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SXSW Panel: Beyond Aggregation

One of the more popular panels at SXSW Interactive this year was one called Beyond Aggregation. The panel included our very own Marshall Kirkpatrick, as well as Gabe Rivera (Techmeme), Louis Gray (LouisGray.com), Melanie Baker (PostRank) and Micah Baldwin (Lijit). The topics revolved around information gathering and management.

From the panel, Marshall and Louis had new sources and gathering tips, Gabe and Melanie weighed in heavily on how to manage information and Micah had some great suggestions on discovery of new information sources.

Here are some highlights from the panel. I have grouped all the comments together by panelist.

Marshall Kirkpatrick


  • Marshall focused on using tools like FriendFeed, combined RSS feeds and Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs) to find the news he needs.
  • He highlighted a post he wrote entitled How to Find the Weirdest Stuff on the Internet that describes how to use free tools to create a mashup that finds unique content.  It uses tag clouds in Delicious, finds culture blogs, filters that output through PostRank, then finally pushes it through Feedburner.
  • Finally, Marshall returned to how CSEs can work in conjunction with drag and drop zones to quickly search for content online.

Louis Gray


  • He uses Google Reader as his primary info-gathering tool. 
  • He shares his content from Google Reader to other resource sites such as Delicious, Friendfeed, and Twitter.
  • Louis uses FriendFeed to find trusted sources for news and content.
  • He pointed out the DailyRadar network of sites like MacBlips and GadgetBlips that aggregate more niche content for discovery.
  • Finally, Louis mentioned that in order to blog about new content, often the top priority is good old fashioned networking.

Gabe Rivera


  • Gabe Rivera uses Techmeme for selecting the best of what is out there.
  • He described that Techmeme is based on an automated system that relies primarily on links between clustered stories to determine how much a story should be ranked, but has recently introduced a ‘human element’ in the form of Megan McCarthy, the new editor for the site.
  • Marshall added that Gabe has some non-tech Techeme-style link blogs, like Memeorandum and Ballbug.
  • Gabe says entering new content areas is often difficult because an aggregator needs both fresh content and good metadata to be able to aggregate effectively.

Micah Baldwin


  • Micah says he often starts searching for new content by going to one of his favorite, most trusted bloggers, and then searching outward from there. He mentioned that there are a lot of tools to help with this, and Lijit is just one of them.
  • As an example, he highlighted a Lijit-powered blog aggregator called Securitybloggers, but he also stresses that influence of a blogger is important. Take recommendation + expertise and you will find new content.
  • He said that the I Can Has Cheezburger (ICHC) folks are always looking for the next big meme. A natural place to find new memes is applications like Friendfeed.
  • Micah mentioned that ICHC just acquired Twittypic to create Son of a Tweet, a tool that leverages Twitter for finding funny pictures.

Melanie Baker

Work TwitterPersonal TwitterFriendFeed

  • Melanie, in her role as community manager, gets her information from many sources but uses her company’s product PostRank to filter stories by buzz and popularity.
  • PostRank (formerly called AideRSS) is a system that measures engagement surrounding blog posts by tracking references on over 15 different social media sites, including site comments, Digg, FriendFeed, Furl, Twitter and more.
  • Melanie says there are plenty of communities out there to draw from, from her perspective of blogs that use PostRank and Lijit.

Wrap Up

The audience asked what this process of discovering and collecting new sources of content online might be called. After a bit of discussion, the panelists decided the term curation works well, followed by trusted discovery and trusted recommendations.

Overall, we thought the panel exposed those listening to tips and techniques that, while part of a seasoned social media worker’s toolkit, may not be leveraged as effectively by newcomers or light social media users.

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