to their content.
As a particular news item, product or service gains momentum in the blogosphere, there very soon gathers a rich diversity of commentary and feedback around the subject - BlogRovr makes it easy to find out exactly what is being said.
If, for example, you read a review of a product that gives it a very poor rating, you might want to cross-reference that review with those written by others before drawing any final conclusions. BlogRovr brings all of the reviews to your browser, and lets you read them right then and there. So if your ten favorite bloggers are all unanimous in their hatred of the product you are checking out, or if instead they offer entirely different opinions, BlogRovr makes it easy to get an idea of that in the space of seconds.
This isn't only a really useful browsing tool that will bring added value to your web surfing, but also a very helpful addition to the blogger's toolkit. If you are going to write about something, it often pays to check out what has been said first. BlogRovr makes that a task a lot simpler and lets you see, at a glance, what has already been written on the subject within your sphere of interest and influence.
Getting Your Feeds Set Up
At the time of writing BlogRovr is only compatible with the Firefox 2 browser, with future support planned for Internet Explorer.
After a simple sign-up process you are asked to install the BlogRovr extension, which will add a small icon to the toolbar of your browser, near the back, refresh and home icons.
Clicking on this icon will give you a number of options, including the ability to determine how recent news items searched for should be, post your current location - along with a comment - to Twitter, and even access help files:
Furthermore clicking on the dog icon itself will let you turn BlogRovr on or off, which is a nice idea, given that you may not want news recommendations popping up all of the time.
With this installed, you can begin setting up the news feeds that BlogRovr will search through for you.
In the first instance you are presented with a set of 'bundles' to choose from, each made up of popular blogs linked by a broad category such as entertainment, science and tech or sport. This is a good way to get you started, especially if you don't already have your own list of favorite resources to draw on.
From your personal BlogRovr homepage you can then delete any of the specific blogs and websites that you are not interested in, so you are not bound to take every single suggestion given to you in a bundle.
Of course, you are not just limited to what BlogRovr offers you and can also bring in your own personal selection of feeds. You can do this by entering either the RSS feed of a website into BlogRovr, or, if you want to bring in a whole list of feeds at once, you can do so with an OPML file.
This couldn't be easier, and pretty soon you should have a good selection of news sources for BlogRovr to check against. The OPML option is particularly welcome, as many news readers will allow you to export your list of feeds as an OPML file. You can also search for entire collections of feeds using services such as Blogbridge topic guides, giving you an instant repository of news sources for BlogRovr to draw on.
BlogRovr in Action
I found BlogRovr to be unobtrusive, while a good range of settings allow me to determine whether news items will pop up immediately as you land on a page, or remain minimized in the corner of the screen until I click and choose to view them.
The BlogRovr reader sits in the bottom right corner of your browser, and can be resized as it suits you. From the minimized mode you can see how many related news items it has managed to find, and once opened the slide-out tray reveals these items in date order, with titles and summaries included.
As I have mentioned, you also get a collection of tags for the news items you are looking at, which helps to give an instant overview of the semantic connections between the posts. In my experience, BlogRovr was for the most part spot on in the news it brought me. Very often the connection with what I was viewing could be found in the title of the posts offered up, and in the cases where this wasn't so, there was at least a mention in the body of the post text.
Rather than taking you directly to a full-window version of the news item, if you click through from the reader a small pop-up window appears containing the post you are interested in. This means that you can quickly read the related content without being overly distracted from the website you originally chose to visit.
Then, if you decide to visit the source, you can do so by clicking on the title in the new pop-up window.
For the most part I found myself scanning the articles found by BlogRovr right there from the pop-up window, as it made for a more seamless experience, but I can see the benefits of both approaches. Formatting, for one, loses something in the translation to the pop-up format.
A nice feature worth mentioning for those that use the popular microblogging tool Twitter, reviewed here last month, is the ability to send out messages using the BlogRovr interface.
Choosing the 'Twitter this' option from the BlogRovr menu opens up this simple dialog box, which allows you to add your comment, and automatically creates a link to the website you are visiting. This is by no means an integral part of BlogRovr, but is a nice little addition to its simple feature-set.
Promoting Your Own Content
Overall, then, I found BlogRovr to be a great way of following the thread of conversation around a particular topic and will definitely be keeping the tool installed in my browser. By making use of a really simple interface that does a good job of pulling up relevant results, BlogRovr is a worthwhile addition to even the most crowded toolbars.
But beyond its usefulness as an aid to browsing, I am also convinced that BlogRovr could be a very effective means of promoting your own blog content.
Certainly, if you have an RSS feed for your website, as you almost certainly do if you are running a blogging platform, anyone can add you to their list of BlogRovr subscriptions. This means that every time your content chimes in with what they are currently reading, you are going to get an instant highly targeted 'advertisement' for your blog, and one that readers will thank you for.
To make it even easier on your readers you can add one of several 'chicklets' to your website, which will allow people to instantly subscribe to your feed via BlogRovr:
The result, which you can click on and add to your own BlogRovr list of news sources, looks like this:
want this on your blog?
The above chicklet will set up a subscription to Master New Media in your BlogRovr feed collection.
Another way of spreading the word is to use the simple 'invite' feature built into the BlogRovr reader itself. By clicking on this button you can open another dialog box which will let you invite friends by email.
Obviously you are only going to be promoting your content to fellow BlogRovr users, but by making use of the invite and chicklet features you have a greater chance of increasing their numbers. By all accounts, BlogRovr is already amassing quite a following, so this is well worth adding to your list of social media marketing strategies.
Furthermore, in addition to actively promoting your work, by visiting the pages of your own website you can use BlogRovr to get an instant idea of who has been linking back to you or discussing your own content, which is in and of itself a valuable resource.
BlogRovr offers a simple way for web surfers to receive timely, semantically-rich news content directly from the browser window. The result is that any website visited can be mined for connected news items across a range of feeds. If, while reading this review of BlogRovr at Master New Media you were to check the slide-away BlogRovr tray, you would be directed to a number of other reviews and updates from sites including Mashable and Read / Write Web.
This isn't a replacement for your feed reader, and nor does it try to be. The key to the success of BlogRovr is its simplicity. In short the focus is very much on supplying you with an extended reading list, a jump-off point to explore news in relation to what you have just read.
Blogging is an ongoing conversation, and being able to quickly index what - if anything - is being said by your favorite bloggers on a given subject can be really helpful.
Choosing the feeds themselves can be arrived at in one of several ways. When you first sign up to BlogRovr you are presented with groups of 'bundled' websites representing popular bloggers within a broad category, such as 'science and tech'. Having selected these bundles, you can then cherry pick which news sources to keep, and which to dispense with.
Then, you can bring in news by adding the RSS feed of any website from your BlogRovr homepage. This gives you a quick, easy way to create a custom list of sources that will be checked every time you visit a new website. To make things even easier, it is also possible to bring in entire reading lists of blogs by importing them via OPML.
In addition to providing you with an easy-to-use cross referencing tool, BlogRovr also presents you with an opportunity to promote your own blog content. By adding a 'chicklet' to your blog sidebar, for instance, you can make it easy for other BlogRovr readers to subscribe to your website. Having BlogRovr recommend your content on a regular basis can have a positive effect on your own site traffic.
In short, if you are looking for a simple, elegant browser-based tool that will add value to the websites that you read by opening up the conversation across your favorite blogs, BlogRovr may very well be what you're looking for.
If you would like to learn more about BlogRovr, you might want to check out the following links:
Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and originally published as: "RSS Conversations Monitor: BlogRovr Aggregates In Context What Others Have Already Said