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In the interest of full disclosure, as I was writing today's column I could not help thinking that: a) it would get picked up by the news-aggregator sites that I describe in the piece, b) the users of those sites would then discover other things I've written, and c) that, in turn, would increase the odds of my next piece getting Dugg.

In fact, the column seems to have been utterly ignored by those sites today. Shows you what I know!

But anyway: I've been using these aggregators to get a quick read on the news for a couple of years now--mainly through a site called PopUrls that puts the top stories of Digg, Reddit, Newsvine and other aggregator sites, as well as highlights from other major sources of user-generated content like Flickr and, on a single page. That's a good way to get a quick read on what's on the Web's mind at the start of the day.

It's also in my own professional interest to keep an eye out for the stories getting the most attention at Digg and its ilk, considering all the traffic news aggregators can send to a Web page. If a blog post gets far more comments than usual, for example, it helps to know if that's because the regular readers reacted to it strongly, or because a flock of new readers just got pointed to it.

(BTW, "news aggregator" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Anybody have a word or phrase that doesn't reek of consultantese?)

I've also seen these news hubs become part of a story themselves, most famously when Digg's users flooded the site with stories featuring the same 32-character key used to crack the encryption on HD DVD and Blu-ray high-definition video discs.

But over the last few months, I've found myself interested in how this hive-mind approach to news works. I think these sites--along with blogs--perform a valuable and necessary service when they spotlight the important stories that get buried on page A17.

Then again, these sites also often offer a silly and strange view of what passes for news. As I was writing a draft of this yesterday evening, one of the most popular stories on Digg concerned some clues found in a test release of an expansion pack for the game World of Warcraft. At Reddit, "How idiots pull down palm trees" was among the top 25 stories. (Not that The Post's taste in stories is perfect either!)

Perhaps because I can't tell if these sites will work over time, they're a compelling read. Now back to you: Do you hit the likes of Digg to get your news? Do you also submit stories and links to them? Tell me in the comments--or in my Web chat today, starting at 2 p.m.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 6, 2008; 8:55 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , The Web  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: ITunes' Incomplete Movie-Rental Inventory
Next: New Developments For the iPhone


don't forget Fark. This site is arguably the best news-aggregate site around.

Posted by: Mike | March 6, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

No, I haven't tried any of these sites, but I'm going to! I'm not surprised that there's not a lot of primary coverage -- I follow politics pretty closely but even I'm burned out. I think people in Washington don't always appreciate that those of us outside the Beltway don't care to follow 18 months of election coverage, especially when a lot of it is about the price of someone's haircut.

Posted by: jp | March 6, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I hit up Slashdot for tech news, but otherwise it's WaPo, CNN, and BBC for basic news, Salon, Slate, and The Atlantic for more depth.

But I /am/ 42.

Posted by: wiredog | March 6, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I've no problem with syndication in all its myriad forms, distribution techniques, compilations and organizations. This is the proper use of the Internet, and it's underlying power in regards to disseminating information is what makes it remarkable and useful.

But there is one thing that bothers me greatly, and that is software which allows comments for blogs.

BLOG = Web Log, the personal diatribe of the web site owner or any of its content providers, intended for public consumption. The definition is simple enough, but when blogs become forums (an interactive discussion area of one or more topics in a threaded or well organized heirchy) the whole thing has gone askew.

I want to encourage bloggers to keep writing, and Internet developers to continue coming up with innovative means of syndication. But at the same time, if you want to call it a blog, remove the comments section, remove the ratings section, remove the feedback section. Permit no direct replies on the bloggers own website - or install a FORUM where interaction is expected and encouraged.

Of course these days forums can be syndicated as blogs, or bloggers can capriciously quote other blogger content in response, a mini-forum if you will. But the PERSONAL thoughts and diatribe of a blogger should be available but that's as far as it should go.

This comment is to remind people of the true purpose of a blog, its roots and what it really entails. This is not to say things can and should adapt and change over time, but adding interactivity beyond syndication is not at all what blogs are and should be about.

And to remind bloggers that it's OKAY to post your thoughts and not be expected to defend them or rejoice with others upon them.

And to remind developers to learn the difference between a blog and a forum, and to add the proper controls to each as well as integrate the power of syndication common to both.


Posted by: JimGoldbloom | March 7, 2008 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Hey Rob - I am a big Digg fan, as it provides a somewhat wide selection of stories and funny stuff. I don't often Digg stories, no particular reason other than I don't think of it.

One big weakness I note with Digg is sports - most of the Digg audience must be non-sports fans because there is not much of interest or recent on there. Unless it's Bonds/Clemons.

Posted by: Steve | March 7, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Hi Rob. eems the new iMacs have a wireless problem. My new one went out in a week, and the next one in a month.

Posted by: Jim Griffith | March 7, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Don't commonly use any of them, but I just bookmarked the PopUrls site and scanned the headlines, so I like the concept.

The attribute I prize most highly is to be able to tell what the story is about from the headline or a mouseover. Yahoo news is pretty good about that.

I spend too much time scanning the news in the AM, mostly 3 major online papers - or more to the point, stopping to read things. It's always a challenge to pickup on what's important and skip what's not. Too much stuff that's not important is interesting, however - so there's another glitch.

Posted by: Richard Waddell | March 11, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

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