Tech News you can't use

OK, I’m over at TechMeme where there is a TON of tech news today. I can’t keep up.

Let’s run through the headlines and see how much of it you can use.

1. Next-gen MacBook, MacBookPro spotted in matching outfits. Can’t use. (They aren’t out yet).
2. Apple’s iPhone Developer NDA Kills Book for iPhone Developers. Can’t use. (I haven’t signed the NDA).
3. Initial Thoughts on MySpace Music. CAN use!
4. SDK shoot-out: Android vs. iPhone. Can’t use. (Android now out yet).
5. Eee PC to Feature 3.75G for Internet Access Anywhere. Can’t use. Not out yet.
6. Hands on with the Slingbox PRO-HD. Can use. Units just started shipping. I want one.
7. Adobe Talks Open Source, Innovation and the Future of Flash. Can’t use.
8. Yahoo Overhauls System for Selling Display Ads. Can use, but not for consumers, so earns an asterisk.
9. Is Chrome a security risk? Can use.
10. China Mobile Seeking Cut-Down Version of Apple’s iPhone. Can’t use.
11. Announcing the Virtual Earth Web Service and Virtual Earth Map Control 6.2. CAN use!
12. BoomTown Decodes Jerry Yang’s Here-Comes-the-Weasel-Consultants Memo. Can’t use.
13. Y Combinator’s SocialBrowse Launches to the Public. CAN use!
14. Microsoft’s Mundie outlines the future of computing. CAN use!
15. Introducing Google Moderator on App Engine. CAN use, but only for developers.
16. Apple proposes improvements to Safari browsing experience. Can’t use.
17. RWW Interviews David Tosh of Elgg The Open Source Social Networking Platform. Can’t use.
18. Layoffs at ad network Glam Media. Can’t use.
19. Apple Seeds iPhone Firmware 2.2 Beta1. Can’t use.
20. Activity Centered Design. Can’t use.
21. Yahoo Buys Site for Nebraska Data Center. Can’t use.
22. Schwarzennegger outlaws text-messaging while driving. Can’t use.
23. China space mission article hits Web before launch. Can’t use.

So, what can we learn from this?

Well, most of the news we can’t use.

But even more. We as bloggers aren’t looking at how to really put any of this new stuff to use in our daily lives. That’s a change for the blogosphere. I remember when Dave Winer and Mike Arrington were always telling us how to use this stuff to make our lives better. I miss that kind of blogging, and probably explains why I like Lifehacker so much.

Tomorrow on we’ll get back to news you can use. We’ll have Sumit Agarwal, product manager for Google Mobile, on the show and we’ll talk about some ways you can use your mobile phone to actually do more business (that’ll be shared live at 10 a.m. Pacific Time and after the show we’ll be on my Kyte channel so you can ask him questions ). Later in the afternoon we’ll also have the CEO of TripIt on a separate show where he talks about services to help you travel better.

These kinds of things might not get hundreds of thousands of visits. They won’t get on Digg. Won’t get on Google News. Won’t get on TechMeme. But I think they are more useful and in these days shouldn’t you get something useful out of your news? I should start a new site called “tech news you can use.” I’m shocked no one has already.

One other example? Check out the video of MoneyAisle. If you are looking to invest money in CDs (lots of people are lately because you need to make sure you don’t have any more than $100,000 in any one account since so many banks are close to failing) then this service will get you a much better rate (they do auctions with 80 different banks). Now THAT is cool news to me (a longer video shot with our HD camcorders will be up soon where we dig into the very cool technology behind this service).

Anyway, hope that’s useful. Now we’re off to catch a flight home to San Francisco from Boston.

The FriendFeed for the rest of us

Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix

Yeah, you are probably sick of the FriendFeed hype. Sorry about that. But I do look around to see if there’s any other choices out there. Today I found one.

125,000 comments per day. Heck, FriendFeed doesn’t even have that many people on it yet.

Here’s an interview with Topix’ CEO, Chris Tolles, having a conversation with me about the online community business. How is he doing it? He covers his advertising, his marketing, and other aspects of his business.

He also discusses the differences between “normal people” and people who read TechCrunch and hang out on FriendFeed.

Of course we’re discussing this video over on FriendFeed now. 🙂

Oh, and note that this was done with an updated Qik client which gives a little better quality.

Why Google News has no noise

I’m a noise junkie. I used to be a news junkie, but I’ve hung out with the world’s top journalists enough now to see that the good ones are noise junkies. They are the types that head into a crowded party and listen to pitch after pitch (noise) and drunken story after drunken story (noise) to find something that their audiences will find interesting (news). I’m not the only one who likes the noise: Hutch Carpenter defends the noise too.

Last year I got a tour of the Wall Street Journal’s West Coast printing plant. They print 60,000 copies an hour. At the end of the tour the head pressman said “I’ve been reading this six hours before you did for more than 15 years now and it hasn’t helped yet.” Why? Cause the news isn’t where the action is: the high value bits are stuck in the noise.

I’ve been studying noise and news now for quite a while. I’ve been wondering why sites like Google News and TechMeme have no, or little, noise? Tomorrow I’ll tour the New York Times headquarters in New York to pick up even more tips of how they make sure noise doesn’t sneak onto its pages.

