Archive for the 'MarioRomero' Category

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.

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?

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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