January 17, 2007

"Techmeme" creator Q-and-A, or - Serving The A-list For Fun And Profit

Echo: Q&A With Gabe Rivera, Creator Techmeme

Now, let's be clear, I like Techmeme too, and use it all the time. However ... I'm a little bothered by the completely uncritical reaction. Part of the discussion could use some deeper examination. As in:

Q. Why do sources get dropped? Do they fail to post new material? Fail to keep being cited?

Fail to keep being cited. Every day Techmeme performs a bit of a reset, usually around 3am Eastern, where it doesn't update for about an hour as it repeats the source discovery. So every day it tries to find the best few thousand sources. A blog can make the list one day but not the next.


Q. Is Techmeme too elite with its sources?

[snip] ...For better or for worse, well-read bloggers tend to have better access to interesting news, and also tend to exercise the talent that helped establish them in the first place. I'm rather unapologetic that there are lots of less established writers who will never show up on Techmeme.

OK, as a statement of fact, this is what it is - Techmeme "serves the A-list", as I think of it. It looks to the Big Heads, sees what they're talking about (or what a group of Medium Heads is talking about), and figures that what the high attention sources are devoting attention to, is a good bet to get attention. Algorithmically, I can't fault that. However ... it does have an echo-chamber effect. And if the Big Heads are disinclined, to, say, cite women, or less established writers, but instead to link-love each other - Techmeme will merrily reflect that.

Do I have a solution? No. I'll be unapologetic about that. But I suppose someone should point out that Techmeme almost explicitly, as a design goal, with good reason, reflects exactly the social hierarchy that evangelists tell us doesn't exist online. And I think those critics who feel it's part of the exclusionary process do have a very valid point.

[Disclaimer: I met Gabe once at a conference, I liked him personally. But, as he knows, the oligarchical structure of the bogosphere has long been an issue for me]

[Update - There are competitors - Megite seems to have a broader view]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on January 17, 2007 11:42 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I won't take issue with the specifics of what you said. Except to note that Techmeme ultimately has to serve the "null-list", i.e. people who don't blog or write to the public web whatsoever. Unlike "Z-listers", null-listers tend not to care about the preponderance of "A-listers" on Techmeme!

BTW, sorry I made such a good impression. I'll try to be a bigger jerk next time we meet. :)

Posted by: Gabe at January 18, 2007 12:04 AM

The word "serve" is actually used in two senses - "serve" as in "butler", and "serve" as in "waiter". That is, it's both doing what the A-lister's like, and distributing the A-listers (two goals which are not at all in confict!).

In many cases, it's not about being a bad person. It's about a system. I'm trying to be clear about that.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 18, 2007 12:18 AM

Yeah Gabe, I hope my criticism in other threads wasn't taken personally. You're honest and upfront about how Memeorandum works at a high level.

That honesty has helped to validate Seth's and others thoughts about the fallacy of a flat conversation taking place in the blogosphere where all voices have equal access and reach.

And I'm still addicted to Memeorandum. Can't help it.

BTW Seth, I've been dipping my toes into Megite and TailRank as well, both of which can open horizons a bit.

Posted by: Karl at January 18, 2007 10:46 AM

I've found both Megite and Tailrank to be broader in their sources.

Posted by: Sterling Camden at January 19, 2007 04:45 PM