Techmeme and the Noise Problem

Bitchmeming about Techmeme has long been a favorite past-time of bored early adopters over numerous weekends in the last year. The arguments are usually similar, and revolve around variations of Techmeme is to focused on reporting news from large companies and/ or ignores small startups, and that it is dominated by a few sites while others don’t get a look in.

I’ve been a Techmeme fan for a long time, and I still religiously visit the site daily, although I have found myself using it less and less as writing here at The Inquisitr has allowed me to move away from pleasing someone with a Techmeme headline, to writing about what I love or am interested in, Techmeme headline or not be damned. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting Gave Rivera before and as well as being a great bloke, he’s smart as well…and I should know, I’ve tried multiple times to get a Techmeme clone scripted without any success.

While I recognize and sympathize with the arguments of people like Dave Winer, who started a conversation around Techmeme ignoring the little guy yesterday on FriendFeed, I don’t think Gabe, or Techmeme are to blame. I also don’t believe that there is much, if anything at all Gabe can do to address these concerns (although to his credit he has reached out).

Techmeme tracks news and ranks news on the number of people talking about the topic. That many people talk about large news from big companies is always going to be a given.

Yes, Techmeme was once different, but there also wasn’t nearly as much noise around large startups then either. Google is so large that there is nearly always one Google story on Techmeme every day, often more. Facebook, MySpace and social networking has gained so many users that every large company in that space is a news cycle unto itself. Twitter is such a trainwreck that it puts Britney Spears to shame in the sad-publicity stakes.

So what to do?

In part, ways to find the smaller, hidden stories are already all around us. FriendFeed delivers a daily dose of new, different and interesting opinions, people and startups. FriendFeed also offers a personal meme tracker via their best of feature, a feature that not only delivers output in RSS, it is also the basis for QMeme, our little meme tracker here on The Inquisitr. I’m still surprised more people aren’t sharing their FriendFeed best of feeds this way, because we all have the ability to offer alternatives.

However, people want public, no fuss meme tracking, which is in part why I created QMeme (and the beta, non widget based based version should be coming soon). I’m still refining the way it shows data, and what it shows. It would be better still with some extra data coming in, so if someone like Robert Scoble, Dave Winer or Louis Gray would like to share their RSS feed for their own best of from FriendFeed, I’ll see if I can create something better again, and I’ll happily share the mashed feed to anyone who wants to use it. The concept may not be perfect, but watching QMeme so far I’ve seen it sharing things that I don’t see on Techmeme, stories that highlight new and interesting startups that have value, and that’s at least a start.

Another small hack is to filter Techmeme so you only get stories about non-major companies. I’ve started a Yahoo Pipe here for those who want it. The pipe takes the Techmeme Firehose and blocks stories from or about Google, Facebook, Twitter, TechCrunch and a few others. If anyone has any suggestions of other companies that should be blocked (I need to add to the list, just haven’t sat down yet to do a full list) feel free to comment.

Let’s not just keep complaining, lets think creatively about new ways we can enable new, smart and interesting startups to rise to the top of our attention cycles.

Sidenote: Two alternatives to check out if you haven’t already: RSSMeme and ReadBurner. RSSMeme is now bringing in public social data, where as ReadBurner is moving into larger sampling audiences. They still suffer somewhat from the noise problem around big stories, but both offer something different.

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