$newsid = ''; ?> There's too much nifty stuff happening on the Austin blogging scene not to blog about it, even though this isn't a techblog and I usually find blogging about blogging pretty tedious.
First of all is the whole GeoURL phenomenon. The idea is simple: add a META tag to your website with its latitude and longitude, ping the GeoURL server, then a simple query will turn up other sites near yours (for example this one). Austin bloggers are prominent among those busy proposing the generation of GeoURLs for all sorts of things: not only blogs but coffeehouses, weather stations, cultural events, even individual blog entries (buzzword "GeoBlogging"). One contribution is AustinURL, "a tool for hanging GeoURL links on places in and around Austin", i.e., places which don't have websites or whose websites you don't control.
I think GeoURLs are delightful but I don't understand how people can proceed down this path without addressing questions of scale and of additional metadata (e.g., a taxonomy with an associated controlled vocabulary) to permit useful lookups. What happens if every business, blog, or blog entry -- in the standard metaphor, every lightbulb -- has a GeoURL? Aside from the question of whether a central GeoURL server can handle the load, won't the concept soon cease to be useful if every GeoURL report consists of a jumble of 500 "things" in the immediate neighborhood? Imagine you hit the GeoURL button on your PDA while walking down the street and it coughs up Joe Bloe's five-year-old report of what he was thinking while eating a sandwich at Subway, thirteen competing business directory listings for Toy Joy, a bit of GeoSpam about a sale at Buffalo Exchange, the current status of the 29th & Guadalupe traffic signal, the locations of any GPS- and WiFi-enabled vehicles or pedestrians waiting for the light, Conan's and Baskin-Robbins coupons, 68 reviews of miscellaneous videos rented from Vulcan and Pleasure Land, a literary note about the bench where Lars Eighner used to sit with his famous dog Lizbeth, notes on graffiti in a nearby alley, 237 archived blog entries from the seven bloggers living in Texana Dorm (and another 133 entries from their boyfriends' or ex-boyfriends' or would-be boyfriends' blogs)...? You get the idea. Most of this stuff would be potentially useful information to search geographically (it would be great if every city bus constantly pinged the world with its GPS coordinates, for instance), but only if there are better ways to organize and filter it.
Meanwhile, in other blogging news: Adina Levin has set up an AustinBlog demo site, to which anyone can syndicate their Austin-relevant blog entries on a first-come, first-served basis. You can ping it automatically using TrackBack or by hand using a form. Expect the site to be reconstituted at its own domain and with a nicer layout soon. I've had quibbles with this, too -- would it pose lower barriers of entry to drive it with RSS feeds rather than Trackback? -- but Adina and company convinced me that their way would be simpler to get up and running (and inspired me to finally play with TrackBack myself, using the standalone TrackBack implementation from the Moveable Type folks). I may still play with an Austin RSS blender anyway, though.
At the Austin Weblog Meetup the other night we learned that there's a parallel scene of Austin "journalers" who may be three steps ahead of us bloggers, despite the massive development of our geekal lobes. They already have a nice aggregator site called Austin Stories, have twice-monthly gatherings (once for coffee, once for happy hour) independent of Meetup, and will be hosting a national gathering of other online journalers some time this spring. I still don't quite understand what online "journaling" is, except that for its proponents the relationship trekker : trekkie :: journaler : blogger seems to hold.
Finally, there's also a new Austin-Bloggers mailing list for people to kick these ideas around in.