Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Cool Tool: Consensus Web Filters"

If the comics in the Advertiser aren't enough to brighten up a gray day you could try Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools site. Kevin Kelly was a force in the old Whole Earth Catalog/CoEvolution Quarterly Gang and the Cool Tools blog inherits the pragmatic, intelligent, and engaged focus on really useful tools that characterized the old bigger-than-most-phone books catalog and the reflective, systems-oriented thinking for which CoEvolution was famous.

That'll hopefully give some context to the blog article "Consensus Web Filters" which I hope will both brighten your day and give you something to chew on when doing a little creative thinking about the world of nearly infinite choices that the web offers us. Kelly is trying to find a way -- mostly for himself -- to manage the flow of information and to find the "good stuff" without spending his life messing around on the web. It's a real problem. The internet sets a banquet too rich to really understand or deal with when we're only talking about static text-based web pages. With the tidal wave of media that is coming with expanding bandwidth (and, yes, that I expect that Lafayette's fiber-optic project will leave us riding the leading edge of that wave) we'd best all begin to think about how to manage the rich diet we've got before us.

Consensus Web Filters are one such management tools. Basically all this is are big lists of suggested web content. Anyone can suggest a link; if you do so it gets posted along with everyone else's suggestion. That's not very helpful... what turns out to be very interesting is what happens when the next person to come along gets to rate (mod, bomb, vote--terminology varies) your suggestion. If a lot of people like it, the link rises to the top. Many people making a few more or less well-founded judgment make the list a powerful tool for those who come along behind them.

If this isn't all that familiar to you here's a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon: wander around the web directed, at least in part by the best judgment of your fellow creatures. I spent a pleasant couple of hours doing that last night, enjoyed it immensely and found good stuff I'd have never found on my own. If you are familiar with the concept you'll probably still want to look at Kelly's post. There are a bunch very neat, very new examples you'll want to explore. In all cases it's worth thinking about how such tools could be adapted to local needs.

For instance: I can imagine a local news aggregator that combines feeds from local and regional news outlets. You could get a look at the raw feed from each outlet a convenient way look at everything or you could just go to the top-ranked stories of the day. A very similar tool could be useful for locally accessible live music events.

How could your neighbors help you find good stuff? Ideas?

Lagniappe: Kelly is interested in print news, mostly, and serious stuff always...you might want to also take a look at the Get Democracy bombs, a consensus filter that focuses on video. The site's premise is interesting too..pretty close to the idea of Downloadable Video (DV) replacing TV that I've been fantasizing about.

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