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Time Goes Blogging With Sphere

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-23

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The Time.com website now features "Sphere It" buttons with articles, and visitors can click those buttons to see what bloggers are saying about those reports.

The Sphere blog search engine emerged from beta as a new option for searching posts made in blogs. They have entered a deal with Time to provide a quick link to blog postings in Sphere's index related to an article's topics, the TechCrunch blog reported.

Visiting the Time.com website and clicking on an article, like the piece on the No Child Left Behind Act, shows the Sphere button above the main body of the article's content. Clicking the link brings up the Sphere results for that story, showing 239 blog results from the last week, sorted by relevance.

Rolling out the Sphere feature appears to be proceeding at a measured pace. Stories on Marines in Iraq and the forthcoming hurricane season predictions did not contain a Sphere link, but an article on Ray Nagin's reelection in New Orleans did (474 blog results from Sphere.)

Anyone who is used to the brisk speediness of Google will be tempted to hit the Sphere button a couple of times. Although Sphere only takes a few seconds to return results, the attention-addled web user of today may find his patience tried by the wait.

TechCrunch writer Michael Arrington described the difference between the Sphere It feature and the Technorati This bookmarklet provided by that blog search engine:

Unlike Technorati's "Technorati This" feature, which shows blog entries that link to the URL being searched, Sphere It doesn't report links. Rather, it does a semantic analysis on the text within the page being searched and returns blog results that it finds relevant to the article.

Sphere CEO Tony Conrad illustrated the difference between the two approaches in a blog post. In his example, the Sphere It tool returned 464 blog posts regarding a Time.com story about Tony Blair. Technorati This and its link-based approach showed 4 blog post results, all duplicates.

Sphere does have work to do on its algorithms. Just in the first two pages of results of the Sphere It query for the Time.com Ray Nagin story were a few duplicates posts. Paging from page one to page two proved noticeably slower than the initial query.

It would be nice to see Sphere get a much-needed speed boost and a grouping feature to cluster duplicate posts together so its results are not inflated by those dupes. Sphere may not be listed in beta now, but its performance feels like a work in progress.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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