The tale of 20 likes and its impact on news

I care about news. It’s why I love talking with Gabe Rivera, the guy who makes TechMeme and a bunch of similar sites, like I did in Paris France at the recent LeWeb Conference.

I told him that TechMeme has grown cold for me, which is why I wanted a new system — one where humans bring me the news instead of algorithms.

Rivera countered that he wanted a page that — no matter when you looked at it — would be filled with news from the most credible and authoritative sources from around the world.

And that nailed why it’s cold for me. He’s removed all noise from it. Well, except that the news is noise of a different sort.

But humans are noisy and TechMeme doesn’t include things like Tweets. Here, quick, can you find this Tweet on TechMeme:

“Holy f**king shit I wasbjust in a plane crash!”

Tweets are all about noise, aren’t they? Or was that just news? Hint: you need humans to find the news, algorithms that don’t count video, tweets, or FriendFeed posts as news won’t find them all.

Yes, that Tweet was actually from someone who was on the plane yesterday that crashed off of the runway in Denver.

But humans will. As I found this one pretty quickly after Mike Wilson posted it from the Denver Airport (the rest of his tweets are fascinating, too).

Now, this morning, I’m sure Rivera would say that this Tweet doesn’t belong on TechMeme, but belongs on his sister site, Memeorandum, which is where the world’s news goes. But it’s not there either.

In the past week I’ve read many thousands of items and have liked 757 of them. You can see all my likes on FriendFeed. Here I’m giving you a sample of just my latest 20. These are from 5,363 people who I’ve hand added based on their ability to participate and bring me stuff that makes me smarter.

When I click “like” on something it means I think it’s important enough for you to read. Sometimes I wish it said “share” instead of “like” because some news items aren’t likeable but they are important anyway.

I’m also going to compare to TechMeme so you can see how many of these items appear on TechMeme. They are listed in order from newest to oldest.

1.

I liked this item because Loic’s company, Seesmic, just did a major rearchitecture where they built in XMPP between all major components. What does this mean? Things on Seesmic will appear much faster now on its real time news reader, Twhirl, and potentially a lot faster on real time news services like FriendFeed. In 2009 I believe the real time web will be much more important than it is today, so this is an interesting trend to watch, along with articles about SUP, the protocol developed by FriendFeed to do similar things. Not on TechMeme yet.

