Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience?
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Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience?

Findory, a personalized news service created by Greg Linden, who worked on Amazon’s groundbreaking personalization engine, will be put on autopilot as Greg steps away from the effort. Om Malik comments:

Despite being drop dead simple, Findory never realized its true potential as an information discovery engine. It has all the makings of being a personal memetracker, something a lot of folks have been clamoring for. In contrast the general purpose memetrackers that follow conversations, like Techmeme and Tailrank keep growing.

I wonder whether the great success of TechMeme (and Memeorandum, Gabe Rivera’s other site on politics) and Digg , vs. the failure of Findory to catch on, is evidence that news is a fundamentally shared, social experience. Despite all the hype about the “user in control,” purely personalized news may be too much control, a slippery slope that leads to solipsism. The proverbial “water cooler” is symbolic of our fundamental need to share the news, to validate our experiences by sharing them with others. How can there be “conversation” if we’re all talking about something different?

Perhaps the good old fashioned niche is as personalized as we need to get. TechMeme and Digg are highly niche sites, and thus are tailored to the specific interests of their users without getting so personalized as to break the bonds of community.

There’s also the advantage of constantly pushing the boundaries of your personal interests. Users depend on TechMeme and Digg to show them interesting content that they never would have thought would be interesting to them — it’s the power of serendipity and discovery that comes when you ride along with a larger community of interest.

The same theory can be applied to other technologies. The iPod — and soon the iPhone — is a shared experience. The iPod spread so fast because we felt an instant bond with other iPod owners.