Well, harumph. I’ve been a happy customer of Speakeasy for several years, but today’s announcement that Best Buy has acquired the company is a real disappointment. No way in hell am I giving one thin dime to that rotten retailer. I’ll be looking for a new ISP toot de suite.
So, I don’t think this is the biggest revelation in the world, but something kind of clicked for me tonight, and it’s this: in the quest to keep informed of the news that means most to me, why not let computers do the work for me?
I know, I know, this is the whole idea behind the Attention meme; I have been keeping up. But I realized tonight that I’m so in the habit of manually managing my blog subscriptions that I guess I just hadn’t stopped to question why some snazzy AI robot wasn’t stepping in to help. I mean ideally, I’d like a digital assistant that learned my preferences and habits and could recommend news sources based on my browsing habits.
Well guess what? That technology is starting to arrive, and thanks to Niall Kennedy, I just got turned on to TailRank, my own digital Dan Rather.
TailRank is a memetracker, kind of like Memeorandum. I’ve really never seen the point of Memeorandum, frankly. I don’t care much about knowing what everyone else is pointing to. I want to figure out what’s important for myself. But what makes TailRank different is that it personalizes the memetracking experience for you, acting like a kind of, you know, snazzy AI robot that brings you the news you want to know.
So, fer instance, I just uploaded my blog subscriptions from NetNewsWire to TailRank. Now, I can get a page with the top news items—not from all blogs in the universe, but just from the ones I subscribe to. I still don’t think that the number of inbound links has anything to do with the real importance of a story, but this new way of filtering the blogs I read is helping me re-think how I consume information. This is a good start towards an easier, customized way of reading the news.
(I uploaded an OPML file to create my filter, but the cool new feature that Niall pointed out is that TailRank can now create a filter from your browsing history. Woah. Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.)
One of the concerns of giving up direct input into your information stream is that you’ll miss the little random bits of trivia that spark new ideas. If we ever do get to the point where software is managing our attention streams, I’d like to see some sort of randomness thrown into the mix. Maybe I could request that 5 or so news items per week be inserted into my feed from interest areas I haven’t “noticed” lately.
I’d also like to be able to expand and contract my attention cloud dynamically. For example, let’s say I got curious about the perigrine falcon that landed on the balcony outside our office a couple of days ago. I’d like to be able to ask my digital assistant to drop in news items about raptors in the Pacific Northwest for a few weeks. Or, if I’m really busy, I’d just want to know the top 10-20 most important things going on in my sphere of attention. And I’m going to want it all to happen automatically.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Probably. It might stand for Rich Site Summary. But whatever. You don’t really need to know what it means. All you need to know is that RSS makes your life easier.
Howzat? Well, RSS lets you subscribe to an online information source, like a [[blog create]], or a [[podcast create]], or a news headlines site, or… or anything that gets updated regularly. This lets you use a piece of software called an [[aggregator create]] (or [[feed reader create]]) to view these news sources all at once, without visiting dozens of different websites.
Feed readers make your information consumption faster and more efficient.
For more, check out my del.icio.us RSS bookmarks, and these links in particular: