Forrest Oliphant

no accounting for algorithmic taste

2012-04-12

I went to check out G+'s new layout, and saw this poorly-done meme image at the top of my list.

Now, I understand the appeal of things like this. They tickle the recognition part of the brain, and since many children play this game, many people will have that recognition and click the Skinner button. Lately, image memes have been spreading in Facebook as well, but at least there you can connect the idea to a person in your social circle. With this one, 134 random G+ Herpderps +1ed it, and that is enough for the algorithm to consider it "hot." If this is what's hot on G+, count me out.

On the web, curation is important. If I feel like wasting some time getting exposed to random ideas, I'd like them to have some redeeming social value*.

Boingboing is curated by a handful of people that make it their job to post interesting stuff. Reddit has designed a curation algorithm that works with subcommunity curators that seems to work better than Google's (at least this crappy image would never have made it to Reddit's frontpage).

Youtube's frontpage is a wasteland. There is plenty of good content in YouTube, but with 60 hours of video uploaded every minute, most of it is bound to be crap. In this random screenshot it looks like two clips are recorded by pointing a camera at a TV. Couldn't their algorithm at least weed those out?

Compare YouTube's frontpage video selection to Vimeo's:

I would be interested in 5/6 of the videos on Vimeo. I would avoid 6/6 of YouTube's top videos like the plague, unless morbid curiosity compelled me click one of them, and then I would feel bad about the decision.

Most of the videos on Vimeo's homepage are also in YouTube, so there is plenty of good content, but I almost never find it from YouTube itself. It is always a link from a blog or another service. This decentralized curation isn't a bad thing, but within the site there is obviously a lot of work to be done.

* Thanks Dad.