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PostRank Is Puzzling To Me

July 10th, 2008 by Colin Carmichael

wordle-aiderss Today, AideRSS launched a FireFox extension that adds their PostRank technology to Google Reader. The geek in me says “cool” – using a browser extension to extend a 3rd-party application with more data. But I’m not likely to use it.

No offense to the fine folks at AideRSS, but I’ve never really understood why I would use their technology – so I haven’t. Here’s why:

  1. I struggle enough already with the nagging feeling that I might be missing the little nuggets of the conversation in the blog-o-hoods that I hang out in. For example, it’s very difficult for me to unsubscribe from any feed because even though the last 20 posts have been so-so, the next might be gold. Why on earth would I want to intentionally not read posts from feeds that I’ve already determined have value to me?
  2. If a feed has only 1 great post for every 10/20/30 good posts, that tells me something about the author(s) and informs my ongoing evaluation of the blog. If I only ever see the great posts, I get a misrepresented view of the author. If the blog-o-sphere were only about content, then a filtering service might be useful to me – but I want to know and understand the people I read and that means taking the good with the great.

If you disagree with me, or your blog-reading habits are just different than mine, please let me know in the comments.

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5 Responses to “PostRank Is Puzzling To Me”

  1. Here’s my dirty little secret… I’m the same as you are, more or less. “What if I miss something?!” :)

    I’ve had this conversation with a few folks, and honestly, there are people for whom our service just isn’t suited. They either want to read everything or they want to personally be the ones who choose what to read. Which is totally cool. I definitely get that. And there’re always going to be people whose work you’re invested in and you’ll read everything.

    At the other end of the spectrum are the people who want everything to be seamless, managed, and behind the curtain. Just the greatest hits, delivered piping hot, and don’t tell me how you selected them. For those people, and most of the rest of the spectrum, we can be of considerable use. (Whew!)

    As for the rarely-good feeds, I’ve pondered that a fair bit, too, since I’ve totally fallen victim to it. You read some amazing post, subscribe immediately, and then six months later can’t remember for the life of you why you did because nothing ever seems to resonate. To that end our widget can help, since it will highlight the site’s material. And if you wanna be all sneaky like, you can see when the “best of” posts were written, and if the dates are awfully far apart, that might tell you what you want to know, too. :)

  2. Hey Melanie – thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your honesty and for not dismissing my reservations as “not getting it.”

    As you say, I think AideRSS is just not for me – just like GoogleReader’s neat readership stats aren’t because I ‘read’ 100% of what comes in.

  3. Bill Deys says:

    I use aideRSS to see what the hot items are but I still read all the items. Well sort of! I don’t know how many feed you guys are subscribed to (I’m at 252) but I can’t read everything.

    I use Google Reader so I usually start out with my shared items which I find usually covers me for 99% of the real News type items, then I go through a folder of feed from local bloggers that I’ve found (70 feeds), then Blogs. Now those I scan through all of, reading at least the headline and first bit of the body, this is there the postrank really helps I can see the hot items. After if I have time I’ll start scanning through my “news” folder that has feed like Wired and TUAW.

    If I can’t get through it because I’ve read my shared items I usually can Mark All Read and not miss the latest. You do have to have a good “friends” list for this to be effective, that’s why I’m always adding people.

    The real flaw I find with postrank is if I read a very fresh item it has no post rank, you almost need to be using it to catch up after a week off!

  4. Yep, because PostRanks are based on reaction to an item, we can’t analyze much until there is some. However, some people monitor their feeds quite regularly, so for them it’s a snag.

    We’ve been talking about some options for addressing that — predictive ranking and whatnot — and are really interested in user feedback on how they user their readers and RSS in general, their reading frequency, and fitting filtering into their patterns.

  5. […] I totally get that. I pay considerably more attention to my friends’ shared items in Google Reader than to many of my feeds. I also quite openly admitted to Colin that PostRank filtering isn’t necessary for everyone. […]