Techmeme, a popular tech news-aggregator site, is bringing aboard a human editor to help its automated system locate, organize, and rank breaking news stories. Since its launch in 2005, Techmeme has relied on an algorithm to do the job, sometimes with strange results. In a post yesterday titled "Guess what? Automated news doesn't quite work," site founder Gabe Rivera gave an example of the shortcomings of automation: Techmeme's sister site WeSmirch, which links to celebrity news, last year featured stories about "Anna Nicole Smith's hospitalization after she's already been declared dead," he writes.
The human editor, better known as tech journalist Megan McCarthy, will work to improve Techmeme's ever-changing selection of headlines. "Obsolete stories will be eliminated sooner while breaking stories will be expedited," Rivera explains.
Not everyone agrees, however. TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington calls the change a "slippery slope," adding that a human editor makes Techmeme subjective and "completely destroys" the site's "objective nature."
Rivera's reaction to the unfair-and-biased claim? Get over it. "I'd like to note here that Techmeme isn't fair because life isn't fair, and Techmeme will always be biased because humans have built Techmeme. And because news judgement, by definition, is bias," he writes.
I'm with Rivera on this one. A professional journalist steering the ship will only improve the focus, timeliness, and, yes, intelligence of Techmeme. Certainly, personal biases will come into play from time to time-we all have them-but that's true with any human-based endeavor. Personally, I'm looking forward to the new Techmeme.