Connecting the Conversation

You’ve probably read Charlie Warzel’s profile for Buzzfeed of Techmeme and its founder Gabe Rivera; yet, you may have missed this excellent followup from Adam Tinworth:

In digital content circle, we talk a lot about ‘content atomisation’, the idea that the publishing packages of the past have been atomised into individual articles found via search or social. In a sense, what Techmeme does is reconnect those atoms into molecules of news, allowing you to track not just the most popular articles, but to explore the interconnections between them and other articles, which respond to them or follow them up. [Those] connections both inform the ratings, but also guide to the reader into the broader context of the story.

It’s such a compelling idea that I’m surprised that nobody is really working on it in any other way. A decade back, the blog platform makers were really interested in connecting up conversations online. That led to the advent of standards like Trackback and Pingback, both of which got steadily buried under ever-increasing volumes of spam. And, to add to the woes, much of the discussion around any single article is now buried away in private spaces like Facebook.

But still, it seems a strange gap in the technology of the web that it’s surprisingly hard for the casual reader to easily find responses and follow-ups to something they’ve read.

As it happens, hot news and surrounding analysis does have a place on the web: Techmeme’s companion sites for media and the press at Mediagazer, celebrity gossip at Wesmirch, and the original political news aggregator Memeorandum.

Unfortunately, of all of the sites under the Techmeme umbrella, only Techmeme and Mediagazer have human editors. That means that sites like Memeoradum — which draws upon the conversation around a particular story — can be swayed by influential yet unreliable sources. In an era of stories that span the gamut from misleading to outright false, that is of particular importance. Memeorandum may not be a fact-checking site, but it ought to prioritize news articles that are, well, truthful.