Aggregate Them This Way, That Way, Your Way, My Way

People are into this new facebook application called Google Reader Shared Items, developed by a nice guy named Mario Romero. That’s natural, because the application takes a couple steps down the path toward truly networked news.

Denise Howell loves how it lets her discover the feeds of people with whom she shares facebook group memberships. The app lets her check out individuals’ lists of shared items or grab the url for their shared items’ respective feeds and pull them into Google Reader. Scoble agrees: “This app has already helped me find some great new feeds. It’s interesting to see what you all are reading and sharing through Google Reader.”

All that’s great for what it’s worth, but the Shared Items application’s ability to aggregate is where the real gold is buried. When Mario can fully dig up that code, we’ll behold something of a real treasure. I’ve written before, in response to a thoughtful post by Jeff Jarvis, about how I think “the article”—or, more generally, bits of content like blog posts, newspaper articles, podcasts, etc.—”has taken the story hostage.” Bits of content strike me as an inelegant medium for the news, even if they seem roughly economically necessary. Aggregating those bits of content and then paying attention only to the popular ones that float to the top of the stack helps us move toward the story.

This is a tricky point—one I hope I can tease out here. When we look at the list of “Top Shared Items,” we’re looking at something more than popular newspaper articles or blog posts. We’re looking at something greater. We’re looking at bits of content that have grown into stories. This isn’t digg, where from the beginning we would vote because we wanted to hop on the accelerating train just because we hoped it was going someplace. These votes are, at least at this early point, done in private. Maybe others play it like a game, but I share an item because it’s equivalent to starring it and saving it for later and because that item gets sucked into my blog’s sidebar. (Well, I also share all my own posts just because they’re one share more likely to make the list of Top Shared Items.)

These bits of content grow into stories because we’re all reading them. They undergo a process of sublimation—from a private unit of discrete information to a public unit of shared importance. They go from data to meme.

Descending from the clouds, a list of the ways I’d love to slice up facebook’s shared items from google reader:

  • by most shares universally
  • by most shares within facebook networks
  • by most shares within facebook groups
  • by most shares among people I select ad hoc
  • by tag, as I pointed out to Mario on his good facebook group
  • by tag AND by most shares within networks, groups, or my ad hoc selections

Mario’s already built the first and the second. What his application offers with respect to groups is access to the shared items of each member. For small groups especially, the data must be very scarce, and so pulling the top shared items from groups is less important to me. What I’m really axed for, however, is my own ability to choose which people’s shares I aggregate. And then I want to focus on certain topics, like “facebook” or “news” or “iraq” or “alberto gonzales,” within those aggregations.

Also, Google Reader is still a better place for me to read posts. I’d like it to be able to pull in a feed of the various Top Shared Items. I’d love to subscribe to a feed that comprises posts that receive, say, ten shares in twenty-four hours. Note the deep curiosity here. Different instances of Google Reader pull in publishers’ feeds. Those instances of Google Reader produce different feeds of their own; publishers’ feeds have become readers’ feeds. Facebook then pulls in those readers’ feeds, aggregates them, and displays those aggregations. If facebook could turn those aggregations into a feed, I’d read them back in Google Reader. Then readers’ feeds have become Readers Feed.

Thus each post would have traveled an odd, inspiring, and transformational course: Google Reader to facebook and back to Google Reader. And that, at long last, is why facebook has astonished us all as a platform. Yes, facebook as platform can help us network our news. I wouldn’t have dreamed of that when I signed up for facebook in 2004.

Also also, I’m sure Mario’s thought about this, but it would be super nice not to have to navigate away from my facebook profile page in order to view other lists.

Also also also, @mario, in Google Reader my posts for Network(ed)News are full-length, but in facebook, they’re truncated. How can I keep them full-length in facebook?

2 Responses to “Aggregate Them This Way, That Way, Your Way, My Way”

  1. 1 mario romero 2007 July 22 at 2:16 am

    Josh: OK dude, can you actually read my mind? :) Again, I’ll keep you posted on updates on say.. ALL OF THE ABOVE.

    P.S. I’ll check what’s going on with your feed and get back to ya

  2. 2 Joshua Young 2007 July 22 at 3:05 am

    @Mario: I hope I’m not revealing all your secrets. Haha, and thanks for looking into my feed.

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