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TailRank, DiggTech, TechMeme and Google Reader

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Kevin Burton released a new TailRank. Last week I asked the audience at ConvergeSouth how many people even knew about TechMeme. Very few hands went up.

That totally shocked me. So, thought it was time to look at the memetrackers again since so few people in the world know about them.

These are sites where you go to learn the latest news in the tech world.

First, there are two approaches to reading tech blogs: one, you can read a bunch of feeds like I do with Google Reader. That takes a couple of hours even if you’re really fast like I am at hitting “J” “J” “J” (the “J” key moves to the next post).

But, since I just read my 200 tech feeds and posted a bunch of stuff that had been posted in the past 24 hours I thought it’d be interesting to see how that compared to the new TailRank and TechMeme.

I probably should have included Slashdot and GoogleNews/Tech in this post too, but I got more than 500 emails waiting for me to answer and tons of videos to encode.

Here’s my non-scientific observations (you should do your own homework and decide which site is best for you on your own):

HEADLINE DENSITY

Let’s start with my favorite TechMeme. I loaded all three at the same time on my brand new Apple MacPro and 30 inch screen – this lets me get all three pages side-by-side for comparisons. TechMeme has 32 headlines (17 of which are top level) and three paid advertising headlines.

TailRank only gets 10 top-level headlines (to get more you gotta click “next” which we’ve learned through eye track research that most users will never do, but what I’m really looking at here is information density, and on that point TechMeme wins by a long shot).

Digg/Tech has 15 top-level headlines.

TechMeme wins this one.

UPDATE: I went back and looked at TailRank again. I totally missed the headlines over on the right side of the page. Those looked like ads to me, or a blogroll. Shows how deep my avoidance of traditional advertising is. Anyway, even after noticing them, they aren’t as useful cause there’s no descriptive text. For instance here’s one headline “When it Doubt, Blame CREW.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Am I really supposed to click on that to learn more? Sorry, I won’t. TechMeme’s headlines at the bottom of the page, though, are almost as useless but they have a little more info which makes them easier to deal with (I can see who is linking to them, which I can use to judge if a headline is really going to be interesting to me). Either way, though, TechMeme wins this one, even after considering the other headlines on the page.

NEWSWORTHINESS OF TOP HEADLINES

This one will be subjective. I’m biased toward more big-paper news. Things like Google buying YouTube. So, let’s look.

TechMeme: has headlines from Richard Edelman (only bloggers really care about ethics of other bloggers, so this is a minus for TechMeme). A report from the New York Times on a reporter who is covering Second Life (snore, is this really news?) A TechCrunch article on Sequoia investing $5 million in Sugar Publishing (news!!) An article in BusinessWeek about YouTube vs. MySpace (lots of people are talking about this, people talked to me about this at every stop so far today). A Read/Write Web post about Moveable Type Enterprise launching (news!!) A Daily Mall article on home entertainment (mushy). A Wired article about a MySpace predator getting caught (news!!) A New York Times article about social software (mushy). AT&T making network neutrality concessions (news!!)

Anyway, to shorten this up, let’s count the news headlines: 17 interest me, out of 32 headlines. Pretty good.

Let’s look at TailRank. MySpace predator story. That’s not the most important thing today, methinks. But it counts. The mushy NYT article on social software. Walmart/Edelman thing, but not as authoritative as TechMeme, that linked to the latest Richard Edelman post. Red iPod story (mushy and old, was yesterday’s news); Another post about Walmart/Edelman thing, albeit older; A personal blog post about Macs sucking (interesting, and I’ll count that as news, although TechMeme has the same kind of post, but lower which is where I think it belongs). Moveable Type enterprise story. Cool. An NYT story about Chinese version of Wikipedia. News. TechMeme had that too, but lower. YouTube vs. MySpace. Yeah, news. Om’s story about Google making $2 billion in increased stock valuation. Yeah, news.

The percentage of articles is higher on TailRank, but unfortunately the quantity wins out, I see TechMeme the winner here too.

How about Digg? Digg is a completely different animal. Every headline is pretty interesting, but has much more niche-oriented news (top link right now, for instance is “useful error pages for Firefox”).

Comparing Digg with TechMeme is pretty difficult cause they do very different things. I couldn’t live without either of them, which brings me to the next section.

SMALL STORIES/COMPLETENESS OF PICTURE

Now, here, obviously, is where reading your own feeds every night will definitely win. In the past two hours I’ve posted about 48 items. Each hand picked from hundreds of items that crossed my screen. A good cross-section of items, including Google Ajax Video Bar, and other fun weird small things (and big things too). To be fair, the front page of my feed only shows nine, though. You gotta click the link at the bottom of the page to see more. Just as tedious as it was on TailRank, but both experiences are better if you subscribe.

Digg, however, wins this game. Digg gets the weirdest newest stuff onto the page. The downside of the Digg page is that much of it is noise to me, cause I don’t care about a lot of the items that get on Digg. For instance, there right now is a 1992 video of Steve Jobs showing off NeXTSTEP. Please, that’s noise for someone who is busy and just wants to know the top headlines of the day. But, to my son, who is a Steve Jobs love child, that’s probably going to be his favorite headline.

CONCLUSION

I’m sticking with TechMeme for my first “must read” page in the morning. Then I’ll go to Digg. Then to my feeds. Then to TailRank.

How about you? Which one do you like the most and why?

POSTSCRIPT: Now that I’ve trashed TailRank, I want to praise it. The memetracker feature is cool and TailRank has a broader range of news than TechMeme. Either way, it’s good to see the competition between these sites.

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Robert Scoble is the founder of the Scobleizer blog. He works as PodTech.net’s Vice President of Media Development.

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TailRank, DiggTech, TechMeme and Google Reader
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