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Problem Finding, Department of

There have been so many books and things about problem-solving that we figure most problems are already solved. So we need more problems to keep all those expert problem solvers busy.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


RSS overloads and the shush index.

A recent podcast at ITconversations.com was concerned about the large amount of information people can get when you cross weblogs with RSS. The discussion was mostly G2G (Geek to Geek), But technicals aside, the main issue was how to filter the results to keep what you want and discard the rest. I don’t make heavy use of RSS, so I am not overloaded yet. But I am getting a lot of my news from Pluck and the Beta RSS from Yahoo. And I have noticed that I would like to be able to filter out a lot of news feeds.

Here are some of my favorite candidates for the discard pile: wardrobe malfunction; flu vaccine; wearable computer; Vioxx; global warming; gay marriage; stem-cell research.; mad cow disease.

I don't want to read any more news items about these things. I think some of them are hypernews (more hype than news). Some are important, but I think all the useful news has been covered. Anything more and my cat will want to cover it. Some of topics will have significant news once in a while, but I want to hear it from better qualified sources.

The technology for this kind of filtering is already available. It is routinely used to exclude items in search. Yahoo, for example, could easily offer this exclusion as a feature on MyYahoo! pages. No just for RSS, but also for their regular news. A little more personalization. And Yahoo could use these lists in a feedback report. It already reports on search terms (Buzz index) and the most read items. Maybe people would be interested in a weekly list of the shush index: the items that people least want to hear about. I'm guessing that the news media would be interested. Editors might benefit. They might even use it.

Astonishing style. I would love to write that way.
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