2. Seesmic

Some explanations about our new architecture
I liked this item for the same reason, except this one contains a video by Loic. I’ve never seen video like this appear on a top-level post in TechMeme.
3. Blog
I’m a photography buff and a Make Magazine fan. Anytime they write about an issue it usually is interesting and teaches me something. Also not on TechMeme.
4. Blog
Fred is a VC in New York City that always teaches me something through his writings and this is no exception where he shows a crack in our education system and explores how we can get kids enthusiastic again about science and math studies. Not on TechMeme as of 11:37 a.m. when I typed this.
5. Blog
Brian Solis is one of the best PR people I deal with and wrote this post for TechCrunch yesterday. I liked this one so that his blog would get traffic and that he’d get credit for writing this interesting post, which implores companies to fight through the fear and keep spending on marketing. It was on TechMeme yesterday because TechCrunch gets on TechMeme quite frequently.
6. Twitter
I shared this one because Louis Gray picks interesting guest posters for his blog and lots of new people are discovering Twitter and I thought this author had something interesting to say on the topic. Matches my own advice to Twitter users: choosing who you follow is the most important thing you’ll do.
7. Blog
I track how idiotic the music industry is and how they choose which services they support. Plus, Slashdot always has an interesting take on the news, especially the geekier stuff, and the commenters there always are both entertaining and smart. This was on TechMeme yesterday.
8. Blog
I’ve known Loren Heiny for years (since before I worked at Microsoft) and he’s one of the smartest developers in the Tablet PC world. This time, though, he wants a far better way to share with his readers his CES experience. Me too! Not on TechMeme, but this shows why I love FriendFeed: I can keep in touch with the smart people I know even if they aren’t making top-level news.
9. Blog
Jeff Smith is a developer I’ve been following for a long time because he always seems to keep up to date on the cutting edge. Here is no exception as he is testing out SUP, a new protocol that lets developers build systems that post to FriendFeed very fast. Geeky exploration of new technologies rarely gets to TechMeme, but you’ll probably read more about this protocol in first half of 2009. The real-time Web is going to be big next year and SUP will play an important part in it.
10. Twitter
I’ve loved studying typography ever since I got into desktop publishing in the late 1980s (our school got a $5,000 laser printer and I proceeded to start collecting Adobe fonts — later I even beta tested fonts for Adobe and beta tested Acrobat 1.0 too). Anyway, we don’t think enough about the fonts that put type on your screen, so I instantly liked this post. Love how Guy markets his own services too, but you already knew that if you watched the interview I did with him on FastCompany.tv. This isn’t on TechMeme.
11. Blog
Dave is one of the first bloggers I started reading and I still read him every day. He  has great worth to me and glad he’s played such a big role in my life the past eight years. This isn’t on TechMeme.
12. Blog
Loren again, this time telling us about what he thinks of the latest netbooks. Since he’s been developing software for years for the Tablet PC, I trust his input. His sister works on Microsoft’s Tablet PC team too. Not on TechMeme.
13. Google Reader
Notice that this article is not written by Louis Gray. He shared it with his readers in Google Reader. So, Louis is bringing me news I would never have known about. This is a really key role if you want to be a participant in the new live web. We can’t subscribe to it all, but if we help each other out by bringing everyone good new voices or news, then we all win. This isn’t on TechMeme yet. I disagree with the author, too, so that might turn into a separate blog post.
14. Blog
Ever since visiting Washington DC I’ve become interested in our national broadband policy and this headline caught my eye. I haven’t seen this on TechMeme yet either.
15. identi.ca
“Redenting @newsjunk: [Frank Rich]: Who Wants to Kick a Millionaire?. http://x.techwheat.com/3EZ A MUST READ FOR INTELLIGENT PEOPLE”
Francine is a friend who teaches entrepreneurship in Phoenix and invests in early-stage companies. Generally when she says to read something it’s well worth the time. This is no exception. Note that this came from her identi.ca account. Only weird geeks use that service. Which makes stuff that happens over there more interesting than on other services. Not on TechMeme, but shouldn’t be because it isn’t about tech.
16. Twitter
Disgusting story that Dave found about how bailed-out banks are rewarding their execs with our tax money. Did you see this on TechMeme, now, of course not. It’s not tech, but you should know about it. Not on Techmeme, but is on sister site Memeorandum.
17. Blog
Engadget usually has stories about the latest gadgets, but this one caught my eye because of the impact it could have on medicine aroundd the world. You should read the comments over on FriendFeed, though. They think it’ll be used by insurance companies to spy on us.
18. Blog
I visited EA earlier this year, so have been interested in how the company will do through the economic downturn. It totally missed the iPhone app store paradigm shift. You should see my son and how many games he plays on the iPhone. Of course, right now he’s playing Call of Duty 4. That’s not an EA game. And he’s played through to level 80 in World of Wacraft. Not an EA game either.
19. Blog
This is like arguing Mac. vs. PC. It’ll be a debate for a while, but it was an entertaining post to read on a rainy Sunday morning.
20. Twitter
I love developers who try new things out. Check this out. Is this on TechMeme? No. Plus using Google’s App Engine, which is another trend we’re tracking: cloud computing.
Well, I could keep going, but why don’t you just visit my like page and join in? Oh, and please share your FriendFeed account with me so I can track your news too. Thanks!

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. I have to agree that Techmeme is lacking in a lot of ways. It tends to pull the same blogs in again and again. I’ve seem smaller blogs break news and not even rank in the discussion when a big blog jumps on the story. But while I see merit in Twitter and Friendfeed as news sources, how would Techmeme rank tweets or FF links without a full human staff? I know you’re pointing out the weakness in its algorithm, but isn’t that what makes Techmeme a successful business model?

  2. I have to agree that Techmeme is lacking in a lot of ways. It tends to pull the same blogs in again and again. I’ve seem smaller blogs break news and not even rank in the discussion when a big blog jumps on the story. But while I see merit in Twitter and Friendfeed as news sources, how would Techmeme rank tweets or FF links without a full human staff? I know you’re pointing out the weakness in its algorithm, but isn’t that what makes Techmeme a successful business model?

  3. “I’m a photography buff” – you wield a $3000 DSLR like a point-and-shoot. Seriously, 30 seconds of post-processing on photos like http://www.flickr.com/photos/scobleizer/3091832842 would make a huge difference (um, crooked?). The comment on this photo sums it up perfectly, too. You’re shooting at ISO 1600, 1/200 sec, and f/5. You could easily drop your shutter speed to a quarter of where it’s at, and still get a sharp photo. You could widen your aperture by a couple stops without losing any sharpness. All of these facts conspire to mean that you could have dropped your ISO significantly, and still taken an extremely sharp photo. Instead, you get an unnecessarily grainy and noisy photo.

    And besides, if you really are a photography buff, where are the links to Joe McNally, David Hobby, Vincent Laforet, Zack Arias, Ben Willmore, or the dozens of other fantastic photographers out there?

