spacer image
spacer image

Welcome! You're looking at an archived Snarkmarket entry. We've got a fresh look—and more new ideas every day—on the front page.

March 26, 2009

<< Inanimate Interludes | Young Entrepreneurs >>

Compress Into Diamonds

I’ve reached the terrible moment. Google Reader has long since stopped telling me how many unread items I have, opting instead for the euphemistic “1000+”. I’ve dumped all the folders I’m willing to dump. I am unwilling to declare bankruptcy, but I don’t know how long I can stave off my attention creditors.

Here’s what I’ve come to realize about myself: I fully accept that there’s not a particular link in that ridiculous heap that will change my life. It’s been a while since I worried about missing a single killer post or app or XKCD or whatever; if it’s valuable enough, it’ll find me, I got it.

What I most value, and what’s most difficult to recreate outside of my RSS reader, is the exchange of perspective that erupts around a particular moment. Tim Geithner outlines a massive bailout plan, and my economists folder becomes an accessible but rigorous debate about scenarios and probabilities and consequences, light years more interesting and enlightening than a cluster of news stories. I found Jake DeSantis’ resignation letter and the attendant comments instantly fascinating as a drama about class that doesn’t quite resemble any story I remember. But the claims and counter-claims thrown about in the letter and its responses would have been impossible to untangle without the referees in my reader, who shed light even in their disagreement with each other. Atul Gawande’s broadside against solitary confinement sparked a characteristically luminous exchange between Ross and Ta-Nehisi. It’s not the Gawande piece or the DeSantis letter or the bailout story that I worry about missing, but what insights those writings touch off.

Babies won’t die if I don’t read these things. I am fully aware of all the precious, precious insight I’m forgoing to blog at this very minute. My aversion to the “Mark all as read” button is irrational; I recognize this.

But I have a proposal that could make this all a lot less difficult.

Google, I want you to give me a button labeled “Compress into diamonds.” When I click that button, spin your little algorithmic wheels and turn my reader into a personalized Memeorandum. Show me the most linked-to items in the bunch, and show me which of my feeds are linking to them. And take it a step further. You’ve got all that trends data that reflects the items I’m reading. Underneath the hood might very well be data about the links I click on in those posts. Use that information about me to compress my unread items into diamonds I will find uniquely wonderful.

The dirty little secret, Google, is that you barely even have to make this good. Even if the diamond-making algorithm is super-basic, all it needs to do is neutralize the psychological hurdle of the bankruptcy button. I just hate the very idea of clicking “Mark all as read.” Make me a cheap promise, and I will bite.

Posted March 26, 2009 at 9:27 | Comments (7) | Permasnark
File under: Technosnark


Seems like such a no-brainer, I really wonder why they haven't moved towards this at all. Makes me think it's got to be something in the processing of all the data (which seems crazy ... they are Google after all).

Although Google would never name it so poetically. "Compress into diamonds." I want to click that button sooo bad.

Have you tried aideRSS? Are ther any similar services?

I keep hoping for simple bookmarks in google reader: icons that keep track of blogs I might read but don't want adding to the count; the pull of checking when my "All Items" list goes up is just too strong

Posted by: demonsthenes on March 27, 2009 at 09:42 AM

What about a geometric visualization, a la the star map for Facebook friends? Index for connections between blogs, and number of links to, not just people?

This might be the next frontier for Google -- not just access to lots of content, but multiple interfaces for accessing it.

If Google doesn't do it, Technorati (or somebody else) should.

For years now I am waiting that rss programms/services start to implement bayesian filtering/learning mechanisms (analog to spam prevention filters) to map personally fitting items from the big river of news into a very personal news-stream (or to be specific: into separate personal news-streams for different criteria/categories). I don't really understand what is keeping them from offering such functionality

Helping my Google Reader shed pounds via algorithmic wheel-spinning and diamond-compressing would be much appreciated, good sir. Thank you.

It looks like is kinda sorta starting to do this. It takes all the shared items in google reader that get imported into friendfeed, "processes" them and then spits out the most popular ones. Which is really more like "sift into just the big rocks" than "compress into diamonds."

spacer image
spacer image