If there’s one thing the latest wave of webbery does well, it’s keeping track of sites that keep track of sites that keep track of…
Back in the Day
Used to be simple enough – find some curious brained folk who spend too much time wandering the web, and drop into their blog from time to time. The rise of RSS readers to easily subscribe to material like this, made it a snack to quickly gather a huge range of hand-picked curators and connoiseurs to keep you in touch with news in any number of esoteric topics. And then, when it happened that there were too many curators walking the earth, along came the re-blog (software that facilitates the process of filtering and republishing relevant content from many RSS feeds – reblog.org), enabling a new breed of curators to pick out the best .. curators, which was grand for a while, apart from the problem of still being limited to the perspective of that particular curator. More brains were needed, and that’s where things get messy.
Expanding on the web curation idea, slashdot.org launched on the premise of allowing it’s readers to nominate stories, with a constantly rotating team of editors filtering these submissions and presenting the best on their frontpage. The shift to many brains was spectacularly successful, and then the founders of digg.com tried to expand on this idea by letting the audience not only nominate stories, but also become the editors themselves – by voting on the stories, the stories with the most votes being shifted to the frontpage, in turn meaning avalanches of traffic for the sites being profiled. newsvine.com and reddit.com are amongst those following the same path, both aiming to provide customised stories for you, based on what you’ve submitted or voted for over time. Popularity alone of course, isn’t necessarily a measure of quality, and acknowledging that is the latest iteration in the field, polymeme.
“We have a database of about 25,000 leading blogs covering specific topics â€” economics, architecture, media, and so on. Every few hours our unique buzz-detection system analyzes each topical cluster and determines what are some of the “hottest” articles â€” be they from the traditional media or other blogs â€” discussed by the blogs in our cluster. We then republish the most interesting of them on Polymeme.com, displaying the sources that are talking about each “hot” news article or blog post. We believe that relying on this “wisdom of clusters” and not just “wisdom of crowds” provides for superior buzz detection than most regular buzz-aggregators, which usually give preference to most popular stories across all topics, and not most interesting ones in specific areas.”
The Poly-feed offers about 50 headlines or so a day, eg ‘the decline of the american empire’ which offers an article about recent economic, financial and geopolitical events that suggest the above, but also shows how this theme is something that has been recently covered by many people and offers all the links to these. The extra contextualisation is really nice, and so for the time being am enjoying the feed quite well.
Face is The Place
Of course, the ease of publishing and reading links – and importantly, having access to a more direct group of peers ( for both reading and writing ), inside the walled garden that is Facebook, means many people are now filtering their web through their facebook account. Within most groups of friends, are a few who take with glee to the chance to spread the word about what they’ve been reading / viewing / listening to / thinking, and for a particular few, this extends to the compressing as much links, juice or wit into their ‘account status’ messages as possible. Which is exactly the premise and promise ( or threat ) behind the popular twitter.com service. While Twitter sounds maddening to many, the core idea of being able to send a short SMS sized message from phone or computer at any time, and have this be published on a site, be picked up by others subscribing, and responded to, is obviously compelling for many.
Too many accounts, too little time? Ping.fm updates your facebook, myspace, twitter etc etc accounts in one go. Tubemogul.com publishes your video to many different accounts at once ( youtube, blip.tv etc etc ) and Friendfeed.com gathers your updates, comments, bookmarks etc from a large range of sites in one place, and allows subscribing to the collected updates of friends – which actually provides a pretty useful service – being able to comment on and develop conversations with friends about their broader web travels, all from the one location.