Tuesday, December 13

Did you get the Memeorandum?

In was watching the news of the Delicious acquisition over the weekend and I came across this website mentioned more than a few times called Memeorandum. Up until today I thought it was spelled MEMOrandum, I was wrong, but it appears to be a not uncommon mistake.

"Memeorandum is like an automated “New York Times” for the Web," according to John Furrier, Founder & CEO, PodTech.net, in a recent interview. What's so cool? As Scoble writes in his blog on the topic, "Memeorandum chews through thousands of blogs in minutes and tells you what's important." Currently the paper only has two sheets: politics & technology.

As you've probably already figured out, Memeorandum is a play on the word meme + memorandum. I didn't know what a meme was, so I looked it up:
Meme. As defined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976): "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation." "Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation."
In this case, the meme is a news story. Memeorandum tracks a news story's viral-like propagation throughout the blogosphere and news media. It tracks and rates stories based on this propogation of ideas.

Memeorandum is founded by Gabe Rivera, a former Intel compiler designer. Clearly, he has some experience designing complex software. According to his Blog, He founded memeorandum on three basic pinciples:
  1. Recognize the Web as Editor: There's this notion that blogs collectively function as news editor.
  2. Rapidly uncover new sources: Sometimes breaking news is posted to a blog created just to relate that news.
  3. Relate the conversation: Communication on the web naturally tends toward conversation.
The last bullet is what I find really interesting. The coolest thing about Memeorandum is that it groups stories into headlines and collects the most relevant discussions of that story into a thread that you can navigate like a forum. It's a one-click way to see the repurcussions and discussion of a story throughout the "Live Web."

One of the most interesting things about Memorandum is that it excels at filtering out the noise present in other services like Digg or even Slashdot. It is great for busy people who need to quickly see what is going on on the web and what people are saying. Memeorandum allows you to do this without visiting sites or even plowing through lots of posts in an RSS reader. So how does it select who is shown on the front page?

Gabe has a blog post which is particular enlightening on the topic. Here is an excerpt:

I'll start with the most common question: how are sources selected for inclusion?

To answer that, I'll begin with my philosophy: I want writers to be selected by their peers. That is, I want the writers in each topic area to select which of their peers show up on the site. Not deliberately, but implicitly, by whom they link to and in what context they link.

The source-picking algorithm is based on this philosophy and works roughly as follows: I feed it a number of sites representative of the topic area I want coverage. It then scans text and follows links to discover a much larger corps of writers within that area.

The decisions for including sources are continually reevaluated, in such a way that new sources can be included in real time. Think about that for a second.
Wow! Not very Web 2.0y, that's for sure. Gabe is saying that there must be hieararchy! Heresy, burn him! In fact, he says that the initial seed sites are ones that He selects on a topic. So much for "radical decentralization and harnessing the collective intelligence." This is centralized authority harnessing the elite collective intelligence. This elite then select other relevant writers / authors based on their votes -- their links. It sounds to me a bit like hiring by committee at Google done on a story-by-story basis. It isn't suspectible to spam because as Gabe says in the Podtech article, "They won’t link to what isn’t relevant because it will spam up their own blogs." In other words, these guys are important, they have a reputation to protect, a bit like 'real journalists' and they are more careful about what and who they link to.

Gabe makes an interesting distinction between Memeorandum and other commercial news sites in the same PodTech interview:
One way that you should look at this different to the NY Times or Cnet news is that - it’s open to you! If you have something to say on a story and if you’re a blogger may get a link with ease, but if you don’t show your work to someone else and get them to link to you and you may find that you’ll be added in minutes.
If you haven't read the PodTech interview yet, check it out!

Another site that is similar to this, but limited strictly to blog sources is Blogniscient. In my opinion, Memeorandum is a lot more intesting!

Very smart guy, very cool technology. I'm not the only one that is smitten. The folks over at Tech Crunch wrote about it here, here, and again here! We also agree -- we both prefer Memeorandum over blogniscient.

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