Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The All-Inclusive Social Site.

Link of the day - Free $500 JC Penny Gift Card

Recently, I wrote about 15 entrepreneur blogs worth reading. In compiling the list, one of the trickiest hurdles was simply locating blogs to evaluate.

One of the bloggers mentioned, Guy Kawasaki, has been building a Web site called Alltop that makes the hunt for information on many topics, including entrepreneurs, easier. Alltop is part part library, part news feed, part Yellow Pages. Mr. Kawasaki likens it to a digital Home Depot — “100,000 square feet and we try to have everything.”

Under “C” you’ll find links to articles and posts on Canada, Crime and Cricket, among others. “S” houses Sex and Startups, and so on. Within each topic, there’s a steady feed of blogs and other content from various sites. Hover over a story and the first few lines appear.

The main difference between Alltop and other aggregators such as Newser, popurls or Fark is that a story’s popularity isn’t the primarily driver. The mission is to put a range of offerings on the table (spinach and cake) and let people decide. Even if 90% of them choose cake, the spinach isn’t going away or getting pushed under the table.

Here Mr. Kawasaki invokes another big-box store: “The metaphor is the magazine rack in Borders or Barnes & Noble—we think people coming into our store want to “know” where their favorite publication usually are, so if the order of a topic were constantly changing based on, God forbid, some popularity contest, it would make Alltop less useful,” he writes in an email.

Still, opinion does matter. Alltop relies on recommendations of the Twitter community and other suggestions. But content order is based on what Alltop’s chieftains think matters. For instance, at the top of the “Very Important People” tab, there’s everyone from Barack Obama to Anwar Ibrahim, Malyasia’s opposition leader. There’s a “Celebrities” topic but also a “Disability” one too.

“Truly, we’re not big believers in the wisdom of the masses, social media, and the echo chamber,” Mr. Kawasaki notes. “We think people want a breadth of information about topics they are passionate about and not just pablum.” The site makes money on ads.

Alltop’s all-you-can-eat approach will be tested as topics get crowded, though you can hide feeds you don’t like. Mr. Kawasaki fielded criticism when Alltop launched in March from some in the tech community who note you can already collect feeds of content through iGoogle, Netvibes, MyYahoo, and others. But some note that its easy layout and accessibility might entice a different audience.

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