Techmeme receives a love letter from the New York Times

I’ve tried many times over the years to kick my habit of checking in numerous times a day to see what’s on Techmeme. I’ve always failed.

Because I was an early fan of Gabe Rivera and his approach to aggregating and ranking news (and rumors) that are trending on the corner of the web where I hang out, I’ve seen a long parade of startups and giant companies launch things that were going to be techmeme-killers. Of course, that means none of the techmeme-killers did the -kill thing.

Today, the New York Times has a feature on Techmeme (with cameo appearances by the other “meme” sites from Gabe that follow politics, entertainment, baseball and media news).

It’s one of those kinds of stories I sometimes jokingly refer to on this blog and on Twitter as “love letters.” It is a glowing piece — about as glowing as Gabe’s face is from the reflection of his computer monitor’s screen in the photo accompanying it.

I could point out some of the downsides of Techmeme, for example, the way some people seem to write “for it” — so that certain voices are systematically (or, algorithmically) seem to have too much influence on what is news. As I’ve talked with Gabe about this on several occasions, I know he’s committed to finding ways — including human intervention — to address the games people play to influence his algorithms.

But my point in blogging about this is not to say, “yeah, but.” My point is to note that this is the kind of technology “start-up” story I trust in the New York Times.

It is NOT one of those kind of NYT stories that appears about a company you’ve never heard of, that hasn’t yet developed a product — but just happens to be an idea from some notable people who have had previous success (and access to New York Times writers) — are useless. Pre-launch coverage in the NYT is often the worst thing that can happen to a startup. Early failures (the kind any startup must face) are  better addressed in obscurity, I believe.

Gabe has been working on Techmeme, et al. (Indeed, his political site, Memeorandum, was launched before Techmeme) for what seems to be like forever — at least six years that I can recall.

I’m sure he’s turned down lots of offers from big companies who would have totally screwed up what he and two others are capable of doing (and, for most of those years, just him).

He has stayed independent and built what I feel certain is a very profitable business by doing it his way — including low overhead.

I like that. And I like Gabe.

Oh, and I like that when something I write makes it to Techmeme, it drives more traffic to this blog than anything else I do. (But I still don’t write about stuff “just because it’s on Techmeme.”)

Congratulations, Gabe. Well deserved.

Thanks, Gabe, there goes another chunk of my day

mediagazer logo

Gabe Rivera, the creator of the tech-news tracking service Techmeme, has launched another channel on his platform of human-influenced, news-trend sniffing algorithms.

To technology, politics (Memorandum), celebrity gossip (WeSmirch) and baseball (BallBug), Gabe has now added a meme-tracking service that follows the business of media called MediaGazer.

As much as I’m a fan of Techmeme and use it as an on-going glimpse into news that is generating lots of technosphereic buzz, I wish Gabe had headed next in a direction other than media. Why? Because, unlike politics, celebrity gossip and baseball, I actually have a dog in the MediaGazer hunt.

Thanks, Gabe. I now have to figure out where I’m going to find more time in the day.

And congratulations.

Talketh, Blogeth and Tweeteth like Shakespeare Day

Have your heard that today is Talk Like Shakespeare Day?

You know those goofy Internet memes, those inside jokes or a new slang word or anything-about-Susan-Boyle that spreads around the web so quickly that everyone has heard about it before the end of the day? This isn’t quite one of those — yet. But I hope it becomes one. I’m hoping it catches on because I think it can be fun (and maybe even a wee-bit educational for some people who may believe Shakespeare’s language is unapproachable).

A few years ago (1995, to be precise), while a couple of guys were playing racquetball, they started talking like pirates (or perhaps that’s a requirement of the game) and decided there needed to be an International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Naturally, they chose one of the guys’ ex-wife’s birthday, September 19. For seven years, the day was observed by, well, those two guys and a friend. In 2002, after one of them sent an email to Dave Barry, he (because no one ever sends him any good ideas) wrote about it and the rest is history, including a book deal. (Sidenote: This year, I understand there is an effort to replace the day with Talk Like a Navy SEAL Day.)

Knocking off “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” the Chicago Shakespeare Theater came up with today’s Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Why today? Today is the Bard’s 445th birthday. Or maybe it’s the birthday of his ex-wife.

As part of the day, the Chicago Shakespeare folks suggested that Twitterists “Tweet like Shakespeare” today, also. That, I believe, is a swelleth idea.

Anyway, below are some early #TLSD tweets I’ve posted on Twitter (you can follow me at the username: @r). So far — this is pre-dawn stuff — I’ve pulled direct (some with slight adaptations) Shakespearian quotes that are accidentally about Twitter.

Enjoyeth!

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and today is tweet like #Shakespeare day. #TLSD http://urlzen.com/dxc

#Shakespeare on Twitter – The fool doth think he gets Twitter, but the wise man knows he gets Twitter not. (As You LIke It, V, i) #TLSD

#Shakespeare on Twitter – I say, with less than (140) characters, fame lives long. (King Richard III, Act III, i)) #TLSD

#Shakespeare on Twitter – I dare avouch it, sir: what, fifty followers. ( King Lear: II, iv) #TLSD

#Shakespeare on Twitter – To be short, what not, that’s sweet and happy? (Taming of the Shrew, V, ii) #TLSD

#Shakespeare on Twitter – Hath he not twit our sovereign lady here with ignominious words, though clerkly couch’d (King Henry VI, ii) #TLSD

To follow along, go to http://search.twitter.com and do a search for #Shakespeare or #TLSD or, perhaps, #TLS (Note for marketers encouraging people to tweet on the same topic: Announce a hashtag (#) for them to use in order for all those disparate tweets to connect with one another. I’m using #TLSD and #Shakespeare but those are just guesses.)

