How To Find Someone's Blog
Blog & Social Networking SearchTips
Blog - Web Log - Forum for public commentary on just about anything. Lots of people have them. Maybe somebody you know has one. Maybe they're talking about things you'd like to know about.
If you're looking for someone's blog - say a student at your school, a long-lost friend, or a feared rumor monger - creativity, persistence, and a few helpful search tips can lead you to right to it!
How to Find Someone's Blog
Let's pretend we're looking for a kid at Wilson Junior High. You suspect this kid has a blog but you don't know where it is, and you'd like to read it. Let's say the kid's name is Toby Smith. Toby attends Wilson Junior High in Anytown. The bad news: His blog may not state any of these names, anywhere in the blog. He may even make false claims as to his name, town, etc. How can one go about finding Toby's blog?
There is no guaranteed way of finding someone's blog, but you often can. In a nutshell, you can perform a series of searches tailored to either find his blog, or find the blog of someone who knows him, or even the blog of someone unrelated classmate. Once you've found the blog of a classmate or friend, you can often find your way to the blog you really want to see via blog rings or friends lists or blog comments.
Facilitating this effort are blog search engines:
Google blog search at blogsearch.google.com
Technorati blog search at Technorati.com
To get used to blog searches, let's do an experiment: Use the Google Blog Search to search the blogs for score bears. In other words, go to http://blogsearch.google.com and enter the two words "score" and "bears" into the search box, and click the "search blogs" box. You'll get tens of thousands of hits leading to pages that mention both "score" and "bears" on the same page. This is an undifferentiated set of blogs, however. Let's refine this search. Type score "chicago bears" in the search box. Now you get a few thousand hits (total hit count is stated at page top right). Now type "final score" "chicago bears" and you discover a couple of hundred of blogs that mention "final score" and "chicago bears". If you're looking for commentary on a recent Chicago Bears game, this is one way to find relevant blogs. If what really interests you is commentary on a fumbled play, add the term "fumble" to your search terms to further limit your results. Using this sort of search refinement can often lead you to a blog on some particular subject.
Note that at the top of the page, under the hit count, you see "Sort by relevance" "Sort by date". If you're looking for the most recent blog entries on a subject, click the "Sort by date" option to reorder the results from most to least recent entries.
Begin Your Search
So let's begin our search for a a kid named Toby at Wilson Junior High. Does Toby have a unique surname? Sometimes you can search for the person of interest's name, in quotes, and actually find them. Some people actually have names unique enough to permit this. Obviously, typing a name like "Dan Jones" won't yield anything useful - you'll get thousands upon thousands of hits - but "Patsy Rowlands" yields just a few hits. It won't take long at all to search for "toby jones" to see if he's mentioned by name in a blog (or if many, many Tobys are mentioned in too many blogs).
More often, searching for particular names doesn't yield anything useful. If the kids in question have disguised themselves, as well they should, then they'll make up a name (Jimbo, ILoveToSki, etc.), or they'll stick with first names. So how on earth do you find them?
Use Hooks! Here is where you have to be a little creative. What you want to achieve is a blog search that yields a handful of results, one or more of which pertains to the person of interest, or will eventually lead you to the person of interest.
Your hooks are
- unique classmate names
- school name or acronym
- school mascot
- town name, state name
- local hangout name
- teacher or coach surname
- Spring musical name, in quotes
- unique club name
- assigned reading book name
By searching for some combination of several of these specific terms, you can often find at least one student blog from the school you're interested in.
Getting Usable Results From Your Search
Usually a search like this ends in one of three ways:
A. You wind up with too many hits, meaning you can't find what you want in the clutter. If this happens, you must search again using a more specific term, or more terms. For example, if you're looking for a student at Wilson Junior High, you could search for the term "Wilson" but that would yield too many irrelevant links. Searching for "Wilson Jr. High" in quotes yields a few blogs, as does searching for "Wilson Junior High". Searching for Wilson and "Junior High" yields even more hits, though most have nothing to do with Wilson Junior High. Search for toby and you get too many hits. Search for Wilson and Toby and you still get too many irrelevant hits. Note that many of these pages have to do with Toby Keith. To eliminate the Toby Keith hits, re-search Wilson and Toby and add the string -"toby keith". Any page with "Toby Keith" on it is now excluded from the results. Other hits have to do with Woodrow Wilson. You can also add the string -woodrow to eliminate the pages that include "woodrow".
