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

The Death Of The Search Algorithm? Techmeme Has Six Editors

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 18, 2009

Death might be too strong a word but this is definitely a watershed moment. Techmeme, which used to rely completely on Gabe Rivera's secret algorithm to pick tech news and blog posts, now has six editors.

This is significant because Techmeme shows that human aided algorithms are more effective than just software and server. Techmeme is a microcosm of the rest of the search-enabled world of services, from news aggregators to basic search.

If Techmeme can't be Techmeme just by using its algorithms, and now needs lots of editors, then that means much larger news aggregators and search companies will likely have to add human editors too.

Here is Gabe Rivera announcing the additional editors:

Ever since we first plugged human editors into the automation behind Techmeme, we've been improving how we work to make the human/machine combo more and more effective. While technological innovations have contributed to these improvements, smarter and more continuous human editing has played a critical role as well.

Over the past few months three more editors have joined Techmeme's editorial team. They are (with links to their Twitter profiles) Rich DeMuro, formerly of CNET and various TV news outlets, Lidija Davis of The Drill Down podcast, formerly of ReadWriteWeb, and Mahendra Palsule, writer for MakeUseOf.com and a former IT project manager. At this point we're now staffed 24 hours a day most weekdays.

We've created a list on Techmeme's Twitter profile to let you follow the whole team, which also includes Megan McCarthy, Omer Horvitz, and myself.

Six editors at Techmeme. Wow. That's got to signal a huge loss of faith in search algorithms. But I think Gabe is doing the right thing.

Also, Techmeme has Atul. He is a one-man Techmeme. He sends great article links to Techeme all day long. If you want to know what is in tomorrow's Techmeme just subscribe to @atul on Twitter -- he is tireless and usually spot-on.

Gabe didn't have choice bringing in human editors because there has been a big drop in the number of sites linking to each other's news stories.

For a long time you could see items on Techmeme that had no links to them at all. They were chosen by hand. Without sufficient numbers of links Techmeme's algorithm doesn't work.

What does this mean for other search engines, what does this mean for Google PageRank which lies at the heart of Google's search algorithm?

Surely, this is GOOG's Achilles' Heel!?

And surely this is a very signifiant watershed moment. I've always said that humans bring value but most geeks believe in the superiority of the algorithm. Things have changed. This is a very big change.

{The Demise Of Linking ... And Its Effect On Google Pagerank]

New Media Increasingly Looks Like Old Media Says Techmeme Founder


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