[P.S. Today is also my mother’s birthday. Over the recent years, she has slowly slipped into a place where she no longer remembers that date or the names of those she loves. Fortunately, however, she is still filled with humor and love. And she knows her family and friends love her dearly today and everyday.]

In 2009, why not learn how to hack your own info-flow

I know how obsessed (at Hammock, we call it “passionate“) those trying to keep up with the latest geek news can be. Boy, do I know. But if you’re going be obsessed with tech news, you have no excuse for not using technology and techniques to help you organize the firehose of information you’re obsessed over. (Note: the same technology and techniques work no matter what your passion is, however, I can forgive those whose passions don’t require them to stay online all day from knowing how to hack the info-flow).

However, there are those who believe many people obsessed with tech news don’t actually know how to use things like RSS newsreaders to organize a personal flow of technology news. How else can you explain the desire people have to continuously create what they believe will be the perfect service to aggregate for others a collection of RSS feeds from aggregation services they believe are “the best.” And so, in the images of each of their creators, we get to see more and more aggregations of aggregators — like today’s launch of a new aggregator aggregator, TechFuga.

I’m sure there’s a reason its creators felt there was a need for TechFuga — perhaps they believed that all the other meme-trackers are too bias or limiting or whatever. Again, perhaps they think that anyone who is obsessed with tech news don’t know how to reach out for different points of view by setting up a personal page on PopURLs.com or any of dozens of “start pages.” But for whatever the reason, somewhere along the way to a future world where each one of us could customize our own unique and personal web experience, the creators of TechFuga and dozens of other such services decided people would rather not personalize the web, but have someone like them do it for us.

I appreciate all of the work they’ve done, but no thanks. At least, no thanks on aggregating tech news. Maybe if it were aggregating news about tennis or woodworking — two of my passions for which I haven’t yet “aggregated” any news-flow, but tech news? I’m trying to learn less about the latest fad, not more.
If you want to see an aggregated view of all the tech meme-trackers then try out TechFuga. However, if you actually want to use technology and not just read about it, make it one of your 2009 New Years resolutions to actually set up an RSS newsreader to aggregate what you want.

Techmeme’s algorithm now ‘officially’ includes an elf

elf.jpg

Gabe Rivera has announced that Techmeme will be getting a little more “explicit” in the human-editing that takes place on the site. (For those who don’t follow these things — i.e., the vast majority of the world’s population — I highly recommend skipping this post, unless it’s late at night and you’re seeking relief from insomnia.)

Many people use Techmeme as a filter for finding breaking news related to blog posts and news articles (or, more accurately, blog posts about news articles) related primarily to the interests of new media and niche-tech geeks. Which niche-tech? Let’s see: any big (rumor or fact) related to Apple or Google hits the site pretty quickly. And, I think it’s fair to say it has an SF Bay-area bias. Mobile technology and Web 2.0 startups hit the site, as well. Really big screw-ups by large technology companies also show up. And whenever the RIAA sues some little old lady who is foster-parent to an orphan, that’s sure to make it to the top of Techmeme.

Today’s announcement by Gabe that an actual human being is going to be a part of his elf-works, will add to the conspiracy theories that abound regarding how stories get onto — and to the top of — the site.

As people who read my blog with any consistency will know, I’m a fan of Gabe. I like Techmeme, but have scaled back on my visits there (or feeds from there). However, it is the go-to place whenever I’m seeking what’s taking place real-time in geek-land and, in my opinion, no other “meme-tracking” service comes close to providing what it provides.

That said, I have always felt that the algorithms of which Gabe speaks have always received a little sprinkling of elf magic dust when necessary. I do not agree with the conspiracy theories that Techmeme skews coverage towards anything appearing on TechCrunch, however, I understand why the complaints exist — it has to do with what Gabe calls “implicit” human activity in his blog post. And implicitly, the people who point to TechCrunch stories are the bloggers who are obsessed with the kinds of news that are of interest to those who are attracted to Techmeme. (I think it has something to do with feed-back loops, but that’s a term I use only when I’m desperate to say something other than echo-chamber.)

Nonetheless, I think this is a good move and will make Techmeme better.

If it doesn’t, no one is forcing people to use it.

Like Gabe says:

“Ultimately, Techmeme will succeed based on whether it interests a significant readership. While fairness and balance probably affect this interest, I need to stress that bloggers will never agree on what’s fair. Why not? To generalize and perhaps exaggerate somewhat, many bloggers feel that in the fairest scenario, Techmeme prominently features all of their posts. So it’s hard to be fair.”

As for me, I’ll decide whether or not I like the new approach based on whether or not this post gets added to the “discussion” list underneath Gabe’s blog post headline which I feel certain is going to be at the top of Techmeme now — or momentarily.