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Alltop skims the surface for us

There’s nothing wrong with scratching the surface if that’s what itches. is a surface skimmer, and it looks quite useful. So, if you’re interested in one of the topics they cover, such as, say, cloud computing, you could click to see a compact listing of what bloggers and others are saying about it. Or GLBT. Or Obama. Or what the top stories in the LA Times are.

The weakness, as well as the strength, is that Alltop decides on the topics and sources (although the sources include searches of Google News, Technorati, and other aggregators). So, a search for “stimulus” turns up nothing because it is not one of the topics, although it is certainly mentioned in some of the content Alltop rounds up.

The very amusing “about” page reports that the decision about topics and sources of topics is made by humans and is “highly subjective and judgmental.” It helps that the site wants to push us out of our comfort zone by including sources we might otherwise scorn. But it’s important to keep in mind that — despite inevitable appearances — Alltop is essentially a magazine that reflects the interests and values of its editors. Nothing wrong with that at all. On the contrary. It’s just important that we not mistake Alltop for anything else. (The following is more concerning to me: “We take care of our friends. If sites or blogs help us, we help them,” as a criterion for inclusion. Is that really the best policy for the sake of us readers?)

Anyway, Alltop looks like a useful way to track the topics that it and you care about. [Tags: ]

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