Farjhad Manjoo and Chris Wilson have a series of posts up this week at Slate exploring how robots are stealing our jobs. They are looking at how the “robot invasion,” i.e. artificial intelligence and automation, are threatening the jobs of even high level professionals.
Today they looked at whether they could create an algorithm that would do the job of noted blogger Jason Kottke at kotte.org. In their piece they talk about how the linkblog has evolved over time and has been superseded by any number of other outlets. They write:
It’s obvious why these new systems have superseded Kottke-style blogs. The handmade link blog depends on one person’s—or a handful of people’s—ability to sort a never-ending stream of new content. “Some days, you just don’t want to do it,” Kottke says. “You look at so much stuff everyday and it all becomes kind of the same—all equally interesting or uninteresting. It’s hard to maintain that sense of discovery, that little hit that you get when you find something that you haven’t seen before. I’ve posted 15,000, maybe 20,000 links since I started. I’ve been whittling down the discovery space of things that are going to be new and interesting.”
In computer science parlance, Kottke doesn’t scale. That’s a shame. While services that collect popular stuff online are useful, they lack any editorial sensibility. The links on Techmeme and Summify represent a horde’s view of the Web. The material on Kottke represents one guy’s indispensible take. The Web ought to have both kinds of aggregators, but I’d love to see more people starting link blogs that offer a clear editorial vision. But how do you get more of something so hard to do?
As a result Manjoo and Wilson have cooked up an algorithm that looks to replicate the process Kottke uses to suss out interesting links. You can check out the (uneven) results here. Kottke notes that the links are only part of his process. Putting things into context is the secret sauce that makes those links stand out.
The beauty of Robottke is that it is will likely get better over time and more importantly will not burn out, which is the risk to any dedicated blogger. I for one would welcome our new robot linkfest overlords. Should we call it Abnormal Robots or Robot Returns?