Archive for the 'RobertScoble' Category

Techmeme Does Digg

I suspect Scoble will be vindicated on video. I think we’ll all take another step out into the world and publish not just our written words but also out likenesses, speaking words. I like Scoble videos, although I tend to agree with this comment’s sentiments.

In his latest video, Scoble reverse engineers Techmeme. I’m not going to rehearse his video. Others already have, but you should just follow my link and watch it, if you’re interested.

I can add value by correcting Scoble on one point. Techmeme does digg. In fact, on Techmeme right now, the story right above Scoble’s reverse engineering includes Digg as a “subnote.”

PS. Deeplinking into video has got to catch on. I want to link to the part of the video when Scoble talks about how Techmeme ignore Digg and Reddit and StumbleUpon, but I can’t.


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.

Scoble Apologizes For Flooding Facebook

But this very well may be facebook’s “problem,” and I don’t think that’s a surprise. Scoble didn’t write facebook’s newsfeed algorithm, after all.

For instance, facebook may be more likely to add Scoble’s items to his friends’ newsfeeds because he has many friends (I won’t share the number, because Scoble already has…a few times, anyway). But if this is a matter of many, many friends, facebook can simply throttle that down.

Or it may be because many of us click, or have recently clicked, on the items he posted or the applications he added. I certainly used to click on lots of Scoble’s posted items and other bits of activity. “Oh, Scoble just added that application! Let me check that out!” I don’t practice so much nearly blind experimentation anymore. That’s nothing against Scoble, but I just don’t get as much value as I used and as I thought I did. I like his blog more. Anyhow, facebook can fix this too. Facebook can stop its newsfeed algorithm from presuming that other people still care about Scoble’s added applications just because I used used to.

For any problem I can imagine, facebook can fix it. Then it’s just got to worry about the side-effects, and the two solutions above don’t strike me as portending awful consequences. Can you think of others—perhaps some clever catch-22 or truly gordian knot?

Screenshot from Facebook News Feed“But is there something I can do?” Scoble asks in the comments to the post in which he apologizes for taking over facebook. “I’m certainly looking through the setting to see if I can turn down my own noise level.” He protests that he’s “reading thousands of people, and I respond to them. So I look ‘noisy’ to lots of people.” Scoble frets, wrings his hands, and writes, “I know, but not sure what I can do about it.”

Haha. I have just one idea. Scoble doth protest too much, methinks.

But let’s get one thing clear. It’s not his responsibility to mind how facebook builds its own newsfeed. He can do what he likes with it, and we can choose whether we want to be his friends in view of that. But as long as Scoble really, really wants to find something he can do, I’ve got a suggestion. It all starts with Bill Tai’s video on kite sailing. What’s the issue? It’s in my newsfeed twice—once because Scoble gave props to his boy and once because Scoble then posted the video for all to see. It’s a fun video (though I gotta be snobby on the Coldplay front). Just posting the video, with a comment, would have probably gotten back to Mr. Tai. To the extent that that’s probable, it’s also probable that the original props are redundant. Don’t leave a comment and then also post the video. Pick one. Just an idea.

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!

Josh Young's Facebook profile

What I'm saving.

RSS What I’m reading.

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.