Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The new Kottu beta

Kottu is the Sri Lankan feed aggregator we all know and love. Kottu currently has more than 1000 Sri Lankan blogs in all three languages (and one Dhivehi blog too!) listed, and it's safe to say that without the community and traffic built up around Kottu, most of us would never have continued blogging. Indi, who basically set up and ran Kottu from scratch with his own money, contacted me last month to see if we can spice it up a bit, and add some new features to the site.

Introducing the new Kottu beta


One of the most popular features of Kottu, that sort of got hijacked and removed, was the popular posts widget in the sidebar. We wanted to re-implement it, without relying too much on clicks and relying more on social media (something that wasn't that huge when Kottu first launched). So now, you can basically click on the popular posts (categorised by time - today, this week, this month) in the sidebar and it shows the most popular posts in that time period. (Note: Don't be angry if your popular posts don't show up, we just set the system up and stats are only being counted from yesterday). Another feature is language based filtering, which makes it easier to find what you're looking for. 

The technology 

There isn't much behind the interface, really. We use SimplePie to read the feeds and get new posts, the Twitter and Facebook APIs (the latter through the Facebook PHP SDK) to get stats, and combine them using a very simple formula:

Post Buzz =
(No. of tweets / Max tweets for a single post in the last 24 hours) + (No. of FB likes and shares / Max) + (No. of clicks / Total no. of clicks)
(with appropriate weight given to each metric) 

So basically: The more tweets / Facebook likes or shares your posts get, the higher ranked it will be.

We also use something called Fizzling to reduce buzz as a post gets older. This follows the logic that the older a post is, the more tweets / FB likes or shares it should get (if it's good) and therefore, to give newer posts a chance, we counteract this with the negative influence of age on the post buzz.  

So, finally

Use it. It's at Let Indi and I know about what you think. Our hope is that this will help in some small way to rejuvenate the local blogging scene, which is nowhere near the glory days of 2006-08. And we can hopefully iron out the issues and take this out of beta in the next few weeks. :)