B. Some searches yield too few hits, meaning you need another search term. Searching for "wilson junior high" toby yields nothing. In other words, no blog page has the exact phrase "wilson junior high"and the name toby. Searching for "wilson jr. high" toby also yields no results. You'll have to come up with more fruitful search terms.
C. The best searches yield just enough hits to allow you to skim the results for someone of interest. With persistence and a little imagination, you will eventually arrive at a set of search terms that yield one or more hits of interest. Once you have a few hits that look promising, see if they lead you to a blog of someone you recognize. If not, resume your search. If you can't find a blog that mentions "wilson jr. high" and searching for wilson and "junior high" yields too many results, try adding the city name, or state name, or another of the aforementioned hooks.
Searching Blogs For People's Names
Let's get more specific about search terms.
Searching Classmate Names: Try to think of classmates with unique names, and search for those names, in quotes. Maybe you don't care about Patsy Rowlands blog, but finding it, or a blog that mentions Pasty by name, can lead you to classmate blogs and school blogrings. If you find Patsy's blog, she will almost certainly have a list of "friends" on her blog page. This list of "friends" links to the blogs of Patsy's friends. Peruse these linked blogs to see if you recognize their authors. Patsy may have listed "JumpingForJoy" as a 'friend', and by clicking on that link and reading JumpingForJoy's blog you may be able to figure out who he or she is, or at least who his or her friends are. Pasty may have a 'friend' who links to your person of interest as a friend. If so, you've found your blog!
If you're looking for "Dan Jones" and he has a buddy named "Paul", try searching for ""Paul" "Dan Jones"" along with Wilson (school name), or a town name. This or a similar search may yield a relevant result. Common names make the search harder, but searching for them in combination with other unique search terms can often yield results. If you're looking for Jim Jones and you know he sometimes goes by Jimbo, then search for Jimbo and Wilson. If you know that a classmate named "Dave" is in marching band at Balker High School, then search for Dave "marching band" and BHS (acronym) or "Balker". If Dave and Bill and Freddy and Toby are buddies in the band, then type all 4 names along with "band" or the school name. If a few of the kids have formed a garage band named "Whither Wanderers" then search for that, in quotes.
Wrack your brain for unique search terms that the kids are likely to want to mention, and/or unique search term combinations, and sooner or later you'll arrive at a relevant blog. When you do, bookmark it for later reference.
Once you have found a relevant blog - the blog of a classmate or friend - then your real work begins. You'll be working with 'friends' lists and with 'comments'.
Blogs usually have 'friends' lists somewhere on their main page, or a link to a 'friends' list. These are lists of other blogs that the blogger has linked himself to. Usually they are real-life friends. Sometimes they are strangers that the blogger linked to for various reasons. Friends lists show 'usernames', the screen names chosen by the bloggers. Select a 'friend' - right-click on it, in order to open the link in a new window. Now you're viewing the friend's blog, and can determine whether that blog is of interest to you.
Another think you can do with the friends list is to make a note of specific usernames and do a blog search for those names. For example, you could search for JumpingForJoy, and you'd find other blogs (from other blog service providers) that either mention him or include him in their 'friends' list. Recall the 'six degrees of freedom' concept - Person A knows Person B, who knows Person C... Following these leads can often lead you to the blog you're interested in.
Having found a classmate, you can also check the blog rings they belong to. Blogrings are merely lists of blog ring members. Blog ring members are bloggers who elect to join the ring, i.e. to be listed as a ring member. The blogring 'Balker Class of 2010' would have as members those bloggers who belong to the Balker class of 2010. This sort of blog ring can really be helpful in locating relevant blogs. On the other hand, many kids won't join such a ring to preserve their privacy. But someone they know may have joined, and it always pays to review such lists. Some lists won't sound as tempting as "Balker Class of 2010". Some rings are comprised of strangers with a common interest, e.g. BirdwatchersRUs. Other rings have only a few select members, all friends of one another. Reviewing blogring lists, as well as friends lists, usually requires that you visit each blog.
