Sometimes, robots just aren’t enough

TechMeme adds a human editor to make adjustments when the algorithm fails:

“Any competent developer who tries to automate the selection of news headlines will inevitably discover that this approach always comes up a bit short. Automation does indeed bring a lot to the table — humans can’t possibly discover and organize news as fast as computers can. But too often the lack of real intelligence leads to really unintelligent results. Only an algorithm would feature news about Anna Nicole Smith’s hospitalization after she’s already been declared dead, as our automated celeb news site WeSmirch did last year

Would Google News add humans to the mix to craft a more up-to-date, relevant news site?  I doubt it.

But I’d be interested to see further variations of the algorithms that run Google News, TechMeme, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Digg or Reddit, to see what else is possible when it comes to translating the logic of linking behavior into actual prioritization of “importance,” if that’s still a relevant metric.

via @jayrosen_nyu

Catering to information obsession

The moment that launched years of overzealous information consumption, filtering, sharing, and engagement, for me, was seeing Scoble’s feedreader on a screen in 2005.  He was subscribed to 1200 feeds.

Since then, he’s shifted his information production and consumption around from stream to stream as necessary to stay at the absolute front of the curve as news breaks.  In his case, it’s usually technology news that he’s engaged with, but take the following bits of this blog post to heart if you produce a news site of any size:

“Some of my friends say I’m really stupid to stop spending so much time obsessing over TechMeme and blogging and to be spending so much time on FriendFeed and Twitter.

That might be so. But already my inbound news is more diverse AND faster than TechMeme and my outbound “Likes” and “Comment” feed is pretty damn good cause it includes all sorts of different data types. Quick, how often have you seen a video on TechMeme? I can’t remember the time. But video is a HUGE part of news today and video and photos are huge parts of the experience on FriendFeed. Especially live video. That shows up on FriendFeed, it doesn’t show up on TechMeme. Well, except when YouTube throws a big concert. Then you see the news stories about the concert, but you need to click through articles to see the live video.” [The emphasis is mine.]

Read the whole thing.  It will make more sense if you’re familiar with the trends in technology news for the last few years, but you can substitute “traditional newspaper Web site” for TechMeme in a lot of places, as crazy as that sounds, and think about how faster, more personal gatherings of links to news and information (like what you get from the people you follow on Twitter or FriendFeed) are disruptive to that traditional editorial structure.