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Managing Robert Scoble

Managing high volume writers with Google Reader
Filtering info volume with Google Reader

I was going to title this post “Managing Information Overload with Google Reader”, because it deals with how to filter the flood of output that comes from the currently popular micro-blogging platforms [Twitter] and [FriendFeed] — but it really has to do with filtering the output from just those participants in those apps who generate extraordinary amounts of information and the poster child of that phenomenon is… Robert Scoble.

Scoble provides value in proportion to the amount of information he generates — acting as a human filter on the deluge of New New Things that bombard the internet daily. That’s his job and I use him (and a few others) as the first pass at filtering the wheat from the chaff. But there are serious design problems with the platforms we’re using which is symptomatic of the Web 2.0 design space — they are released to the world before they are ready and often suffer from near-fatal design flaws. In the case of Twitter and FriendFeed they present posts in a stream or “timeline” where all posts are presented sequentially and all are of equal weight. The result is that a prolific writer, like Scoble or Dave Winer, can swamp the system and push out others I want to follow who write less frequently. This was most obvious today when I logged into Twitter to find that Scoble’s overnight reporting on the Chinese earthquake literally pushed everyone else I was following off the page. The platforms need a way to assign weights to subscriptions so that posts from people I don’t want to miss (say personal friends) have priority over others.

Until that is possible, one way I have found to hack a weighting algorithm is through Google Reader. I’ve set up two sets of FriendFeed accounts — on one I subscribe to those people who I want to read who post at “normal” rates. On the other, I subscribe only to Scoble. I then subscribe to the RSS feeds for each account with Google Reader which allows me a central place to track both streams of info. There is minimal overlap in feeds and it allows me to track the posts and related conversations of those people I’m following with a low probability that I’ll miss anything they’ve published either on FriendFeed, Twitter or their blogs. It’s a kludge but it works.

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