The New York Times river flows, but whereto?

Dave Winer is doing some interesting experiments to reshuffle the New York times content into something he calls a river of information. He uses the metadata the NY times provides in its on-line HTML news and using that data he can create mashups based upon , for example, outlines or keywords. Others have experimented with it as well allowing searches such as articles on Bill Gates.

I’m not sure what problem Dave is trying to solve.  I am no expert on search or news, but I wasn’t sure what the value was of the mixup he created for me. It seems to me that Google reader does everything Dave was ging for (search on the NY times rss feed for Bill Gates and I seem to get everything they have written about Bill Gates.

I also tried using it on my mobile (As some of the commenters explained would be good), but that didn’t work out very well. Navigation is poor, but the striping of all the flashy content you don’t need on a mobile did help a bit.

The keyword version was awful to look at, but more important worse to use. I have to roll over to each number to get an outline of what is underneath. A user interface nightmare.

The total overview of what is on the New York times is interesting, but for such a large resource the overview becomes so large I need an overview of the overview.

The question that comes to my mind is what problem Dave actually tries to solve. I can’t find it on his blog post announcement. I do see a lot of comments from people in the field (techies, here, here and here for example) that really like the work and the possibilities of the technology.

Is this a technology push of a problem that doesn’t exist, or am I missing the point? Personally I believe in the river of information analogy that Anna Zelenka posted earlier. She argues that there isn’t an information overload if you are willing to accept there is so much information. Just tap into it when you have a need and don’t try to follow everything (leading to stress and overload). That is what I do with Google reader really. But there are even better ways of finding answers to questions, the best being of course simply by asking them to another human being.

We might do this the “cool” way and twitter about it, getting loads of response from other techie twitters. But, simply asking a friend or someone you know or who you suspect knows the answer works too. As it turns out, people search way better than search engines according to Oliver Parriche of Yahoo. Yahoo Answers there are already 250Mln entries by users.

But if we really want to move forward here, why not embrace the work Jonathan Harris has done with his universe project. It not only has a very intuitive interface, but also links pieces of information in a very surprising way allowing the user to truly explore the universe of information and (Re-)discover great things himself.

What do you think about it? Am I all wrong about it and is Dave onto the next invention after he came with rss? Or is this more of a new tech feature that isn’t going to attract users?


About vanelsas

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This entry was posted in Dave Winer, information overload, Jonathan Harris, NY Times, Om Malik, Robert Scoble, universe, Yahoo answers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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