    Thomas Hawk shoots great stuff, but he’s only one person in a sea of dozens or hundreds of very highly talented people.

  4. “I’m a photography buff” – you wield a $3000 DSLR like a point-and-shoot. Seriously, 30 seconds of post-processing on photos like http://www.flickr.com/photos/scobleizer/3091832842 would make a huge difference (um, crooked?). The comment on this photo sums it up perfectly, too. You’re shooting at ISO 1600, 1/200 sec, and f/5. You could easily drop your shutter speed to a quarter of where it’s at, and still get a sharp photo. You could widen your aperture by a couple stops without losing any sharpness. All of these facts conspire to mean that you could have dropped your ISO significantly, and still taken an extremely sharp photo. Instead, you get an unnecessarily grainy and noisy photo.

    And besides, if you really are a photography buff, where are the links to Joe McNally, David Hobby, Vincent Laforet, Zack Arias, Ben Willmore, or the dozens of other fantastic photographers out there?

    Thomas Hawk shoots great stuff, but he’s only one person in a sea of dozens or hundreds of very highly talented people.

  5. Our inhouse algo’s often find 1st person tweets before the chaos. Once chaos begins, humans can be good at filtering if they’re willing to confront the firehose – though usually it is very delayed. Manual filtering after chaos begins is not an enviable way to live.

    Plane Crash ~ 1st Tweet Timeline.. http://tweetip.us/lkdvu

  6. Our inhouse algo’s often find 1st person tweets before the chaos. Once chaos begins, humans can be good at filtering if they’re willing to confront the firehose – though usually it is very delayed. Manual filtering after chaos begins is not an enviable way to live.

    Plane Crash ~ 1st Tweet Timeline.. http://tweetip.us/lkdvu

  7. Aaron: when you start paying for my photography you can have my edited photos. Until then…

    :-)

    Of course you are right, but seriously dude. I didn’t realize that to be a buff I had to prove it here every day to you.

    Speaking of which, if you follow my friendfeed account you’d see that I regularly share the photography of tons of photographers, not just Thomas Hawk.

  8. Aaron: when you start paying for my photography you can have my edited photos. Until then…

    :-)

    Of course you are right, but seriously dude. I didn’t realize that to be a buff I had to prove it here every day to you.

    Speaking of which, if you follow my friendfeed account you’d see that I regularly share the photography of tons of photographers, not just Thomas Hawk.

  9. Justin: to build a TechMeme you need metadata about both the person posting as well as the post itself. In Techmeme’s case he (er, his algorithms) knows intimately the sources that he puts up there, and he uses everything available to try to rank those sources (links, comments, along with some human intervention now). To do the same with the real-time web you need metadata. Hint: FriendFeed has it with likes and comments. Twitter? Retweets and other things (see tweetip above for a good example of how his service pulls the news out of the noise there).

  10. Justin: to build a TechMeme you need metadata about both the person posting as well as the post itself. In Techmeme’s case he (er, his algorithms) knows intimately the sources that he puts up there, and he uses everything available to try to rank those sources (links, comments, along with some human intervention now). To do the same with the real-time web you need metadata. Hint: FriendFeed has it with likes and comments. Twitter? Retweets and other things (see tweetip above for a good example of how his service pulls the news out of the noise there).

  11. And Robert, I apologize for being a jerk; it’s just that given the wide variety of places you go, and the equipment you already own, I feel like you have the opportunity to take some really spectacular photos.

  12. And Robert, I apologize for being a jerk; it’s just that given the wide variety of places you go, and the equipment you already own, I feel like you have the opportunity to take some really spectacular photos.

  13. Fred, http://ffholic.com is a 3rd party site that has been created on top of the FriendFeed API. It provides a daily summary of the most liked & commented posts on FriendFeed and much more. It has become a must visit for me and most active FriendFeeders.

  14. Fred, http://ffholic.com is a 3rd party site that has been created on top of the FriendFeed API. It provides a daily summary of the most liked & commented posts on FriendFeed and much more. It has become a must visit for me and most active FriendFeeders.

  15. Francine actually seems to post identical content on Twitter as well

    With retweets I have issues – people retweet linking to the original tweeter, thus severely limiting reach due to the way Twitter works, and how few people have Twitter configured to see replies made by the people they follow, to people they are not following.

  16. Francine actually seems to post identical content on Twitter as well

    With retweets I have issues – people retweet linking to the original tweeter, thus severely limiting reach due to the way Twitter works, and how few people have Twitter configured to see replies made by the people they follow, to people they are not following.

  17. […] in Sprechblase by Cem Basman am Dezember 24th, 2008 Robert Scoble about identi.ca: Only weird geeks use that service. Which makes stuff that happens over there more interesting than […]