Archive for the 'Google Reader Shared Items' Category

Loving aideRSS

Tough love, that is—there’s a lot more I want out of this.

But first, aideRSS is awesome. When I serve it a blog’s feed, it looks at how many comments, delicious saves, and other mentions each post has and then divides them up according to their popularity relative to one another. AideRSS offers me a feed for each division—the smallest circle of the “best posts,” a larger circle of “great posts,” and an even larger circle of “good posts.”

I’ve got two main uses for it. It ups the signal-to-noise ratio on blogs that aren’t worth reading in their filtered state, given my peculiar tastes. And it allows me to keep current with the most popular posts of blogs I don’t have time to read every single day. That’s huge.

There are real problems, however, and other curious behaviors.

Consider Marc Andreessen’s blog pmarca. For one, AideRSS strips out his byline (here’s the “good” feed). For two, it has recently really oddly clipped his most recent posts and made them partial feeds (I also follow Andreessen’s full feed, and it is still full). Also, aideRSS also seems to strip out all the original dates and replace them with some date of its own.

That’s a problem. Google Reader published Andreessen’s post called “Fun with Hedge Funds: Catfight!” on August 16, 2007. But it’s the most recent post in AideRSS’s filtered feed of Andreessen’s “good” posts. The problem is that it follows “The Pmarca Guide to Startups, part 8” in the “good” feed but precedes it in the regular feed.

Did the post about the hedge funds and the cat fight receive some very recent comments, more than a few days after it was first published? All else equal, it wouldn’t be a problem to have the posts out of order—that would seem to be the sometimes inevitable result of late-coming comments or delayed delicious saves, etc. But all else is not equal—because the original dates are stripped. Posts in a blog exist relative to one another in time. Stripping out the dates and then reordering the posts smothers those important relationships.

But let’s look to the horizon. AideRSS can’t handle amalgamated feeds. I want to serve it what Scoble calls his link blog—the feed of all the very many items he shares in Google Reader—and receive only the most popular. That way, I would get the benefit of two different kinds of networked news at once. I’d get the intersection of the crowd’s opinion and the trusted expert’s opinion.

I’d also like to serve it a big mashup of lots of feeds—say, my favorite five hundred, routed through Pipes—and have it return the top two percent of all posts. That kind of service could compete with Techmeme, but it could be dynamic. We could all build our own personalized versions of Techmeme. That would be huge.

Trying it out a few different ways gave wild results. The posts in an amalgamated feed weren’t exactly being compared to one another on a level playing field—so that even a relatively bad TechCrunch post with ten comments crushes an small-time blogger’s amazing post with eight comments. But they also weren’t being compared to one another only by way of their numerical rankings derived from their first being compared to the other posts in their original feed.

Why can’t aideRSS measure each post’s popularity with respect to its kin even when it’s among strangers? The share function within Google Reader gives aideRSS the original url for each post. Can’t aideRSS take the original url for each post, find the original feed for each post, and then analyze each post against the other posts in its original feed? That would be much more analysis, for sure, but it would also be much more valuable. I’d love to see it.

Of course, while it may be a surprise or unintuitive at first, all this is really just one particular take on the first and second components of networked news—pulling in your news from a network of publishers and from a network of readers, including friends and experts and others. Without my additions, aideRSS represents just the second component, in which we get news based on whether others are reading it and participating in the conversation around it. My additions bring a little of the first component.

UPDATE: It would also be awesome to serve aideRSS the feed generated by a WordPress tag or by a persistent Google News search. That would be bringing in a shade of the third component of networked news.

Applying the Three Components of Networked News

For a goodly time now, expect to see this blog try to flesh out this concept of networked news by reviewing isites that concern themselves with the news, either completely or substantially—from the New York Times to digg to Google Reader to Mario Romero’s awesome Google Reader Shared Items app for Facebook to Topix to Memeorandum to Pageflakes to Thoof to Streamy to whatever else with which I may cross paths.

I’ve got my three metrics, and it’s time to make sense of them. Maybe along the way we’ll figure out what some bright person could do to satisfy Arrington’s appropriately underwhelmed feeling about online news. Maybe we’ll figure out that “networked journalism” has something to do with networked news. Maybe not.

But what’s first?

Google Reader Shared Items: Questions

What’s the scene here? Why the seeming discrepancy between these two screenshots, captured at the same time?

google reader shared items screenshot

Above, Hal Espen’s page of shared items: Espen seems to have shared the Network(ed)News post called “What Is Networked News?”

google reader shared items screenshot

Above, my page of shared items: Aside from my own share, only Mario seems to have shared the Network(ed)News post called “What Is Networked News?” Wait, where’s Espen?

What happens when someone shares an item already shared? Is shared ‘original’ item x the same thing as shared ‘shared’ item x?

Consider the following case: I post to Network(ed)News and someone like Mario gets my feed and shares it such that his facebook application registers that act of sharing and tells me as much, as it does above. Did Espen maybe see my post because he subscribes to Mario’s shared feed and then share the post himself? It doesn’t look like it, since the “via:” attribute says “Network(ed)News,” not something like “mario’s shared items in Google Reader.” It looks like Espen just subscribes to my feed, so why no aggregation? The post is relatively new, so I don’t think the issue is one of time—in which, for instance, Mario shared the item fewer than twenty-four hours ago and Espen more. But who knows really.

Haha. I need all the aggregating help I can get.

What Is Networked News?

Networked news describes a structure for consuming information. It means pulling in your news from a network of publishers—bloggers and traditional news outlets. It means pulling in your news from a network of readers—friends and experts and so on. And, crucially, networked news means breaking down the bits of content into their relevant constitutive pieces and reforming those pieces back into their own network. It means pulling in your news from a data-driven network of the people and the issues in the newspeople like George W. Bush and Steve Jobs and Oprah and issues and memes from “republican” and “iraq war” and “campaign 2008” to “iPhone” to “power of forgiveness.”

