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June 25, 2007

What Should Drive TechMeme's Content?

Robert Scoble ruffled a few feathers today, when he issued his latest missive against TechMeme's direction, as he sees the blog headlines site moving away from its roots and more toward general news coverage, like Google News. Robert says the site should give higher credence to those sites which are generating discussion, arguing in summary that he with the most links wins. But with TechMeme's proprietary algorithm being somewhat of a mystery, it's interesting to consider what I would see as the ideal blog news aggregation site, and how it would change what TechMeme is today.

For the large part, TechMeme automatically senses what are the hot blog conversations of the day. The more noise, the higher on the page, with those blogs with the highest readership and external links receiving the "lead" and referring or related sites being shoehorned in their shadow. Today's biggest discussions? The continued coverage of Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, and the latest developments on Apple's iPhone. Today's news was that the devices have reached the mainland.

To be sure, both stories have tongues wagging. But Robert, looking inwardly, noted that one media site's coverage of Plaxo's new platform was rated more highly than his own dedicated coverage. Looking at referrals from Technorati, he can't figure why The Register would trump The Scobleizer. And he's got a point. If TechMeme's tracking discussions, The Register would be a related item, not the lead.

But I have other issues. It seems to me that if TechMeme wants to treat A-list bloggers equally with others generating news, then those who provide original coverage, or break the news, should be given higher credence. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten to a story before "the big guys" get it, only to be ignored. For example, last night, around 2, I posted that I thought Google Reader was down. A TechCrunch reporter, Duncan Riley, and I traded e-mail, we both visited and commented on a discussion board on the outage, and later, he wrote a story. That TechCrunch got the lead can make sense, as the site has tremendous credibility, and many external links, but not only was my note not the lead, but it didn't even get noted by TechMeme, who instead opted to carry follow-on notes from The Download Squad.

Total Technorati external links to The Download Squad? Eight. Total Technorati external links to my story? Eight. So all things being equal, I'd argue that the site which got the story first chronologically, with original reporting, should be given equal or greater value. But if, due to some mysterious rule, I'm being kicked to the curb for a lack of pre-existing popularity, that seems to conflict with what I would hope is the goal of TechMeme, to deliver the a real-time summary of what's happening now in the blogosphere, and to raise the profile of those bloggers who might not necessarily be household names. Otherwise, TechMeme isn't offering much real value.

Robert jokingly called himself an "arrogant bbbbaahhhhhsssssttttttaaaarrrrrdddddd" for calling for change, and wondering why his efforts didn't make it, and I might come off as a whiner as well, but with extra effort should come extra reward. Duncan Riley and I put in an equivalent amount of effort to find out the truth, analyze the situation and write it up. But as far as TechMeme is concerned, I'm a cipher. I can take the abuse, but I think the blogosphere as a whole would be better served to highlight original reporting from the corners of the Web that are driving value.