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Posts tagged with ‘memeorandum’

Rebecca Blood: Flickr and “collaborative photojournalism”

Rebecca Blood coins a new term, collaborative journalism:

[from How Flickr single-handedly invented collaborative photojournalism :: Rebecca Blood]

What is collaborative journalism? I would define it as news reporting, enabled by the Internet, done by a dispersed, unorganized group of people — or a group that spontaneously (and temporarily) organizes around their interest in a particular event. It’s a compelling idea, but unfortunately — and in spite of many millions of blogs and wikis and online forums — actual examples are few and far between.

I had believed that was because most people are just not that interested in reporting the news, but I was wrong. Most of us can’t wait to “break” a story to our friends, whether we’ve just witnessed a car accident, a celebrity sighting, or discovered that friends who were dating have broken up.

I’m beginning to suspect that what citizen reporters lack is the proper tool. Because the Flickr slideshow of photos of the French employment riots [Flash required] amply demonstrates that, on Flickr at least, collaborative photojournalism is thriving. That success is at least as much a product of Flickr itself as it is a product of the contributing photographers.

Self-organizing memetrackers? Imagine a meta-memeorandum tool, where an individual could simply define a term, or group of terms, and pull in a handful of RSS feeds, and create a special purpose memeorandum to track what’s being said about that theme. Others could add their feeds, and someone — perhaps the orginator of the memetracker, or some group of people — could deem that some posts have inherent merit, while others would be pulled in based on linkcount.

Gabe Rivera… are you listening? We should talk…

The Corporatization of Memetrackers: Netscape, Digg, Rojo, and our Engines of Meaning

Rafat Ali reports on the Netscape memetracker relaunch, which is just the first of a spate of news in the memetracker space:

[from To Be Relaunched As a Digg-Like Site; Calacanis Heading It]

The storied will be revived again by AOL, and will relaunch soon as a Digg-like user-driven news/aggregation site with Jason Calacanis at the helm, sources have told Some Netscape-Calacanis rumors first surfaced on SV gossip site Valleywag.

The original Netscape division has been more than decimated over the last few years and layoffs have been almost routine these last few months. The new will be headed by Calacanis, who came in through AOL’s acquisition of Weblogs Inc. Not clear what role Weblogs, Inc.’s blogs would play but both divisions would report in Calacanis, according to the sources. He already reports to Jim Bankoff, executive VP of Programming & Products, who would also oversee the changes.

Calacanis has been a big Digg fan and has written about it on his blog a few times. He has yet to respond to our query about these details, but said on his own blog in response to rumours: “There are no details to share right now, but if that changes I’ll certainly let you know.”

What is not clear is whether the new Netscape will stick to just technology news aggregation like Digg, or go the general consumer route. The latter seems the most likely.

Jason has demonstrated a good ability to serve up what consumers want, a la Engadget, and ‘gets’ what makes Digg work: the wisdom of crowds, or perhaps, the positive feedback loops in mob dynamics.

Don’t get me wrong: positive feedback, unchecked, can be a not nice thing. It just sounds good. The known problems of memetrackers — the “heaping on” behavior of authors or participants can polarize the system, biases in the majority can lead to dissenting perspectives being squelched, new voices are shut out — are likely to be an ongoing issue for anyone moving in the space.

The dynamics of memetrackers — which stories that are breaking, what announcements are racing through the blogosphere, whose new insights are being discussed — represnts a critical turning point in media, demonstrated by the growing importance of the Diggs, memeorandums, and Tailranks out there.

It’s the algorithm, the machine, harnessed to the collective insights of a body of people, that is replacing the editorial management of media. Instead of the CNN newsteam deciding what’s hot, tech.memeorandum’s machinery moves certain hot stories to the top of the page, or the activities of a handful of folks at Digg leads to a cascade on interest in a new product announcement.

That’s all well and good, and probably better — and obviously cheaper — than conventional editorial controls. But the control of the algorithm, the inner workings of the magic box that determines what’s hot and what’s not, is in the hands of the wizards that work for these new media gatekeepers. Yes, the myriad decisions of tens of millions of individuals still factor in heavily — like the ranking of blogs at tech.memeorandum being based on popularity, which is based on links and traffic — and the more explicit voting stuff at services like Rojo’s new Mojo, a personalized memetracking tool (see the TechCrunch and Read/Write Web for solid, in-depth reviews).

The answer to feed glut might be memetrackers, where we rely on the machinery and the harnessed collective grey matter of many, many others, to guide us to the right stuff to read, the right viewpoints to test, the right insights to be exposed to. But the corporatization of memetrackers is my biggest concern. Will there be a consistent weighting of more established, more conservative voices? Will the hippies, dreamers, and iconoclasts be weeded out? Will thoughtful and critical analysis be avalanched by hot meme-chasing newshounds who loudly proclaim love for everything hot? I wonder.

But there is no doubt that my primitive hunter/gatherer model of roaming around looking for good stuff will be augmented with something more overarching. Bruce Sterling once wrote about this:

[from Order Out Of Chaos]

Ultimately no human brain, no planet full of human brains, can possibly catalog the dark, expanding ocean of data we spew. In a future of information auto-organized by folksonomy, we may not even have words for the kinds of sorting that will be going on; like mathematical proofs with 30,000 steps, they may be beyond comprehension. But they’ll enable searches that are vast and eerily powerful. We won’t be surfing with search engines any more. We’ll be trawling with engines of meaning.

And the abiding question for me is “who is writing those algorithms?” If we can get to the point where we — the eventual users of these engines — have some say, or at least an insight, into the inner workings of the engines, I would more happily embrace them.

Gabe Rivera Saves Western Civilzation, Just In The Nick Of Time

Gabe Rivera, the memeorandist behind memeorandum, launched today:


WeSmirch, covering celebrity gossip, launches today; attention crisis averted -

I get a lot of emails, and many read like so:

Hey Gabe! Like the site but still don’t know what to do with all my free time. It’s like I have an infinite reserve of attention. Please help me somehow overcome this information underload problem!!!


[totally real reader’s name redacted]

Isn’t the answer clear? A blog-fueled automated news site tracking the various triumphs and milestones in the lives of TomKat, Branjolina, and the rest of our cultural torchbearers in showbiz.

It’s called WeSmirch and can be found at Why WeSmirch? First, smirch is a perfectly good verb. And second, because is just too awesome a name for the world to handle at this time.

I love the snarky, self-deprecating tone, but geez, Gabe, couldn’t you have done something more high minded like porn, sports (the gambling angle), or the arts?

Really, I think that memeorandum needs to be turned on more tightly focused areas, like subsets of tech, or very focused interest areas like photography, design, or regional politics. Can’t we use all those tags to good effect?

A True Baseline For Personal Authority (and Starting From Zero: Day 35)

Technorati’s wheels are grinding again, and /Message has been updated, moving from 242 links from 140 sites and a rank of around 10,324 to 340 links from 182 sites and a new rank of 7,379:

Yesterday, I predicted a jump below 5,000, based on the recent surge at BlogPulse. I looked more closely, and the BlogPulse ranking climb was slightly more gradual than I had thought, so changes in one of the two systems are still a fairly good predictor of the scale of changes in the other.

Since Technorati is a hotbed of innovation on authority (see Technorati Authority Filter), it would be sweet if they supported BlogPulse-style graphs, indicating the rise (or fall) of ranking over time, and the comparison of different blog’s rankings over time.

Note that Technorati rankings are that: rankings of blogs. They are not really linked to individuals, except that we know the blogs are written by someone, or some group, by inference. The worst example of that is group blogs and individuals with multiple blogs. Technorati handwaves at the problem, merely associating a person’s profile to the blogs they claim. So, by that approach, one individual — the one that ‘claims’ the blog — gets all the authority associated with a group blog, and the others get none. The worst situation would be a person who has worked long and hard at several group blogs, and who apparently might have no authority at all!

So Technorati needs to create a real personal authority model:

  • Blog authority and personal authority are closely related, and in the unique case of a blogger who only writes on one blog and has no collaborators, they are one and the same. But in every other case, they are different. Perhaps very different.

  • Personal authority is tied to the individual, not the blog. That means that an individual should by some means be able to claim their own posts, and own them. This would allow collation of links and references from multiple blogs into a personal authority rank. This would require author identity to be established, in a way similar to blog claiming, and Technorati would have to learn to read the “by Stowe Boyd” elements of blog posts.

  • Personal authority is not just a matter of links. Those who are authorities in their field are widely cited without direct attribution to specific posts. In my own case, just as examples, in the past week Steve Gillmor wrote a post called Idiot Wind that suggested I was a loon without linking to /Message or the post he was incensed about, and something I wrote in early January at Get Real was quoted by a writer at the Guardian. In both cases, my authority in the field should have been impacted. (Of course, Gillmor’s withholding a link might have been calculated to avoid offering me a boost to my authority on the subject, since his contention was that I am all wrong about the subject in question. In my view, it makes an argument like his hard to follow for the reader, since he is referring to comments that the reader cannot click through to read. What he should have done was use a link with a “nofollow” attribute, which is a way of linking without conferring authority, more or less.)

  • Personal authority is linked on the cascading of influence, which systems like memeorandum leverage and display, but which is not well-captured in Technorati. I wrote a post recently about the Conversational Index. Technorati dutifully noted the number of links to the story, and their originators. But that post led to a really large bloom of thought and argument, where ultimately hundreds of posts were written, many of which did not refer back to the initiation point at all. True, Technorati does capture the first order indicator of that meme bloom, but its conceivable that some of the second and third tier authors in that explosion of thought around the CI wound up with similar link counts from similarly ranked referrers. But the originator of a thought and its secondary critics and admirers should are not in general gain the same degree of authority. The innovator should be recognized in a different way, perhaps on a different scale. I think discovery of the source of these blooms is a critical element of authority in the real world and one that is absent in Technorati, today.

By no means an exhaustive list, but is only an indicator of where Technorati (or others) will have to go before we have established a true baseline for personal authority.

Don Dodge on The Next Big Thing: Interview with Gabe Rivera, founder of Memeorandum

Don Dodge takes on a thankless task, interviewing Gabe Rivera, of memeorandum. Thankless because he gets basically zero out of Gabe, who doesn’t (sensibly) tell any of the algorithmic secrets under the hood, or any of the cool things he is thinking about for the future. We hear him tell us why he thinks the memeorandum approach is better than others, but not much else revelatory. A nice try, though, Don.

[Disclosure: Of course, I had the benefit of spending a few hours with Gabe last week (I made him some eggs, while hanging around at Michael Arrington’s), and so I know there are neat things in the offing.]

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