Within hours, three things were clear:
- Reddit users don't care for our style and interests. 6 of the 7 links had heavily negative scores within 12 hours. Only one had a positive score.
- Even though they don't like it, just having links on reddit drives traffic to a site. That big spike is the result of listing just 7 pages.
- If users do like a page--they seem to mildly like my post about marshrutkas--then it can generate 100+ pageviews.
I like using reddit; it's fun to indicate my opinion of the various links, and to watch memes rise and fall. But it has some serious problems:
- Many links point to the same story. They don't point to the exact same link--reddit detects that and prevents relistings--but they indirectly point to the exact same link: Andrew Sullivan linking to a NY Times story, or Slashdot linking to a NY Times story, etc.
Some links actually do point to the exact same link--but because so many websites include varying info in the url (user session id, for example, or a code for day and date), two or more submissions of the same page will often all appear.
The reason this matters is that after following links and rating them, instead of seeing all new links I will generally see the same links over and over again.
- Filtering system isn't good enough. You rate links by clicking little arrows to indicate approval or disapproval, an elegant and quick system. This is fun because it trains a filter that learns what you like and dislike, and shows you more of what you like... at least in theory. In reality, this kind of collaborative filtering is pretty hard to get right; even movielens, the movie rating and recommending project that is the best collaborative filtering implementation on the net, doesn't do a spectacular job of figuring out your tastes (if a movie is highly rated on average, like Star Wars episode 3, it can't figure out based on my low reviews of episodes 1 and 2 that I won't like it).
If I hate reading about Apple, then my disapproval of Apple-tagged links will probably keep me from having to see more such links. But what about if I approve of "Intriguing Apple user demographic statistics" and "Analysts predict Apple's next 5 years", but I disapprove of "Intriguing new speakers from Apple" and "Apple: highest brand cache ever"?
Reddit's direct competitors are Digg, and Slashdot, and memeorandum. But in another sense, its competitors are all of the blogs that have humans aggregating news. Even if I don't always see eye to eye with my favorite bloggers, I don't think an algorithm will be able to compete with them for a long time.
Labels: public transportation