Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Human Or Machine - Or How To Get The News Before Techmeme

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 24, 2009

I'm a big fan of Gabe Rivera's Techmeme. Over the past year or so, Techmeme has managed to improve its results by using humans, in addition to its much vaunted algorithm -based approach.

Lately, Techmeme seems to be relying even more on humans by paying attention to Twitter and to Twitter's prolific news tipsters. The most successful of these is Atul Arora. Here is an interview with Mr Arora over at Quick online tips.

Hundreds of people submit tips to Techmeme, but only a few get accepted. And some top techmeme tippers manage to get many tips accepted everyday. Atul Arora or @atul on twitter is one such top Techmeme tipper whose tips are listed several times a day on Techememe, everyday!

This is what works:

- Tip any breaking news about technology, social media, old media, Google, Apple, Twitter etc.

- Tip news/blog articles that are more likely to have a conversation around them e.g. Steve Job’s health issues, new iPhone release, new Android release

- Twitter/Google/Apple are the media darlings nowadays. So news about them is always good to tip

- Articles from WSJ/NYTimes technology section that are potentially of interest to tech folks

The benefits:

Being linked repeatedly on Techmeme has definitely raised my Twitter profile and contributed greatly to the number of folks who follow me on twitter. It has helped me connect up with web luminaries such as Dave Winer, Robert Scoble, Louis Gray and Howard Lindzon. It also means that I need to be a lot more selective in what I send over to Techmeme.

I subscribe to Mr Atul and also I have a permanent search on anybody that use the [email protected] keyword. That way I can get to what's hot before Techmeme crunches its algorithm and decides what to include from its tipsters.

So has Twitter short-circuited Techmeme? Maybe. Gabe's algorithm, like Google's, is secret. But his human algorithm (much more valuable, imho) is very public.

If I were Gabe I'd ask my top tipsters to refrain from using Twitter to broadcast their tips. But then where is the benefit to Techmeme's tipsters if they are Twitter invisible?

I look forward to Gabe's solution...

UPDATED: Just moments after publishing, the ever vigilante Mr Arora sent a message (via Twitter of course) that he would post a response in the comments section later this evening.

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