The power of human filtering

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I just read a lament from Mike Kaufman about the passing of Erik’s Linkblog. I am similarly sad to see this resource (that I’ve followed for years) pass into oblivion. I, for one, am quite proud to have an entry on the last episode.

I think the real value in Erik’s link blog (or maybe any humanly compiled linkblog) is the filtering. There is so much content out there, that having some person pull out some slice of that they think is high-quality and interesting is really valuable. I like to think that I am serving the same function with my weekly Java 7 Roundups. In my case, I think it helps a lot to have a subject that generates regular content but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

Erik started off covering interesting items in Java years ago and it was possible then to do that fairly comprehensively. But at this point, I think it’s literally impossible to read even a fraction of the blogs and news items on Java in a given day or week. My weekly Java 7 roundups typically cover 10-20 links and due to the little writeup I do, that still takes an hour or so each week, not to mention the time spent reading mailing lists and catching blogs. I can definitely understand how he got tired of it after a while.

It seemed like near the end that sites like java.blogs and dzone were catching those same links faster and better than Erik was. For example, I think dzone is fantastic and has things dialed really well for catching and promoting interesting links. Between dzone and java.blogs alone, you’ll catch the vast majority of really, really interesting stuff going on in the Java world. But what the automated sites can’t do is provide the greater context around the story. Ideally, you also want to know more about the history of the topic or project in question, the link trail in and around the blog (think techmeme), commentary from someone you trust, and a place to discuss it. The Java Posse podcast seems to serve that role best at the moment for the Java community at large. Even so, they often don’t even mention half the links in a given week that I think are really interesting. That’s no fault to them – they just have a different set of interests.

In general, I think the ways that filtering can provide value is something that is going to become ever more refined. It might even be a new way to monetize the web on a micro scale. It makes sense to me that people would pay for high quality streams of pre-filtering information from the wash of the web, complete with commentary. I’m sure this is probably already being done and I’m just too dumb to know about it. Well, I guess in the tech world, the analyst community is sort of serving this role for those that have money to spend on it. But the analyst community seems a bit removed from the rough-and-tumble of the blogosphere; I’m thinking of something rougher than that. Thoughts anyone?

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