Friday, June 01, 2007

Algorithims Protest Return of Human Intervention

Steve Johnson at the Chicago Tribune, praising the Huffington Post, points out:

Very often, though, what leads The Huffington Post are simply stories reported by three-dimensional newspapers. And the site cleverly keeps readers from clicking away to the originating sites by offering a "Quick Read" feature. Click on that and a window pops up atop the main Huffington page with a story summary.

What all of this speaks to is how very crucial the editing function is at Huffington. Many of the Web's news aggregators (Google News, Topix) and even some original news sites have the feel of "shovelware" -- a series of headlines selected and shoveled onto the page by computer algorithm.

What The Huffington Post does extremely well is select and highlight its stories to appeal to its audience. Even more important than the whiff of progressive politics is the feeling that there is active human intelligence making choices.

And the result is a far more satisfying news product than a Google News offers.

Arianna Huffington may be the frontwoman and her site's chief celebrity blogger. But the real stars of The Huffington Post, in the new iteration especially, are the anonymous editors who put the package together. You know, like at a real newspaper.

Of course, I was directed to this story by Romanesko, who -- like a Brazilian soccer star or a celebrity couple -- is known by only a single name.

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