In a fundamental shift in its approach to aggregating news, Techmeme is putting human editors on the job. In particular, titles generated by computers don’t seem to be as compelling as those generated by humans. In a way it’s encouraging to find out that humans still relate the best to other humans – at least for now.
Techmeme isn’t abandoning its automated process by any means, but it is introducing a human role to its equation. The company specifically points out problems: news that’s instantly obsolete, and making connections between similar topics. “Only an algorithm would feature news about Anna Nicole Smith’s hospitalization after she’s already been declared dead, as our automated celeb news site WeSmirch did last year,” according to Techmeme.
The vein of human connectedness isn’t always so clear, the company makes the point, “Humans have always edited Techmeme of course, just implicitly. For instance, when a blogger links to a story, the headline might move higher on Techmeme.” That’s an important point because it exposes some of the decision making process behind the algorithm. Essentially Techmeme has become a magnifier of personal recommendations, or hyperlinks.
This is another example of interpreted crowdsourcing as groups of bloggers and news sources are woven together by Techmeme and molded into a continuously morphing news organism. Because news is so temporal it demands a living state and it’s obvious Techmeme is interested in providing the ideal venue for it.
“News cyborg” is the term Techmeme uses to describe its latest human integration, but that term calls up images of awkwardly moving automatons or living things with broken vessels. This feels more like an automated computer system that after a long hiatus is inviting additional human input in how it executes its job.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk takes a similar blend of human and computer but applies it to tasks and actions. HotorNot does the same with opinions on sex appeal. It’s the rumblings of a trend that’s gaining momentum online.