January 19, 2007

Good-bye, Findory, & Are We Ready for Personalized News?

Posted in Personalization, Search, Usability at 10:04 pm by mj

Greg Linden–founder, architect, designer, programmer, visionary, banker behind Findoryput Findory on autopilot until its resources are depleted.

Findory has been my primary start page for quite a while. Sure, it had its shortcomings. Too many of its sources were aggregators: Slashdot, Metafilter, Planet fill-in-the-blank, and so on. Clicking on a news story through one of those aggregators meant weeks or months of getting stories from them in your top results.

While its traffic peaked in 2006, Greg recently lamented on his blog that Q3-Q4 saw a serious decline in uniques. I suspect that’s what sparked his introspection.

I stand with those asking Greg to open source his code, or at least produce a well-footnoted, well-referenced book from it.

Here’s the lesson that I draw from Findory compared with, say, digg, memeorandum and memetracker: Context is king.

People say they want personalization, but not in a void. What’s more important than personalization is social context. For news, that means: who’s talking about this story? what are the reactions and additions to this story? do other people like this story? is it a story that crosses social cliques?

And, yes, it also means that what the A-listers write about carries more weight than what, say, I write about (a Z-lister?), regardless of overlapping interests.

As Greg has pointed out previously, personalized search means a smaller shared context among searchers, which is good for fighting spam (in the short-term). But is it bad for searchers? How do you share your search results with somebody else by simply copying the URL?

That problem is magnified with personalized news. Although you may get stories that are really interesting to you, you may just as well get no interesting stories since your interests aren’t generating much worth writing about at the moment. And you’re less likely to engage in a shared cultural experience.

I take note that the good bloggers didn’t use Findory to find interesting things to write about. I don’t think Findory’s bugs and little quirks are the reason for that. I think it’s the lack of social awareness, which suppresses to the social cues we use to find interesting stuff.



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