Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Human editing giving Techmeme a very different feel already

Right now, the top story on Techmeme is the piece I just posted on - Google Chrome coming out of Beta.

In case you missed it, last week Gabe Rivera the creator of the Techmeme aggregator announced he was adding a human editor to his payroll. Ironically, I was involved in a blog conversation about two years earlier with Gabe over the merits of a human editor versus an all-automated solution and Gabe at the time suggested he would look at human interference at some point in the future but probably not for Tech.

A couple of years later down the track, he’s changed his mind and Techmeme now has a journalist adding editorial judgements to the mix of story rankings and grouping.

So let’s go back to that Google Chrome story. Right now, it has just one link from Tech BLORGE. Under the old algorithm model, one-link would never be enough to get a story up to the top of Techmeme especially on a busy news day like we’ve seen over the past 24 hours.

I also just saw two links that were previously attached to that story – but which were actually about Google Native Code rather than Chrome dissapear from the Grouping. Not sure, if they were added their manually or removed manually?

So the obvious advantage of the new human-editing approach is clearly that stories can rise to the top far quicker based on an editor’s decision rather than waiting for the blogosphere to decide its a hot issue and promote the piece algorithmically. However, that’s kind of why I go to Techmeme – I want to see what the community has decided is the hot news – not what an editor thinks as I can after all get that anywhere.

The removal of those too, means, you’ve got that element of human error (or correction) which again makes it more like a traditional news site. I don’t know, the site just feels different and I’m not sure I’m digging it.

There have been many complaints about Techmeme as a self-perpetuating echo-chamber where people simply write about a story because its at the top of Techmeme. Now, having a human interfere (enhance) the rankings means you can prevent this happening somewhat, but it introduces the equally problematic issue that now you have bloggers writing about something just because Techmeme’s editor thinks it is a cool story.

I would suggest Gabe has gone the route he has because it makes his software platform far more valuable than it was previously. The idea doesn’t work unless you have a critical mass of people linking to each other and there aren’t that many blog categories where that happens. It also means that you can’t really on-sell the technology because you would just end up with each user of the platform having pages that look identical.

By introducing a human-editing angle to the memeorandum platform, Gabe will be able to potentially sell his platform to any media company who can then use machine-editing to enhance its human editing process. That will potentially enable media companies to run more sites with less resources but still maintain the overall editorial control and feel with their own real-life editors. It’s a pretty attractive model.

P.S. It will be interesting to see what happens with this post as it links to the aforementioned Google story but has done so in a tangential way. I guess the way it should work is the algorithm will add it and then the editor would remove it? Let’s see…

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