TechFuga makes it clear TechMeme is not innovating

OK, OK, I’m back to my blog thanks to popular demand. 🙂

One new service came up this morning that caught my eye: TechFuga.

As Louis Gray says, it’s like TechMeme and AllTop had a baby.

Now, whether or not you think this will prove successful (the jury is out, especially since TechMeme’s traffic has flatlined the past year) this points to something else: TechMeme hasn’t innovated and that lack of innovation is opening the door to competitors.

How has it not innovated? TechMeme has not acknowledged that there is something interesting going on elsewhere. That people are using other aggregators, like Reddit and Digg, along with other social networks, like Twitter and friendfeed, to get their news.

Now that we see a service that, while imperfect, demonstrates what new features look like, we see that TechMeme has stalled.

Gabe Rivera (he’s the founder of TechMeme), are you going to answer this, or are you going to keep on the flat track saying that only “high end articles and blogs” matter?

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.


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 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.
“Redenting @newsjunk: [Frank Rich]: Who Wants to Kick a Millionaire?. 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 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!

Tech news in real time

Faster than a flying TechMeme. Deeper than a Reddit. More comments than a Digg post at Jr. High.

OK, I’m just having some fun, but I just put a link to Facebook Connect Coming to Twitter on my FriendFeed like page. If you haven’t watched that lately you’ll see a ton of stuff you won’t see anywhere else.

Watching 5,000 people tell me the latest news is changing everything about what I think news in the future will look like.

Your friends will bring you the news. Just like here.

Then we’ll talk about it. That’s my comment feed so you can see what I’m talking about.

Then we’ll blog about it, or do our own reporting.

And the cycle will start all over again.

Do you think this has anything to do with why FriendFeed is growing faster than TechMeme is?

And, want to see the news happen in real time without any filtering? Here’s the 5,230 people I’m listening to in real time. Wild.

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.

Off of the tech entertainment train

Today several people noted that I am no longer on Techmeme’s leader board.

Funny, lately I’ve been reading TechMeme less and less and caring less and less about whether what I do appears there. It’s why I went to Washington DC. I knew the other geeks like Mike Arrington wouldn’t link to those videos. Why? Well, as Zoe Lofgren said in the conversation we had with her, politicians are boring. I remember on a Gillmor Gang a few months back that Arrington announced that he was an entertainer. He’s right, and is one of the reasons why he owns the top of the Techmeme leaderboard. Me? I’d rather do something else than be an entertainer. I want to have smart conversations and if that means I’m not going to be on the Techmeme leaderboard anymore, so be it.

This week I was at Hewlett Packard hanging out with researchers who are working at the atomic level to find new ways to make memory and processors that will be far more important to all of us than whether or not there’s some people standing in line waiting for the next iPhone. But science isn’t sexy. You won’t see our video of that on TechMeme either.

Nor will you see the video that we did with the CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association that’ll be up on Monday. Nor will you see the video we did with Tim Ferriss. In fact, out of all the videos I’ve done this year I can’t think of one that’s been on Techmeme. Heck, my tour of CERN wasn’t on TechMeme, nor was our visit to IBM’s Research Center.

So, if I’m not chasing Techmeme anymore, what am I chasing? FriendFeed and Twitter. They are, together, where the audience that I really care about is hanging out. Who do I care about? Early adopters who want to have conversations with smart people about smart things.

Well, because FriendFeed’ers care about learning something new about the industry and not just getting entertained by the latest sensationalism.

Interesting that Dave Winer just shipped a new tech news site. Why? He’s disatisfied with Techmeme too. Funny, too, that I was talking with a journalist from a major news organization a couple of weeks back. He said “we only get 1,400 visitors when we’re at the top of Techmeme — that’s statistically insignificant.” I answered back “I am getting more visitors lately from Twitter and FriendFeed and the audience I get is more engaged and is usually reading Techmeme anyway.”

But, just in case, is one of the advertisers on TechMeme now and I do read it a couple times a day just to see if I missed something (it’s been a long time, though, that it caught something that hadn’t already been discussed over on FriendFeed).

As another example, look at the kinds of things I’ve “Liked” on FriendFeed lately. Now compare that to TechMeme. Which one is more interesting? Why?

It’s OK if you say Techmeme is more entertaining. It is.

But is that all you want out of your tech bloggers and journalists?

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.

The First FriendFeed Event: MSFT and YHOO

Well, just spent the past four hours watching FriendFeed for interesting discussions about the Yahoo/Microsoft deal. This is the result. Page-after-page of conversations. It’s like a new talk show. There’s even an audio talk show that I participated in during this time. Do you see it on the feed? This is the new conversation. Now compare to Techmeme’s conversations about the same. It has a totally different feel, don’t ya think?

Which do you find more interesting, why?