Home Memorandum Colors: X-Ray Glasses for Political Bias in Blogs

Memorandum Colors: X-Ray Glasses for Political Bias in Blogs

Upcoming.org founder Andy Baio and Del.icio.us founder Joshua Schachter have released a project called Memeorandum Colors. It’s an easy-to-install Greasemonkey plug-in that shows the political bias of past linking behavior on blogs aggregated by Memeorandum, the political sister-site of tech aggregator Techmeme.

In this heated election season, Memeorandum is a huge asset for following politics online, but it’s hard for the casual observer to get the most out of the conversation by merely visiting the site. Memeorandum Colors adds a whole new layer of clarity and sophistication to the site by color-coding algorithmically categorized liberal and conservative blogs.

How It Works

Memeorandum, like Techmeme, tracks hot conversations in the blogosphere by seeing who is linking to whom. Every 5 minutes these sites check to see what the break out topics are and then organize them by link-hub and conversation links. See the screenshot I took a few minutes ago.

Memeorandum Colors takes the history of what 50,000 blogs indexed by Memeorandum have linked to and analyzes them for patterns. Schachter and Baio found that there were two clear groups of blogs that tended to link together. Presumably they looked at them and determined that one group was conservative and the other, liberal. Interestingly, the two ran the same algorithm on the blogs in Techmeme and found that the blogs there are split into two groups as well – business vs. technology.

The Greasemonkey script then color codes each blog in shades of red or blue, depending on how consistently they’ve linked with the conservative or liberal pack in the past. The end result is that when you load the Memeorandum site, you can see which kinds of blogs are clustering around a common node, which story nodes are of such general interest that they cross party lines and which brave conservative blogs step out of the norm and link to liberal sources and vice versa. This author was just complaining yesterday about how hard it is to find out what liberal blogs have to say about conservative conversations on Memeorandum without a lot of knowledge about who the leading blogs are in each camp. Problem solved!

This is an awesome example of the kinds of magic services that can be created by analyzing aggregate data around user generated content. We love this kind of stuff.

If you’ve never used Greasemonkey before, we assure you – it’s much easier than it sounds! Just download the official Firefox plug-in and then click on any Greasemonkey script link to install it. Honestly, two or three mouse clicks and you’re cooking with gas. If it helps you can watch our screencast How to Start Using Greasemonkey in Under 5 Minutes.

For an in depth technical discussion of how Memorandum Colors was created and to grab the Memeorandum Colors script, see Baio’s fabulous blog Waxy.org. I’m off to see what moderate conservative blogs have to say about reports of extreme hostility at Republican political rallies!

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