Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Meet Ms. Techmeme: Megan McCarthy Explains All

megan-mccarthyFavorite blogger pastime: Carping about Techmeme, the aggregation site that calls itself the technology world’s newspaper of record.

Used to be that most of their fulminations generally went unanswered, because:

1) Techmeme creator Gabe Rivera generally keeps to himself, at least in the physical world.

2) Rivera created Techmeme using an algorithm that was supposed to automatically suss out which stories were most important, using a link-based hierarchy similar to Google’s (GOOG).

But dudes who are still unhappy with Techmeme (and yes, I mean dudes; with a couple rare exceptions that prove the rule–hello, boss–this is unfortunately a Man’s Man’s Man’s World) have someone they can vent at/to. Meet Megan McCarthy, the former Valleywag writer Rivera hired late last year to add a human’s touch to the site. Headline for his blog post announcing the move: “Guess what? Automated news doesn’t quite work.”

That doesn’t mean that Techmeme has abandoned the algorithm–just that Rivera wants McCarthy tweaking the site and making sure that important/useful/interesting stories bubble up. Or that’s their argument, anyway. Sounds right to me.

If you’re at South by Southwest this weekend, you can chat McCarthy up yourself–she’s the very tall, very pleasant woman who seems to know an awful lot of people. Or you can watch this clip, where she bravely agreed to let me hold a Flip camera in front of her face.

Important (at least to some people) addendum to my interview: When I argue that Rivera “favors” certain kinds of coverage, I mean just that–that he’s more interested in, say, Web 2.0 news than he is in gadget coverage, and that he’s set up Techmeme to reflect that.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald