AideRSS wants to tame your feed reader

If you’re like me — and I know I am — you have hundreds of feeds in your feed reader and not enough time to wade through them all. Finding a way to sort through them all and get to the posts that are most “important” or interesting is a conundrum that I and many others continue to wrestle with. It’s why continues to be so handy, despite what some see as its “echo chamber”-type flaws (for the record, I am a big fan of Techmeme).

aiderss.jpgIlya Grigorik and his team at Waterloo-based AideRSS — which launched today — are taking a page from Google’s book in an attempt to solve the RSS problem. In the same way that the search engine uses an algorithm called PageRank to sort pages based on who links to them, AideRSS uses a filtering system called PostRank to show you the posts in a blog’s feed that are getting the most attention in the form of readers, links, comments, Digg submissions and so on (Josh Catone has an in-depth look at Read/Write Web and Ilya describes PostRank on his blog).

Ilya was kind enough to give me a trial account to AideRSS, and while I haven’t had all that much time to play around with it (vacation in an Internet-challenged location got in the way), I think the company is onto something. I’m not sure if I want AideRSS to determine which posts I read all the time — I like a certain haphazard, serendipitous approach as well — but it is definitely worth monitoring, and like Google’s PageRank it will likely improve over time. My smart mesh friend Ethan Kaplan of Blackrimglasses has some thoughts here.

Coolest. Halo gear. Ever.

I know this isn’t a gamer blog or anything, but if you play Halo at all (or have ever played it and liked it), then this could be one of the coolest things you’ve ever seen — a full-scale, working Warthog, complete with four-way steering and dual mounted machine guns. Click on the picture to see a larger version.


Marc Andreessen scores with Opsware sale

marcandreessen-med.jpgIn case you were wondering where Marc Andreessen got the material for his continuing blog series on startups, it looks to me like a lot of it probably came from his experience with Opsware — which has just been bought by Hewlett-Packard for a whopping $1.6-billion in cash. As Marc describes in his post, the deal is the culmination of more than seven years of toil, from starting the company formerly known as Loudcloud in 1999, to going public just as the tech sector peaked, to almost going under, to rebuilding the business and making it a leader in the industry. If anyone has paid their dues, it sounds like Marc has — and he just turned 36. In case you’re keeping score at home, it looks as though Andreessen will make about $165-million on the sale.

Blogs as a newspaper platform

Still at the cottage, and crawling through my feed reader from time to time on one of the slowest dial-up connections since the mid-1990s, which is where I came across a post by my friend Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0, who asks whether newspapers should become local blog networks.

Scott makes what I think is a persuasive case for why the answer to that question should be yes. Blogs, he argues, are just a content-management system with a dumb name — and newspapers (smart ones, that is) could use them to expand the nature of what they do online in interesting ways.

Not learning from Dave Winer

Joel Spolsky is a smart guy who writes a great blog called Joel On Software — a blog on which he recently posted something that is completely wrong. Okay, not completely wrong, but more wrong than it is right. And I’m not just saying that because I have something against Dave Winer — I don’t. But I think Joel is wrong to tell us that we should learn something from Dave when it comes to comments on blogs.

This is something I have written a fair bit about — most recently here — because I think it’s an important question. In fact, I think it was one of the first big issues I tackled when I started this blog (that post also involved Dave Winer, who got mad at me for criticizing him over not having comments). A debate went around and around at that time about whether a blog without comments is still a blog, and my position then was — and still is — that a blog without comments may technically be a blog, but it is missing a giant part of what makes blogs powerful.

As Clay Shirky points out at Corante, there may be dozens (if not thousands) of examples of how comments are stupid and the people who make them are morons, as Joel alleges in his post. But at the same time, there are also plenty of examples of posts (including some of my own) in which the comments held more information and generated more thought and debate than the post that sparked them.

To be fair to Dave, he does allow comments — just not many of them, and only occasionally. That’s clearly the way he wants to run his blog, which is fine. And there’s no question that having comments requires some management, or what I call social gardening. But I think blogs — and blog readers and writers — are better for having them.