Screen names (usernames) often don't help to identify the blogger to strangers, but usually mention of something in the blog will. Knowing classmate first names helps in this regard; seeing mention of Alton, when you know that your person of interest had a classmate named Alton, can be the clue you need to identify this as a blog of interest. Scan through the blog entries. You may note a familiar place or name, or recognize someone's photograph.
More Tips on Search Terms
Another tip to use once you've found an interesting blog: view the comments others have made on each blog entry. You can usually view these comments via a "view comments" link (or an icon) associated with each blog entry. "Comments" links are sometimes disguised with cutsy terms, but links to comments are usually located at the bottom of a post. Click on the comments link, and you'll arrive at a page containing both the original post and comments made by others. The commentator's icon and/or username is there along with the comment, and clicking on that yields the blog of the person making the comment. You can often find the blogger's friends (or enemies!) in this manner, for anyone who takes the time to post a comment is a dedicated reader of the blog and usually a close friend. Don't forget that each blog entry can have it's own set of comments. Review them all, if necessary, for additional blog links.
More on Search Hooks:
Searching School Names: You'll probably find some mention of "Wilson Jr. High", and if you add the town name, or the name of a prominent teacher or dean, you may find at least one blog of interest. Consider that most kids aren't going to type "Wilson Junior High" in their blog; rather, they'll use an acronym, or simply refer to it as Wilson. You'll probably have to resort to searching for the school name in combination with other hooks.
Mascots: You won't accomplish much searching for "Tigers" but if you search for "Wilson" and "Tigers" you may get results. "Wilson" and "Tigers" and "Smith" (coach name, quarterback name, etc.) may help to limit results. Adding in a rival's mascot name may help. Town names may help.
Town name: Most kids won't say what town they live in, or they'll make up a town ("I live in Atlanta", when in fact they're in Boston). However, someone at the school is likely to mention the town name in their blog, and finding that blog may lead you, directly or indirectly, to your person of interest. If your town has a common name (e.g. Springfield) then you may have to add more search terms, such as state name.
Experiment with search terms. Sooner or later, you'll find a blog of interest. Bookmark it in a special folder. Bookmark the blog rings as well. Keep searching until you've found several classmate blogs. Peruse these on occasion to get a better idea of what's going on in the lives of these students.
A Few Final Search Strategies
There is no single best way to search for things on the net. Multiple approaches yield more results. So while it may seem redundant to do the sort of search mentioned next, it can yield new or more targeted results.
You can search the blog sites individually for mention of 'hooks'. You can do this by going to the Google's Advanced Search page. Fill in the "Domain" field (next to the selector box labeled 'return results from the site or domain') with the domain name of the blog site you want to search. Alternativly, you can go to google.com and, in addition to your search terms, add one the following strings:
For search terms, use one or more of the afformentioned hooks. School names and acronyms are a great place to start. As an example, if you want to search Xanga for mention of "Wilson Junior High", you would enter into the google search field the following:
"Wilson Junior High" site:http://www.Xanga.com
This search yields blogs at Xanga.com that mention Wilson Junior High.
Refine your results by searching for names, places, etc. Repeat for those blog sites you think your person of interest blogs.
Don't forget to check trackbacks, the links readers post on a blog that point to their own blog entry with comments about the tracked blog post.
Perhaps you feel uneasy undertaking this sort of search. We've seen blog entries that no concerned parent would condone. We're left to conclude that they don't read their kid's blogs. Maybe they don't have time or don't care, or maybe they think it's like reading a diary. But by putting information on the World Wide Web we make that information public. You have as much right to read it as anyone else. In the unlikely event that something serious crops up in a blog, some event that absolutely requires that you mention it to your child, then knowing that you were able to 'read all about it' online can be a learning experience for everyone involved. In the meantime, be discrete. Happy viewing!
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