March 16, 2009

Finding the Web's Best Content - Do You Want it New or Trusted?

My major driver for attending the SXSW Interactive conference this week was to participate in a panel, held this morning, discussing how to find the best and most interesting content on the Web, getting beyond simple aggregation. Sharing the stage with four very interesting peers, from Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb and Gabe Rivera of Techmeme to Melanie Baker of PostRank and Micah Baldwin of Lijit, we discussed both our secrets and our motivations for getting to the highest-quality content quickly. In my opinion, the "right" way to find the best content wasn't so much a workflow discussion or a tools discussion, but one of motivation - what drives you to take the effort to find it?

For Marshall and me, as bloggers, we are very interested in finding new stories and product releases ahead of others. Gabe, working with his tool's algorithm, hoped to find relevant news, partially defined by the number and strength of relevant links and content. Micah and Melanie both discussed how their products aim to do the dirty work of chewing through the vast amount of information to find the "best" and "most influential" sources and content. And for the many different people sitting in the room, each had their own pull - as we discussed what was driving their need to be constantly updated, and it was clear there was a dividing line - did you want to find it when it was brand new, or could you rely on recommendations from friends and peers?

I've talked quite a bit on the blog about the tools I use to find both new content and recommended, trusted content. Partially recapping from the panel, here's what we discussed:

To Find Brand-New Content
    Google Reader is still the very best item I use every day to take in news from hundreds of different feeds, be they on technology, sports, business or social media. RSS powers my desire for immediacy, and Google Reader helps me both discover data only minutes after it is posted, but also share it and start to act as an information filter.

    Referral Logs are a sneaky way to find new services. It's how I found many services that were in development, but had not debuted, including ReadBurner, Assetbar, Shyftr and others. Developers often check out stories with their own tools and due diligence can uncover scoops.

    Search Alerts through Google, Twitter, BackType and other content repositories can give you a heads up when items you are most interested in are mentioned.

    Old School Tools still are great ways to get connected. If you can post your phone number to your blog, do it. Make yourself available to content producers and entrepreneurs, so they can reach you with news.
To Find Top-Quality Trusted Content
    Google Reader Shared Items let others who you trust act as information filters and pass along the very best of those sites they are using from around the Web.

    FriendFeed's Best of Day tools let you find the most important stories, as determined by social activity, including likes and comments, and can be segmented by all those you follow, or lists, meaning you can see what a subsegment of your friends are finding most interesting in a time period, be it 1 day, 7 or a month.

    TechFuga and Techmeme are two aggregators aimed to get high-quality content in the technology space, and other non-tech verticals are being built out, including the family of sites from the Ballhype crew, including Showhype, BeltwayBlips and the like.

    Twitter Search and Leaderboards like TweetMeme let you see what are the most distributed tweets and links.

    RSSmeme and ReadBurner help display the top shared Google Reader items of the day.
There's much, much more of course. We've talked about my social media consumption workflow before, and the way I do it may differ both from how you do, and from the way others on the panel explained their process. You can see additional coverage of the presentation from this morning here: SheGeeks: Beyond Content Aggregation – Filtering Services, Popular, & Relevant Content and Beyond Aggregation — Finding the Web’s Best Content at SXSW. An outstanding thread on FriendFeed, sparked by Eric Berlin, can be found here: “Monday, bright-ish and early-ish at Austin's SXSW, session called Beyond Aggregation - Finding the Web's Best Content”.