A “citizen journalism” trifecta of failure

Through some bizarre confluence of events, we have not one but two restrospectives on two separate citizen journalism or “crowdsourced” media projects today — Backfence, which recently announced it was shutting down, and Assignment Zero, which was the joint venture between Jay Rosen’s and Wired magazine, run by my mesh friend Jeff Howe — as well as an overview of the whole citizen journalism concept by Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media, whose own local journalism project, Bayosphere, failed and was absorbed by Backfence.

Dan’s overview, in a nutshell, is that citizen journalism has come a long way but has much further to go:

“There’s a growing recognition and appreciation of why citizen journalism matters. Investments, from media organizations and others, are fueling experiments of various kinds. Revenue models are taking early shape. And, most important, there’s a flood of great ideas.

But we have a long, long way to go. We need much more experimentation in journalism and community information projects. The business models are, at best, uncertain — and some notable failures are discouraging.”

After much talk about the failure of Backfence, former CEO Mark Potts finally takes a long look at what happened and tries to draw some lessons, including the need to:

“Engage the community. This may be the single most critical element. It’s not about technology, it’s not about journalism, it’s not about whizbang Web 2.0 features. It’s about bringing community members together.”

Potts also talks about the need to trust the community, and to treat the entire affair like a conversation, instead of trying to impose external controls on it. And Jeff Howe has both a Wired piece and his own blog post on the end of Assignment Zero, which he describes as “a highly satisfying failure.”

“Although Assignment Zero produced a strong body of work, consisting of seven original essays and some 80 Q&As, the real value of the exercise was discovery. We learned a lot about how crowds come together, and what’s required to organize them well. But many of the lessons came too late to help Assignment Zero.

In the 12 weeks the project was open to the public, it suffered from haphazard planning, technological glitches and a general sense of confusion among participants. Crucial staff members were either forced out or resigned in mid-stream, and its ambitious goal… had to be dramatically curtailed.”

Well worth reading, all of them. If failure is educational, then we are all learning a lot. And as Eric mentions in the comments, the Washington Post has also just launched a new “hyper-local” journalism experiment called


For more on Assignment Zero and the lessons learned, be sure to check out this post from Tish Grier, who acted as the project’s deputy director of participation and has some worthwhile thoughts. David Cohn, who was a key participant, also has a post on the project.

Joost tries to be the anti-YouTube

(Reading this New York Times story on VeohTV reminded me of the feature I did on Joost that ran in the newspaper on Saturday, so I thought I would cross-post it here for anyone who missed it.)

Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, the dynamic duo who revolutionized the online-music business with Kazaa and then the voice-over-Internet business with Skype, have their sights set on doing the same thing to the television industry with their latest creation: an Internet-based “network” called Joost.

Joost – formerly known as The Venice Project – streams TV-style content over the Web using “peer-to-peer” technology in which each viewer’s computer becomes a hub that streams the content to others. The service is in a limited “beta” trial, and is expected to launch later this summer.

The Scandinavian co-founders (Friis is Danish and Zennstrom is Swedish) had two very different outcomes with their previous ventures. Kazaa was sued into oblivion – the company paid a $100-million (U.S.) settlement earlier this year – while Skype was sold to eBay for $2.6-billion (U.S.).

Continue reading “Joost tries to be the anti-YouTube”

Not really a blogging birthday, but…

snipshot_e41c2p5kvbdh.jpgAs Duncan Riley points out, the Wall Street Journal’s article celebrating the 10th birthday of blogging is a little late, considering Justin Hall — who I and others believe was the first real blogger — and even Dave Winer were doing it as far back as 1994 (although that was before Jorn Barger coined the term weblog). In any case, it’s nice to see the WSJ taking note of blogging as a real phenomenon, rather than just doing another drive-by criticism of it. They even feature my pal Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0, who does a video essay on blogging and journalism. And as Jason at Webomatica points out, it’s interesting to see that Mia Farrow has taken up blogging (and is a Boing Boing fan), or that Tom Wolfe sees blogging as important enough to dump all over in his classic style. Meanwhile, Mark Evans has his 11 lessons he’s learned from blogging, his answer to Marc Andreessen’s recent list.


Aidan Henry and Tris Hussey have responded to Mark’s (and Marc’s) post with their own list of lessons. I’m still working on mine 🙂