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Jim Morris's Thought of the Week (or month, or year, ...)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know

Every news outlet behaves as if its readers read it exclusively. Each day the New York Times writes the next installment of a continuing story where its last one ended the day before. Don’t they know I’ve been getting hourly updates on the story? My biggest problem as a news junky is avoiding getting the same information repeatedly.

Information retrieval experts like Jaime Carbonell noticed long ago that repetition is a problem. They compute similarity scores for all the items retrieved for a particular query and eliminate items that are too much like another one.

Many services, like Digg and, attempt to select web information to help us find what we want. I would like one that keeps track of everything I’ve seen and shows me just things that are new. The gold standard for such a service is the Presidential Daily Brief; in which an entire staff of White House people creates a special little “newspaper” for the President, based on what they think he knows already.

Surely, a service like Google News could do this. It already clusters news stories for similarity. If it maintained a giant cookie that recorded all the news stories I’d looked at, it could offer me fresh information by eliminating things that were too similar to what I’d read. Get on it, Google!

posted by Jim Morris @ 2:36 PM  0 comments

Saturday, August 18, 2007

For a Regenerative Blogosphere

Like many bloggers, I’ve come to believe the traditional media is suspect—not criminally so, but simply because of natural forces. It was all symbolized for me by the spectacle of David Gregory, the enfant terrible of the White House press corps dancing with Karl Rove at a correspondents’ party. Once you get big you get co-opted; there’s no escape.

The symbol of incorruptibility was I. F. Stone who published his own, advertising-free newsletter in the 1970s. He attacked the US government policies effectively and relentlessly, but remained a secret to most of the public.

My theory is that success breeds co-option for the simple reason that clever people who wish to influence the public through the media target the most read, watched, or listened-to outlets. One way or another, the influencers will get to the reporters and editors with the biggest audiences.

As a reader, I try to get information from places most people have not heard of: Dave Farber’s blog, George Friedman’s Stratfor emails, and Greg Palast’s BBC exposes. They may have agendas, but I believe they are not being influenced by others.

I wonder if Daily Kos, because of its wide readership, will come under the influence of other forces. I don’t expect to see Kos boogieing with Karl Rove, but a big audience makes him a target, nonetheless.

My concept of a successful blogosphere is one in which new bloggers are continually rising to replace the successful bloggers so as to keep the influencers constantly scrambling to co-opt the leaders.

Someone should pursue research on where news memes come from to test my theory. Like genetic anthropologists they might be able to distinguish blogs that are parts of someone’s echo chamber from ones that have original information and ideas in them.

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posted by Jim Morris @ 7:32 AM  1 comments

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