Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Digital News:

In 1983 America consumed about 4,500 trillion words worth of information. By 2008 that had more than doubled to 10,845 trillion--about 100,000 words per American per day. In 2008 we got about 31% of our information content (measured by words) from the Internet. That has only gone up. 

To put that in perspective, if in 1986 the average westerner was getting "about 40 newspapers (85pg, estimated) per day", by 2007 that was up to 174 "newspapers per day." 

While not all of this information is news, much of it is. Every minute of the day over 500 new websites are created. More than 300 WordPress users publish new blog entries. Over 100,000 Twitter users send tweets and almost 700,000 Facebook users share content. 

When you get news, it's almost certainly filtered. It may be filtered by:
  • Editorial selection filters: All the major news agencies have to decide what goes on the front page (web or text), what gets air-time at all, and how best to make sense of it. If you watch any TV news you are subject to an editorial filter.
  • Conscious Self-Filtered: Which blogs you read, what goes in your RSS feed, and which news channel you turn on at night are all examples of conscious filtering. If you decide to watch FOX instead of MSNBC you are deciding what kind of news and commentary you will receive--and what you won't.
  • Emergent Filtering: When you follow your friends on Facebook and Twitter you will get news from them that is not consciously filtered (That is, you are not following your friend Bob because you want to keep up on news--unless Bob is a news junkie). The filtering is done by self-selection (who you are friends with) and is not random (even if your Facebook page seems that way). What you see will be governed by who you know.
  • Filter Bubbles: Sites that create personalized content can filter out what you see based on who you are and what they know about you. Two different people typing the same thing into Google can get very, very different results based on what Google knows about them. This is completely invisible to you if you do not know it is going on.
What news you get--and how you get it--contributes powerfully to your understanding of what is going on in the world. As such, The Omnivore is going to present several online news sources you should be aware of. Today we're going to start with ...
WHAT IS BEZOS THINKING!? is the brainchild of Gabe Rivera, a former Intel compiler programmer, which uses an algorithm to scrape news sites and blog sites and then order the information automatically to get a sense of what the top breaking stories are.

It then augments this with links to blogs where the story is discussed (those "Discussion links" down at the bottom). The site updates regularly in real-time with an 'update' counter in the tab so you can see at a glance if you should refresh the page to see new content (and how much new content there is).

The value of this cannot be overrated: firstly, its choice of the stories themselves is very, very good--but secondly, with a list of discussion links from the left and the right (they do not scan The Omnivore yet--but hey, their loss) you can quickly click around and understand the "conversation" that various ideologies are having about the event.

His sister sites Techmeme and Mediagazer do roughly the same thing outside of Memeorandum's specifically political sphere.

Let's see how Memeorandum breaks down on the analysis of intelligence / value-add, bias, and whether it should be your "front page" to the political internet.

Intelligence: Although Memeorandum offers none of its own commentary or insight it gets 5-out-of-5 stars for providing, handily, a rich set of discussion links where you can get all the commentary and insight you could possibly want.

Bias: Memeorandum seems to have no ideological bias in its news selection and almost no format for ideological bias in its selection of blogs (it seems to hit the top 150 political blogs or so, as far as I can tell--there's no list that I can see). Perhaps careful analysis would uncover some omissions in the Discussion Lists but I would bet against that.

Front Page Potential: Memeorandum gets 5-out-of-5 stars as a possible "front page" to your political Internet (for contrast, I'd give CNN, ABC, FOX, and NBC 3-out-of-5 stars). If you are looking for one place to go in the morning--and during the day--Memeorandum is one of the best possible choices.

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