Between Popular and Personal there is Social

    September 5, 2006

Every time I see Gabe Rivera of TechMeme, I ask for the same thing — MeMeme. Give me TechMeme where the core index is based on who I read, about 150 people at any given time, to show me what my friends are interested in.

I used to ask this from people who make Newsreaders. Because simply somedays you are too busy to read everything, but you want to make sure you haven’t missed something big. That’s the real value I derive from TechMeme today. But what I really want find something that is big with my friends, which in the larger blogosphere is actually something small.

Today we have two new and seriously great kinds of attention tools. Newsreaders give us the ability to personally personalize. Combined with persistent query feeds, you can follow the people and things you know you want to read. Similarly, social networking services with a purpose let you aggregate the objects of your friends, be it pictures with Flickr, or posts with Vox. Tagging then lets you pivot for social discovery, but that is digging deeper than you often have time or interest for.

TechMeme and others show us mass popularization. Different communities help things bubble up. In Social Software, you first saw this with Blogdex and DayPop. What in the blogosophere has the most attention within a given time period. Now we have Digg,, Reedit, Netscape, Technorati, YouTube, Dabble,, Flickr Interestingness and a gazillion other increasingly rich examples. This is a Wisdom of Crowds we couldn’t gain before for discoverable knowledge.

As an aside, I wonder how original Slashdotters feel about Diggers’ favor for a popular answer rather than a leading question.

So more concisely, what I hope develops:

* Tools that let me personally personalize should give me just one more degree of interestingness and popularization.

* Tools of mass popularization should give me social popularization

Since Flickr has both kinds of attention tools, let me give specific suggestions for extension. For within My Contacts’s Photos, show me the most viewed, favorited and commented by my contacts. Then show me the most viewed, favorited and commented pictures by my contacts in Everyone’s Photos.

Now, this is just one user’s greedy suggestion, and there serious usability and algorithmic challenges to overcome. But what I’m getting at is part of the future of media.

The other night I watched the evening local news broadcast for the first time in a while. Its funny how local news attempts to localize national news. The idea is that if they show you a Mom in the Bay Area of a Soldier in Iraq, you can relate to that and it brings the story home. But unless the story originates from that Mom or Soldier, it is just an overlay with too much of a contextual shift. Similarly, when an item of local news is made national — it is too shallow for our local tastes and we are attracted to it simply because or fair city is made popular.

I empathize with the expert editors behind these mass media and their attempts to connect the interesting for me, when me is lost in a demographic. But I’ve had a taste of going direct. When I carry the burden of discovery, and float around YouTube’s popular and related clips, I can compose a broadcast for myself. The outstanding political commentary, funny stuff and best soccer highlights from around the world.

But after a long day of work, I’m tired, and want the network to work for me. Cue up not what is popular, or what the people I subscribed to produced. Cue up what my social network has found interesting. At any given time it may be local, national, international, topical or mundane. Of course, in the process of actively consuming it, I’ll leave behind breadcrumbs of attention to make it better for my friends.

UPDATE: I’ve been ranting about this for years. Sam Ruby hacked together a nifty MeMeme and the result shows a clear and simple foci of attention (a post by Spoksky at last glance), FeedDemon has something in the works and Tailrank has something close.

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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.