Sometimes, a ‘wisdom of crowds algorithm’ needs the wisdom of a lone editor

A five-day old story is popular with readers, yet the "news" has lapped that story.

The website of the Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com, has a feature most news sites have, a leader board that ranks the popularity of articles on the site. The WSJ.com ranks “Most Popular” by articles Read, Emailed, and Commented on. It also has a ranking of videos that are being watched.

Sometimes, such algorithmic determinants of popularity go nuts, however. Like now, for example. A few minutes ago (Tue., Feb. 21 and 3:52 ET), I snapped the accompanying screen grab showing that the #2 most popular “read” article now on WSJ.com is one dated Feb. 16 at 12:58 ET with the headline, “Colbert Report Suspended.

Anyone not living under a rock (which apparently a lot of WSJ.com readers do) knows that, according to the WSJ and every other news outlet on the web, Colbert’s show is back on the air.

Leader boards of trending or popular news stories can be helpful in giving you an idea of what people are interested in.

But as my favorite online “popularity tracking” algorithmist, Gabe Rivera of Techmeme, MediaGazer, Memeorandum.com, et al, discovered a long time ago, even algorithms that track popularity of content need a little editing now and then.