Techmeme Puts Users First

    December 4, 2008
    Chris Crum

Popular tech news aggregation site Techmeme is going from algorithmic news to human-edited news. In other words, they will be choosing which stories appear on the site now. This of course leads to bias and "unfairness" to other sites who look forward to getting their stories on Techmeme. But as the site’s owner Gabe Rivera says, "Techmeme isn’t fair because life isn’t fair."

Well put.

Techmeme Screenshot

The fact of the matter is, the site is Rivera’s to do anything he pleases. He doesn’t have to please bloggers and other content producers who are unhappy with the changes. He’s making an effort to make the site better, and that is for the readers. By turning to a human-edited approach, Techmeme is:

– Avoiding obsolete news

– Improving "related" grouping

– making it easier to post "breaking" news stories

Rivera discusses all of this in his announcement of the changes. He writes:

In 2005 it was clear to me that an ideal news aggregation site would need to combine automation with direct, hands on editing. In a rare departure from my usual reticence, I even stated in comments to a blog post "I’m planning extensions to my system to enable a hybrid man+memeorandum." This "planning" turned out to be rather long term, since we made no major headway on this idea until 2008.

Early on, when our system was less technically refined, the clearest path toward improvement involved simply iterating algorithmic development. Later, as the automation reached a certain degree of maturity, we recognized that direct editing could now improve news results by leaps and bounds. Though our roadmap contains a number of novel future algorithmic enhancements, introducing editing now appears to be a no-brainer.

The person in charge of editing Techmeme is the recently hired Megan McCarthy who has worked for Valleywag and Wired in the past (Valleywag has a post about her "greatest hits"). Although Rivera says that Omer Horvitz and himself will also share some of the editorial tasks.

Now we can sit back and see if Techmeme actually improves because of these changes. If you’ve got problems with how Techmeme handles content from now on, Rivera encourages you to let McCarthy know.