In this corner, weighing in with more than a dozen years editing experience on websites, newspapers and magazines, I give you – the Human Editor.
And in the other corner, weighing in with quad-Intel Titanium processors and capable of churning through a gazillion mathematical functions a second, is the beige box.Let’s get ready to rumble…
A couple of days ago, I penned this piece about a search engine that might leverage off the knowledge and understanding of subject experts in the blogosphere. The part of the post that generated most interest in the subsequent comments was my assertion that for the most part a human editor could pretty much match the output of a Google News or Memeorandum. In fact, I reckoned given the set-up that I could do it.
I got this comment from Paul Montgomery post responding to my claim that I reckon I could out-memeorandum, memeorandum”.
“I wouldn’t be so quick to make claims of your out-Memeoranduming powers. No one ‘gives’ you those tools, you have to build them yourself, as Gabe has done. Show some respect!”
First of all, a big Pffft to the throw-away line at the end. I respect my mother and that’s about it. Secondly, heard of a little site called Google, Monty. It’s contains a bunch of tools that are indeed given away, which makes it mighty easy to track news stories, blogs, and other such information.
Memeorandum’s Gabe also chipped in saying: “Nah, human editors can’t keep up. They are useful, and maybe memeorandum would be somewhat better with them somehow, but the most informed kind of reading will increasingly need to rely in part on algorithms.”
Gabe doesn’t discount that a human editor could add value but he still believes conversations generally move too fast for a human to keep up with.
I’m just looking at memeorandum now and there are less than 100 links on the page (admittedly, it’s Sunday…). Those links pretty much have rolled on and off the page over a 48 hour period. I gotta tell you, it ain’t that many. Without memeorandum or like services, I’d have to pound away on a search engine all day but I do think I’d be able to keep pretty good pace. But the reality is I’ve got a secret weapon. There’s nothing stopping me using memorandum and other like services, which will save me oodles of time on the collection front and enable me to focus most of my effort on re-packing the content, based on human judgement, to make it as interesting and appealing to my reader as possible (and before you say that’s hardly fair, automated aggregation systems are heavily reliant on the judgement of human editors in deciding which stories are important and deserve precedence, so in the context of my argument, which is that a hybrid system will always be superior, I believe it’s totally fair).
People are forgetting that we’ve always had content aggregation services. They’re called newspapers. Every day, thousands of editors sift through mountains of news stories, columns, letters and use their highly-tuned understanding of what turns their reader on, to piece together a compelling information package. It’s absolutely no different to what web-based aggregation services are doing, only I reckon the human will generally do it better.
Which makes it kind of hard for me to fathom, the millions of dollars being thrown at sites like digg.com. I can’t help but think their success comes down to 1) novelty value and 2) the fact that mainstream publishers have such shithouse online services.
Anyway, I’m ready to put my theory to the test. Me and memeorandum. If this generates enough interest, one day early January, when I’ll be able to devote a working day to it, I’m going to see if I can out-memeorandum, memeorandum. And then the blogosphere can decide. Human or machine – who edits best?