First, let’s do a little definition of the difference between news and noise. The noise examples were pulled off of Twitter in the past few minutes.

NEWS: tens of thousands dead in China quake.
NOISE: BrianGreene: some pirate is playing old radio nova tapes on 92FM dublin, with old jingles and old ads. adverts for rent a 20″ TV 48p a day (48 pence!)

NEWS: Janitors go on strike.
NOISE: flawlesswalrus: @craigmod Iron Man’s fun times. Enjoy!

NEWS: Facebook blocks Google
NOISE: dmkanter: organizing my igoogle homepage

So, how come services like Twitter and FriendFeed have so much noise? Who likes the noise? Who likes the news?

I like the noise. Why? Because I can see patterns before anyone else. I saw the Chinese earthquake happening 45 minutes before Google News reported it. Why? Because I was watching the noise, not the news.

Let me ask you something. Do you think Walt Mossberg will wake up tomorrow and worry about what’s on TechMeme or Google News, or will he sit through yet another boring PR pitch from some gadget company trying to find something unique to tell his readers?

The news is in the noise. Which is why Twitter is crack for newsmakers. There’s no better place to find noise, er news, than on Twitter. Even on FriendFeed there’s less noise than there is on Twitter (if you subscribe to both). Why? Because of the “Hide” link and clustering. I can put 156 Tweets in my Twitter follower’s faces, blocking all other Twitterers from getting to their pages. But on FriendFeed? All my Tweets are clustered together and blocked from view unless you expand them to read them all.

So, anyway, how does Google News and Techmeme keep the noise from hitting their pages?

Google News: Only tracks sites that have “teams” of people working on them. That usually means there’s an organized effort. That alone blocks 99.9% of bloggers and Twitterers from even being considered.

TechMeme: requires multiple “votes” by an elite to get on the page. Even a link from TechCrunch (which is the #1 “voter” on TechMeme) won’t get you onto Techmeme. You’ve gotta have something else to go with that link.

Google News: the more “big city newspapers and news sources” that cover something, the more likely that story will get to the home page.

TechMeme: watches signaling from key members on Twitter and Google Reader. If enough people who are on the TechMeme Leaderboard Twitter and share an item on Google Reader you’ll see the item pulled onto the page.

Both Google News and Techmeme: only stuff in past 24 hours gets onto the page.

What differentiates Techmeme and Google News? Google News only considers news from news teams (mostly, only a few blogs are there among hundreds of thousands of newspapers, TV stations, magazines, and news blogs like Huffington Post). Techmeme? Looks at Twitter and Google Reader for signaling mechanisms (what news is getting hot) but mostly considers blog posts and professional journalism that have gotten the attention of a limited number of “elite” bloggers/journalists. Techmeme gets news from sources that aren’t always professionally run sites, which is the biggest differentiator. Techmeme could be said to have more noise than Google News, which is what makes it more interesting than Google News — to me. To my dad? I bet he’d like Google News better because it only has news, no noise.

The problem with both Google News and Techmeme? New ideas and new people won’t get onto the page easily. You have to convince multiple people who control these sites that your stuff is important. In Google News’ case you’ll probably have to publish your news on a site that already is added to Google News’ database. That’s one reason why I see Dave Winer’s stuff only when he writes for Huffington Post show up there. Convincing someone like Huffington Post that you’re important enough to publish is pretty hard and takes building up a reputation and an audience of your own.

If you’re looking for new faces and new conversations that haven’t yet gotten to be important enough to get onto Google News or Techmeme, then FriendFeed and Twitter are far better places to hang out.

Getting on TechMeme? You better convince someone near the top of the TechMeme leader board (getting me to link to you doesn’t really matter unless someone in the top five also links to you) to talk about you and link to you. That’s really hard. Why? Cause we don’t agree on what’s important. You can see that come out in last Friday’s Gillmor Gang. Heck, we’re yelling at each other on the phone. You think we’re going to decide to link to you? Hah!

I know Google News and TechMeme will get more of a mainstream audience because all they report is news, but excuse me if I spend a lot more time over on Twitter and FriendFeed swimming in the noise.

Google Reader's new "share note" feature: the video review

I love the idea of Google Reader’s new “share note” feature, but find it lacking in implementation — watch along in this video review.

What’s really wrong with it?

1. It’s breaking on my machines. No way to cancel note that I can see, and UI is not coming up. I’m sure that’s a temporary problem, so let’s discount that.

2. It’s causing a LOT of new duplication of items (which was a major problem in Google Reader before this, but is even worse after). Why? Well, I share one item, then I decide “I’d like add a note to that” so I click “share with note.” Now it shares it again with the note added on.

3. No way I can see of removing the note once it’s shared.

4. Unlike FriendFeed, I can’t add a note to other people’s shared items.

5. Unlike FriendFeed we can’t see threaded discussion under the headlines.

6. I can’t figure out a keyboard shortcut.

Speaking of FriendFeed. Check out the commentary about this feature. I’m sharing the best sites I see that talk about it. Welcome to the World Wide Talk Show.

UPDATE: I just added a video comment on TechCrunch’s post about this. Seesmic posts are pretty cool. This time the actual UI worked fine, but the post was shared twice.