Alltop – Innovation or Waste of Space?

Every once in a while I reply to people on Twitter when they ask a question. The other day Jeremiah tweeted:

What do you think of RSSMEME? It appears to aggregate stories I see elsewhere, time saver or redundant?

I had taken a look at the site and while it could serve a purpose for some people, for myself I saw the site as being redundant and not a time saver so I replied back.

@jowyang RSSMeme for me is redundant. Maybe not for others. I also don’t care for sites like that and AllTop. Waste of space IMHO.

Well my little mention of AllTop in my reply caught the attention of Mr. Kawasaki, who must monitor Twitter for mention of AllTop, replied back to me.

@lgr “waste of space,” huh?

140 characters is just not enough space to reply to Mr. Kawasaki about why I don’t care for AllTop, why I think it is a waste of space and some ideas about how AllTop could be improved to make it more interesting.

First off AllTop seems to be gaining some interest from bloggers lately. Most notably Darren Rowse and Jeremy Schoemaker. I first heard about Alltop back in March when TechCrunch did a story on the new site. TechCrunch was less than glowing about AllTop when it first wrote about it. Darren Rowse does not say much about it, merely suggests people look at it as a source of information about how to blog. Jeremy Schoemaker on the other hand does make some good points about AllTop in his post and he might be right. The target audience for Alltop are people that are not familiar with RSS and just want the information without going through all of the trouble of learning how to use an RSS reader. There certainly is enough people out there that don’t use RSS, and probably never will, but is AllTop the answer for them? I don’t think so, not because they would not get the overview of the information they are looking for, but simply because the web interface for AllTop is better suited for a technology crowd and the people Jeremy Schoemaker is talking about already have their sources of information. They go to their local news websites, the newspaper websites, maybe Google News. These people go to the websites that they already trust. They are not seeking out information from dozens of blogs.

The nicest way to describe Alltop is to call it a news aggregator that offers a list of topics and each topic has RSS feeds from various sources, blogs, news sources etc. Depending on the topic you choose will depend on where the sources of information come from. For example the SEO topic mostly lists blogs on the topic, while the Personal Finance topic has more traditional news sources. AllTop is not a new idea, it expands on the number of topics that are covered, but the idea itself can be seen elsewhere, most notably the Web 2.0 Workgroup, and popurls. AllTop even clearly states it was inspired by popurls.

There are some things I like about AllTop. It does have a pleasant design and it has a growing list of categories that it aggregates information from. It also makes it easy to remove the feeds you don’t want see be simply clicking the little x to the right of the title for each news feed. It does not offer much more for personalization other than hiding news feed I don’t want to see.

If Jeremy Schoemaker is right AllTop is great for that group of people that don’t use RSS yet. If AllTop wants to appeal to a wider audience it needs to add more features. They could start by offering accounts with more personalization options. Allow people to add other RSS feeds to their own accounts and become a news reader application for those that want it. Offer the ability to add friends, share news items between them and let people to comment on news items something like Friendfeed. Add something that makes AllTop stand out from the rest.

Adding more categories does not make AllTop better, it makes it nothing more than a waste of space. Will AllTop be a success? Probably, but would it be a success if it was not backed by Mr. Kawasaki? Perhaps I just expect more from Mr. Kawasaki, after seeing this video called “The Art of the Start”. How does AllTop stack up against some of the points that Mr. Kawasaki says in the video?

What do you think of AllTop? Do you use it to keep up with the latest news?

How Web 2.0 Really Works!

This made me laugh tonight. I don’t spend much time on Digg or Reddit mainly because I have other things that need to be done. When I do surf I am much more of a Stumbleupon user, who just likes to channel surf.

This is a great explanation about why I don’t spend a lot of time on Digg or Reddit though.

The question at the end of the video is “How can we make Web 2.0 give us what we want?” How would you answer that question? Is it possible to get what we want out of Web 2.0?

Will a Number Bring Down Digg?

I don’t read Digg very often, but today was an interesting day to check out Digg. Will the mob rule of Digg bring down Digg itself? The controversy centers around a number and Digg’s decision to remove the story twice. The original story is over at with a post called “Spread this Number“. I won’t get into the legal debate about the number, what is most interesting to me is the Digg user revolt that seems to be occurring.

It is interesting to watch the front page of Digg as nearly all the stories revolve around the number.

A quote from

This has very little to do with a silly hack, it’s the fact that digg has placed the nonexistent rights of a shill organization over the hard-earned respect of their members. That’s what all the outrage is about!

The greatest asset of community generated websites, like YouTube, Digg and so many of the social media websites is also their Achilles heel. YouTube is facing a huge lawsuit, that according to TechCrunch, Google has decided to let the jury decide. Digg appears to have just rolled over at the first sign of trouble and sided against the people that actually made the site great, the passionate Digg users.

It will be interesting to see how this will eventually play out. Will the Digg users return in a little while forgetting what has happened or will they actually move on to other news sites?

Some other reading on this topic for you:
How I got banned from Digg
The Reason Why Digg Removed That Story
Censoring a Number
Digg Users Are Showing the True Power of Users on User Run Sites
Mob Takes Over at Digg, Widespread User Revolt


StumbleUpon How To Video

I was browsing through YouTube this morning searching for some fun videos for Video Rambler and I came across this interesting how to for StumbleUpon. I like StumbleUpon and I use it to surf when I get the chance. I also like StumbleUpon from a webmaster perspective because it sends a nice amount of traffic to a website without making a server crash and burn like a Digg would. Take a look at my other posts about StumbleUpon: StumbleUpon – Web Surfing Brought Back to Life! and StumbleUpon – Why Webmasters Should Care!.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

I have seen this video before, but like a good movie I get more out of it each time I see it. The video intrigues me because as a web developer I feel I am pulled in two directions.

One is simply to get the job done as fast as possible for my clients. The majority of them don’t care if I use proper xhtml or follow the rules. What they care about is getting their website done on time and on budget.

The second pull is my own desire to make websites that meet web standards, are functional and provide people with better ways of communicating. I test in multiple browsers, validate code and try to stay up to date on the latest trends and ways of creating websites.

If only I had all the time and money it would take to do things to my satisfaction.

StumbleUpon – Web Surfing Brought Back to Life!

StumbleUpon, the latest incarnation of social bookmarking services, offers users a different web surfing experience. It might just be that StumbleUpon has brought back what had been lost, the joy of surfing with an added bonus, that the user will actually find websites that are of interest to them.

In a world where so many web services don’t deliver on the statements they make on their websites, the StumbleUpon website states:

Channel surf the internet with StumbleUpon! Discover great websites, videos, pictures and more — all according to your interests.

  • Channel surf the internet for great websites, videos, pictures, games and more!
  • Get personalized recommendations according to your interests
  • Rate, review and share what you find
  • Keep an online history of the things you’ve Stumbled

StumbleUpon actually delivers what it says, but it does require some work on the part of the user. You will need to install a toolbar for your web browser of choice. Once you sign up and subscribe to some channels you will start to stumble sites that are related to that interest. As you rate sites you like and don’t like, your stumbles will start to be more in tune to your interests.

This is just the beginning of a users experience with StumbleUpon. The ability to share the sites you like with your friends adds to the users experience of StumbleUpon. Unlike some other social websites where adding friends seems to be the only point, StumbleUpon focuses on sharing websites of interests with your friends.

I have been a StumbleUpon user for close to a year after one of my websites was submitted to StumbleUpon. I can honestly say that it has brought back the joy of simply surfing the internet. If you have not tried StumbleUpon, go and try it out. Soon you will once again enjoy web surfing again.

Are you a StumbleUpon user? Share your experience of the service.