Do you like stirring the pot? The Internet’s vastness makes starting and winning arguments really easy, provided you’re not too picky about whom you’re arguing with. Just identify either 1) an extremist position or 2) nonexistent position, and fire away. In the case of 1) you can find just enough nut jobs to create the appearance that the position you’re taking on is widely held. And in the case of 2) just present a plausible enough summary of the fake position, and people will believe it’s out there. Either way, the mad men or straw men will succumb to your reason, and spectacularly so.
Something bothered me about Simon Dumenco’s piece about Huffington Post yesterday. Not the substance of his column, which was valid and well-argued, nor the favorable comparison to Techmeme, which was, well, favorable to Techmeme.
What irked me was the reminder that “aggregator” is a rather broad-brush term that paints systematic news-rewriters like the Huffington Post (who bury links) as cousins to snippet-quoting sites like Techmeme and Mediagazer (which link prominently). Dumenco’s piece, whose subtitle begins with “The Blog Queen Defends Her Aggregation Practices” also cites Bill Keller’s famous column from earlier this year, entitled “All the Aggregation That’s Fit to Aggregate”, which goes as far as coyly utilizing the term “aggregate” repeatedly as a euphemism for “steal”.
Since all “aggregators” are now tainted by association, I’m wondering if we should start using a different term to describe what we do at Techmeme. Something more specific, like “headline aggregator”? Or “link curator”? Meanwhile, can we all just call the rewriters “rewriters”? Aggregation is not the essence of what they do.
On a different note, allow me to stress that Dumenco’s crediting Techmeme as fair and generous with referrals is seen as a very welcome gesture from this corner, as it echoes what Frédéric Filloux wrote last September. In fact, it presents me a good opportunity to promote and expand on this idea, framing Techmeme as the antithesis to all that is sketchy and sucky about news on the internet. The following table summarizes my thoughts succinctly:
In closing, if you find yourself writing about Techmeme, it would be best if you could link prominently to this post. Or just paraphrase, or copy and paste at will. With or without attribution. It’s all fine with me.
Related note: somewhere in NYT’s digital vault are images of me in which I complied with a photographer to assume far more ridiculous poses. Thankfully, the photo they actually published wasn’t so bad.
P.S. Posting this mainly to test Tumblr. I’ll be flying to NYC tomorrow, so I need to get into the groove.