Techmeme’s algorithm now ‘officially’ includes an elf


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.