The concept of networked news grows out of the realization that the stories we care about exist between one author and another, between articles and blog posts, between newspapers and blogs. The story is a kind of thread that runs through time and in and out of the person-subjects and issue-topics of the news.

Networked news is not networked journalism, which is a structure for publishing information. See pressthink, buzzmachine, and newassignment.net for that parallel “genius” project to grow and diversify the number of sources from which we pull our news.

NewsmapThe first and second components of networked news are new but not unprecedented. Pulling in your news from a network of publishers is what we do when we subscribe to RSS feeds and read them in one place. It’s the river of news I read when I fire up Google Reader, which gives me news about the tech industry, about finance, and about politics. Techmeme, Memeorandum, Google News, and other memetrackers are other great examples of networking news from publishers. Newsmap, based on Google News, is the picture of this first component. Thoof and other news-focused web apps with similar recommendation engines also represent this publisher-based side of networked news.

Pulling in your news from a network of other readers is what Mario Romero is working on with his Google Reader Shared Items application for facebook. It’s also what Digg and others represent.

There are sites that represent both the first and second components of networked news. It’s what Newsvine, Topix, Daylife, and others represent. It’s what Pageflakes, Netvibes, iGoogle and others represent. Though I haven’t actually toyed with the site yet (I’m still waiting on that invite, guys) it looks like Streamy sits at the current bleeding edge of the reader-based front of networked news.

The third component of networked news is, in some ways, the oldest, represented by simple searches to Google News or Technorati tags. It’s also the most difficult component—technically, socially, you name it. When I encourage Mario to let users browse his Google Reader Shared Items by tag, I’m encouraging him to let us readers of news pull in bits of content by issue and meme. When Streamy claims to have “filters”—which I called “substance- and source-based ways browse, and subscribe to, kinds of content, by keyword and original author, respectively”—it’s claiming to have taken a few steps into the this elusive third component of networked news.

networkOne kind representation of this third component, in the form of how Exxon putatively buys scientific research, is graphic. The “story” is the whole visual network, while the actors are broken down and interconnected within it. The bits of content, in this case, come in the form of profiles on each actor pictured. People and foundations are linked up by bridges connecting them. Those bridges, exxonsecrets says, represent the money that Exxon funnels through the foundations to pay the people to conduct and promote bogus climate research. Users can create, manipulate, and save their own graphical network maps for all to see.

A swirl of excited ideas in my head, it’s all rather tough to articulate. But I’ll get to it soon enough, bit by bit.

Google Reader Shared Items Needs Fewer Friends

I have only one “friend” who has the application. That’s Robert Scoble, and I’d rather browse his link blog in Google Reader itself. There’s no reason for me to check it out in facebook.

There’s a mismatch between a facebook friend, who’s someone I usually know personally and often care about a great deal, and someone whom I’d like to include in the limited group of people whose Google Reader preferences I care about.

I’d love it if lots of my favorite bloggers kept “shared” their favorite posts and brought all that into facebook. I’d love to have Jeff Jarvis’s favorite reads. I’d love to have Doc Searls’s and Dave Winer’s. Yada yada.

But I’m not sure I want them to be my facebook friends. I don’t know them, haven’t met them. Equally as true, if not more, is that they are unlikely to want me to be their facebook friend.

The Google Reader Shared Items application should move away from the conception of “friend” native to facebook. Call the new conception a “follower,” and don’t allow the followed any choice, once they’ve hit shift+s in Google Reader, about whether I snoop in on what they’re reading. After all, I don’t have to know, or even like, Scoble to pull the feed for his link blog into my Google Reader.

I want to use this facebook app to actively subscribe to many individual’s shared items feeds. That’s because, in the end, there’s really only one important feature the app needs: aggregation how I want to aggregate.

Maybe that’s by tag. Maybe that’s by my favorite tech bloggers. Maybe the time comes when I can pull together the recommended reads from my favorite dozen political blogs—Think Progress, Matt Yglesias, Josh Marshal, Kevin Drum, Scott Horton, and others. Maybe I want to aggregate by my best friends forever. It should be up to me.

Love Scoble’s Facebook Yammering!

Robert ScobleI love it so much that I think I’ll add more. But let’s be kinder to ourselves—for good reason!—and not call it yammering. Blabbing? No, that won’t do either.

How about exegesis-ing? Ya, that’s perfectly highfalutin. Facebook is serious stuff, man.

And so I come to point out that Facebook should allow each of us to dismiss items in our News Feeds. Then they could learn what don’t like. In turn, that would free up lots of valuable real estate for news items we do like. The result is a personalized News Feed we all appreciate a little more.

But what to do about ads? Does it make sense to allow us to dismiss those as well? Will miserly users like me automatically dismiss all ads just to spite the advertiser? Maybe, but other users may dismiss only ones they really don’t like and make room for Facebook to serve up ads they do. Being able to separate the wheat and chaffe, of course, allows one to reap more value from the wheat.

While we’re on the topic of Facebook, meanwhile, I’d also love it if I could browse the items on the Google Reader Shared Items app by tag. I would click on a tag in the feed and then see the most popular posts, among my friends or universally. That would be one small step toward a new world of news in which the bits of content that discuss people and issues are actually contingent on those people and issues (well, in this case, issues, anyhow). That would be one small step toward letting the “story” wiggle free from the “article” or “post”—the “bit of content,” as it were. (I posted my request on Mario Romero’s dedicated “request features” discussion board.)

UPDATE: Mario responds to my request, which I called “pie-in-the-sky” on Facebook: “Josh: Thanks for the tip that is DEFINITELY on the to-do list!” Nice!


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