Polymeme is a new memetracker that bills itself as "a polymath's guide to news." Polymeme is the brainchild of Evgeny Morozov who started the project because of his frustration with most current memetrackers and the echo chamber effect often associated with them. Polymeme is based on Drupal and uses Reuter's OpenCalais to tag and index the 25,000 blogs it tracks.
Polymeme is trying to create what it calls a 'social infrastructure' for the non-tech and non-US politics blogospheres by creating an outlet for bloggers in fields ranging from economics to social science and education.
Polymeme is an ambitious project and it goes up against more established meme trackers like Tailrank, Megite, Techmeme and Memeorandum, as well as the broad range of social news sites like Digg, Newsvine, and Yahoo! Buzz.
Polymeme is a hybrid system. Its front page is determined by a group of editors who pick the most interesting stories to be featured on the site from the pool of popular stories in the blogosphere as determined by Polymeme's memetracker back-end. This memetracker is never fully exposed to users, but the 'Popular Memes' section is determined algorithmically.
Because Polymeme only has a limited pool of editors, it can take some time for a story to appear on the front page. As Evgeny pointed out to us, though, having editors look for stories that would otherwise stay off the radar is 'a feature, not a bug.' Also, Polymeme argues that while the tech blogosphere moves very fast, other blogging verticals move a lot slower. In general, the site refreshes every 2-3 hours.
In many respects, this approach does resemble a newspaper or journal more than a memetracker - but maybe that doesn't come as a surprise, given Evgeny's background as a journalist.
While the site works very well without creating an account, logging into the site allows users to personalize the news selection and create personalized RSS feeds or email alerts. What Polymeme doesn't do is create a personalized feed based on keywords or on a user's OPML file like Megite does. For now, the personalization options stop at choosing topics from a menu of different sections of the site .
Polymeme's Buzz section is another interesting feature of the site. Buzz is basically a tag-cloud interface to Polymeme based on the tags automatically created by OpenCalais, and while it broke once or twice during testing, it does present an interesting way for browsing blogs.
Where Polymeme really shines is in the selection of blogs it tracks, which is extremely wide and global in its scope. Looking at the articles featured on Polymeme today, there is very little overlap with those of other memetrackers.
Polymeme is an interesting experiment. The hybrid model of tracking memes but also employing editors might seem a bit strange at first, but so far, the editors have done a good job at highlighting interesting stories that did mostly fly under the radar of the traditional memetrackers.
Whether Polymeme can help us break out of the echo chamber (or whether it just creates a bigger echo chamber) remains to be seen - for now, it's an experiment worth taking a look at.