[Note #1: This a somewhat long and geeky post about RSS newsreaders and memetrackers. If you aren’t obsessed with those topics — and believe me, if you’re not, I understand completely — you should probably skip it.]
If you use FeedDemon, the RSS newsreader for PCs running Windows from the Denver-based company, Newsgator, you should check out a feature called Popular Topics. According to the software’s creator and developer (and my friend) Nick Bradbury, he’s been working on the feature for over a year — indeed, it was announced and included in the software beta several months ago, but in a rather hidden place. With the current release (2.6) of the software, “Popular Topics” has become a more prominent (and faster) feature.
[Note #2: I’m sure there are at least two people reading this post who are wondering why the heck I’m blogging about software I obviously can’t use — they know I’m hooked on NewsGator’s RSS reader for Macs, NetNewsWire. Why I know about Popular Topics on FeedDemon will be clear by the end of the post, promise.]
The FeedDemon feature is, in effect, a meme-tracker. However, instead of analyzing news stories and relevant blog posts that are being linked to by a mysterious universe of topical-bloggers (or folks trying to game it), the feature analyzes the stories that are being linked to by those in a network of bloggers you choose — those to whose RSS feeds you’ve subscribed. (There’s another view that provides a view of what all FeedDemon subscribers are pointing to.) Additionally, the feature allows you to have a “time” view of such conversational clusters. For example, if you’ve been away from your computer a couple of days and you’d like to see what the “popular topics” among your subscribed-to bloggers were on Wednesday, the feature allows you to do that.
In other words, it’s like having a Techmeme that is “memetracking” topics important to just those bloggers you desire to follow, rather than all bloggers who post on the topic.
[Note #3: I’d like apologize to Gabe Rivera, the creator and still champion of an amazing set of approaches and algorithms that power his memetracking marvels (Techmeme.com, Memorandum, WeSmirch, Ballbug) because I did the cheap trick in the subject line of this post when I said Popular Topics is like Techmeme. As I posted recently, bloggers and tech-journalists have resorted to using Techmeme as the comparative benchmark by which they describe any feature or service that tries to pick-up and present links of blog-posts related to some alpha-content. Sorry, Gabe. In reality, Popular Topics is not competing with Techmeme, because no one addicted to news from the Techcrunch/Valleywagosphere is going to unplug from it.]
So, how did I learn about “Popular Topics”? Actually, it was in a conversation over lunch with Nick Bradbury (who, like me, lives in Nashville) in which I was talking about how much I like Techmeme, but how I think it is so skewed towards SF Bay-area news. I told him I wished Techmeme was available in some other flavors that weren’t so covered in Techcrunch/Valleywag syrup. In other words, it would be nice if I could tweak a personal version of Techmeme to leave out all blogs devoted to tracking any sneezes made by Facebook executives, for example. (Actually, I didn’t express my pet-peeve exactly that way, but you get the point.)
That’s when Nick told me he’d been developing a feature on FeedDemon that let’s users create a meme-tracker focused only on the feeds to which the user subscribes. After lunch, I asked him to come to my office and demo it for me (we have several Windows machines). And that’s how I can blog about a feature that I can’t use on my own computer — (Note to Brent Simmons: although it would sure be nice if such a feature were added to NetnewsWire so I could.)
Again, I do not see this replacing, or even competing with Techmeme, as I don’t think people should cut themselves off from the bigger world, however, this is a cool way to get another view of the conversations in your world.