I hate Techmeme. I love Techmeme.

Dave Winer is spittin' mad about Techmeme and the new Techmeme leaderboard:

Techmeme was already severely polluted by people saying stupid **** to rise to the top of the page. That was an ephemeral high. Now there's a way to accumulate points toward more persistent rank, and everyone who isn't on the list, wants to be on the list.

I'm thinking of this idiotic post by an idiot who's known for saying idiotic things just to get attention.

I feel for Dave. I hate Techmeme too. I hate seeing blogs that simply repeat the news, the marketing drivel that PR companies manage to insert into the discussions, the emphasis on venture capital and bogus valuations, and the practically guaranteed inclusion of any New York Times article about technology.

I just hate it.

But here's the thing: I love Techmeme, too. I need it. I read it every day, even on weekends.

Why? Gabe Rivera's site, along with Computerworld.com, Slashdot, and the Google News Technology section, are how I get a pulse on what's going on in the rapidly expanding tech world. What are people talking about today? Techmeme helps me answer that question, thanks to the large number of sources it indexes. It's how I found about the Newton II buzz last week, and it's how I found out about the New York Times' premature definition of "Web 3.0" last year.

It's how I found out about Dave's post this afternoon.

But make no mistake: It's a love/hate relationship. The problems that I listed above are serious, and irritating. And there's another major issue to consider as well: The inability of Techmeme to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to quality. Not only do I see a lot of "repeater" blog posts listed there (i.e., a blogger simply paraphrasing what a news article says, while offering little or no commentary/additional information), but also the great contributions by the more obscure blogs -- what I like to call the "Z listers" -- are almost never included. That's because algorithm-driven aggregators are great at counting blogs and links and text, but terrible at vetting quality or finding sources outside the linkerati (yes, I just made that word up).

And that's why I think the human-powered blog aggregators are an important alternative. Some link blogs and blog carnivals are excellent sources of information, but at Computerworld we have two services that anyone who follows IT should be aware of: IT Blogwatch ("The Best IT Blogs on the 'Net") and Tech Dispenser ("Computerworld's human powered technology blog network and news aggregator"). The two services monitor hundreds of blogs every day using human editors, and we do separate the wheat from the chaff. We can accurately rank the bloggers discussing important trends and well-written blogs posts, and discard the hype and the repeaters far better than an algorithm. We also point to the Z-listers, the newbies, and the contrarians.

Every weekday, the award-winning IT Blogwatch takes a hot topic in the tech blogging world (IT or consumer), and highlights the opinions and information from a range of sources, usually with a twist of British humor from our lead writer, Richi Jennings. Check out today's post -- "Microsoft Open.NET: dot-not open source (and periodic table table)" -- and you'll see what I mean.

Tech Dispenser is a network of more than a 100 blogs (mostly independents) whose contributions are filed and ranked every day of every year. It casts a wider net than IT Blogwatch, and is also updated throughout the day, as new blog entries are filed. The top posts make it to the front page of Tech Dispenser. Weaker or less newsworthy posts are filed according to the topic. Lame posts are jettisoned -- regardless of whether the blogger is an A-lister or Z-lister.

So, Dave, and other frustrated Techmeme users, take heart. Techmeme is useful, but there are services out there that can augment or beat what the algorithm-generated aggregators are giving you, when it comes to tech blogs.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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