Archive: August 27, 2003

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Bloggers as Filters

Wednesday,  08/27/03  07:23 PM

Bloggers are interesting sources of information and analysis, and entertainment as well.  But did you ever think of them as filters?

I did an interesting thing yesterday; I subscribed to Yahoo's new headlines RSS feed in my RSS Reader.  Suddenly I was inundated with news entries.  Some of them were interesting, most of them weren't, and many of them were duplicates of other feeds I already subscribe to, like CNN News.  So, what to do?

This has actually happened to me before.  It happened when I first subscribed to Wired News.  It happened when I first subscribed to DayPop's Top 40.  It happened with Salon.  Each time there was this glut of new entries, many of which I didn't care about.  And each time there was this question, do I keep it for the good stuff, or drop it because the signal to noise ratio is too low?

So here's my answer.  I'm going to drop Yahoo, and rely on other bloggers to filter it for me.  If there's anything interesting or important, I'm counting on one of the blogs to which I remain subscribed to point it out! 

Now think about that for a minute. 

A digression.  There is way more stuff happening in the world every day than I could ever comprehend.  If I subscribed to every feed I possibly could, I would never be able to read all the items, it would be like drinking from a fire hose.  The compression of information from websites into RSS feeds is really good - RSS is a great thing - but even just reading the item summaries would be impossible.  So I want to filter "everything" to just a managable trickle. 

I want the most interesting things only, the most interesting things to me.  How is that done?

One way is to filter "everything" is to subscribe only to feeds which have information I really care about.  That's great in principle, but there are few feeds like that.  I have a wide band of interests, and outside that band there are sometimes weird things which peak my interest.  Most of the feeds I find interesting have a signal to noise ratio of about 10-40%, meaning I skip past a majority of their items.

Another way is to use other bloggers as filters, and this is exactly what I do.  In fact it is probably exactly what you do, too.  The reason you are reading this is because you read my blog, and that's because you rely on me to be a kind of filter.  If I think it is interesting, maybe you will, too :)

Much has been made of the dichotomy between "thinkers" and "linkers".  Some bloggers mostly originate information, or add analysis or commentary to daily events.  These are thinkers.  (Steven Den Beste would be an A-list example.)  Other bloggers mostly link to things which are off their site, usually adding some light commentary or opinion.  These are linkers.  (Glenn Reynolds is an A-list example here.)  Some bloggers do both, they alternate between thinking and linking.  (Dave Winer does this, and I try to do it too :)  Thinkers add information to the blogosphere, which is a good thing.  But linkers contribute too, because they inherently act as filters.  Consider Boing Boing, one of my favorite blogs.  They cast a really wide net and consistently come up with wacky things I find interesting.  In so doing, they are creating value; there is no way I could monitor all the information sources they monitor, and filter it down myself.

So although I think it is a great thing that Yahoo and a bunch of other news outlets are summarizing information as RSS feeds, I'm not going to subscribe.  Instead, I'm going to subscribe to your blog, and count on you to filter the feeds for me.  Thanks in advance!


Wednesday,  08/27/03  11:31 PM

Okay, here we go, I'm the filter...

Remember SpaceX, Elon Musk's new company?  They just published an update about their progress.  Particularly interesting is Elon's testimony before the Joint Hearing on Commercial Human Spacecraft.  Check out the videos of the Kestrel rocket firing, too.  This is great stuff!

So - would you fly into space if you could?  I would.  I would be scared to death, but what a once-in-a-lifetime experience...

Hey, its that time again!  Yeah, you know, every 70,000 years we get really close to Mars, and can see some amazing pictures.  Check out Close Encounters of the Martian Kind for more...

I find it really really weird that after putting a man on the moon in 1969, we've done nothing for 34 years.  Well, maybe not nothing, but certainly nothing like what we're capable of doing.  Like landing men on the moon!

Unfortunately, Wired reports Mars Trip not on Political Radar.

NASA did just launch a new space telescope, SIRTF, built to see objects either too cold to cast their own light or obscured by interstellar dust.  Excellent.

L.T.Smash, the blogging reservist called up to serve in Iraq, chronicles The Long Road Home.  I'm glad he made it home safely but will miss his on-the-scene reports.  He was a first-rate example of first-person blogging.

This sounds like a joke, but it isn't: A Swedish moose hunter has invented a matchbox-sized device that can trace just about anything that moves.  (Spy Gadget Leaves Nowhere to Hide.)  "Using mobile phone text messages and satellite navigation technology, the surveillance gadget can reveal its location to an accuracy of 10 ft in 140 countries."  What will those moose hunters think of next?

And here's a terrific application of technology: Cell transplant restores vision.  "A blind man can see again after being given a stem cell transplant."  Wow.

NYTimes: Life-Extending Chemical Is Found in Certain Red Wines.  So be it, yet another reason to drink Lewis Reserve :)

On the online music front, CNet reports Indie labels lure Net music stores.  "A new set of services aimed at giving independent music labels online distribution is springing up, hoping to reach companies like Apple's iTunes and the new Napster."  Interesting.

Then there're artists like Ottmar Liebert, who just began selling CDs directly from his site.

Check this out - pictures of a 737 which flew through a thunderstorm featuring golfball-sized hail stones.  Apparently nobody was hurt, but the plane needs a little bondo.  Wow.  [ via Boing Boing ]

Tim Oren and I had an interesting email exchange about "Oren's Laws of Microsoft".

Speaking of Tim, who's a VC, David Hornik says the Q2 Venture Economy is Looking Up.  Cool.

More VC blogging; Bill Gurley discusses Much Ado About Options.  "Should stock options or restricted stock be expensed?  The answer to the question is an easy one: it doesn't matter."  Seems not everyone thinks so, but Bill's argument is persuasive.

This is a cool digital clock.  Well, sort of digital, anyway :)  [ via Robert Scoble ]  Just goes to show, once again, you can find just about anything on the 'net.

I haven't spent much ink on the SCO vs. Linux battles - it pisses me off, but what can one do, eh? - but this is worth linking; Eric Raymund's Open Letter to Darl McBride (Darl is SCO's CEO).  Read it and you'll know all you need to know about SCO.  Disgusting.

In case you think CSS is a clean standard, check out Dave Hyatt's latest rant.  (He's an Apple developer working on Safari.)  "It took me 10 hours just to decide that what I did in the first place was correct."

Finally, would you believe a tennis racket with a chip?  Active dampening to stiffen the racket...  "While the ball is still on the strings, intellifibers stiffen and stabilize the racquet head and throat."  I am not making this up.


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