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New news in news 11 September, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in internet, web 2.0.

It’s an old tenet of the internet, information wants to be free. And for the most part it is. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. The deluge of information that hits our inboxes/feed readers every day is vast. Even when you screen out the messages inviting you to get prescription meds / buy stocks / grow your penis by two inches, there is still more coming in than many of us have time to deal with.

I remember years back first discovering the BBC news site. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘everything I need in one place.’ But there are times you want a different perspective, so you flit around from site to site. Then came Google News which nicely aggregated across sources and NewsNow which updated every 5 minutes.

But, of course, this was all controlled news with an editor deciding what I needed to know. Where’s the fun in that?

Now we have social news, news by the people for the people (well OK for the most part links by some of the people for some of the people). The principle being that collectively, people are pretty smart (a Wisdom of Crowds thing). So we have user-driven sites such as Digg ā€“ with it’s current controversy around users burying stories they disagree with ā€“ and Newsvine (my personal favourite).

And now we have Spotback which claims to be a new breed of personalised news service. Spotback is tag-based, you set in what you’re interested in when you first go to the site. Then, with a bit of AJAX wizardry, the site generates your personal news page which essentially looks like many others. But, the thing about Spotback is that it learns what you like. You can rate stories, indicating your preferences, what you’d like more of and less of. The theory goes that over time Spotback will deliver just the kind of information you want. It’s a nice interface which can be easily customised and can deliver news in an RSS feed.

Of course, when I have a service that can predict precisely what I want to see, feeding me the kind of news that I’m sure to agree with, the fear is I’ll miss out on the unexpected, the challenging, the downright uncomfortable even.

Maybe it’s time to go back to the BBC.



1. Best Shopping Info - 18 August, 2007

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