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What Makes a Great Selection of Links?

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Dave Winer has a great post about the next step in Digg clones.

This is something I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about too.

What makes a great selection of links? Does it take a million people? Or only a handful.

I’ve been comparing my link blog to TechMeme and Digg and others enough to know that my links are pretty darn interesting. But there are times when I fall down on the job. When Milan is smiling at me, for instance. Or when I have chores. Or, when I have to speak, like I’m doing this morning at San Francisco State University, or with a bunch of journalists and famous VC’s on Wednesday night at a PRSA shindig in Silicon Valley.

One app in Facebook, FeedHeads, taught me that a small number of people can really pick some killer things. But one problem: that app is often down for me and I find I don’t trust it and it’s not fast like TechMeme is, so I usually default back to TechMeme.

The top shared item view in FeedHeads, though, is really much faster than Digg or TechMeme to get cool stuff up on it. Something about it is really intriguing.

Steve Gillmor has talked with me a lot about this, too. He’s noticed that if he chooses the news reading behaviors of only a handful of people that he can get much better results than if he has a larger group.

Why is that?

I think it’s because we like our news focused. So if we find a news junkie who thinks like us we’ll find that person to have high utility. If you put him in a group of other people his utility will go down and the noise we’ll have to slog through to find a good set of articles that interest us will go up.

That sure explains Digg and its problems to me. I used to love Digg. Now it’s just a stream of noise that largely duplicates what’s coming through my feed reader.

Google Reader tells me that over the past 30 days I’ve read 39,712 items and shared 1,045 items. The thing is that’s probably only about half of the good items cause I can’t read around the clock and have other things to do than just read feeds.

So, lets say I hooked up with five other people who picked the same kinds of items. We could hit nearly 100% of the feeds that I read (and we could add some other feeds). Five people could beat TechMeme. Why? TechMeme is slow. I often put stuff on my link blog before TechMeme gets it. If we had a team reading feeds around the clock we’d regularly beat TechMeme or Google News or Digg or Reddit or TailRank.

And we’d have less noise. At least if you liked the things the five of us pick. If you don’t, then Digg will look better to you.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I’m looking forward to seeing what Dave Winer does in this space. There certainly is a lot of great stuff that doesn’t get proper attention on sites like TechMeme, Digg, etc. If this effort helps great stuff get more people to read it, I’m all for it.

Question: what do you think about Digg or TechMeme or Google News or other news aggregation sites? What are you hoping to see?

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