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Blogrank: the Student-Created Search Engine for Coding Blog Posts

When learning new libraries and frameworks throughout the first half of Hack Reactor, a trio of students noticed that software engineering blogs often made for excellent supplements to a technology’s official documentation, sometimes referenced as a READ ME. That got them thinking that there should be a way to find these sources, listed by how useful they are. During the project period in the second half of the course, they built a search engine specifically for programming blogs, based on Pagerank, the algorithm that powers Google.

“When we were looking at blogs, they gave a lot of good examples and common mistakes, which often aren’t there in the documentation,” explains Pete Herbert, who built Blogrank with Amir Bandeali and Nick Olszowy.

“We realized we might be able to organize and display blog posts based on how many independent bloggers had cited that post,” Olszowy explains. “It’s basically the same system that academia uses for scholarly papers.”

While the concept is straightforward enough, the process of building a search engine from scratch is anything but.

“We had a really broad range of ways we could have done it,” says Bandeali. “There are so many different techniques we could use to go about gathering and storing the data.”

To meet the team’s goal, the search engine had to identify and collect the sort of posts they wanted without pulling up “false positives” such as About pages or material reposted by a third party.

“We basically had three independent systems,” Olszowy describes. “One that would gather data, one that would parse through the data and make a meaningful list of it. Finally, a server would go get the list.”

The result is Blogrank, an engine that allows programmers to search on topics where they need assistance, then see a list of relevant articles and where they have been cited.

Olszowy, originally a chemical engineer, was amazed at how far he and his classmates had come over three months at Hack Reactor.

“I would never have imagined myself building this project three months ago,” he notes.

“One of the major things I took out of this program is the ability to learn better,” adds Bandeali. “I can read a page on something [coding-related] and know how to do it pretty quickly, whereas before that wasn’t possible.”

Herbert has this piece of advice for anyone entering Hack Reactor:

“You have to be really committed to the program and committed to yourself. Remember that you’ve made this huge commitment to bet on yourself. I’m so glad I did. I’m definitely not looking back at my old job.”

Ready to invest in yourself? Apply to Hack Reactor today.

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