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Automating Netscape submissions for AOL and Weblogs, Inc.

July 4, 2006 @ 12:07am

Speaking of independence, early on our team discussed ways to automatically add stories to Netscape. People at AOL wanted it. Our own Weblogs, Inc. bloggers immediately asked about doing it when they heard we were relaunching Netscape as a social news site. We even considered it as a way to keep certain less-popular channels from going stale, but we quickly decided that it violated one of the key rules that makes great social news sites great: stories should be original, not just someone's blog post that talks about an original story.

For example, Autoblog might cover a "top ten 2006 convertibles" story that appeared in a magazine. Ideally, unless Autoblog added some profound insight to the article, the story that should appear on Netscape is the original one from the magazine. Since a small percentage of blog content is original, it didn't make sense to automate story submissions or whitelist certain feeds. That isn't to say that we won't make time-saving shortcuts or that we won't make plug-ins to publishing systems so authors can have a "Submit to Netscape" checkbox to tell us that they want to include a story without a lot of effort, but we want to educate people to make sure they're not just submitting a lot of garbage. We want the good stuff.

Even if story submission was a more automatic process, you're still just talking about a bunch of stories with one vote. Automatic voting would be a disaster.

How many stories on this blog would be a candidate for Netscape submission? One in five? One in ten? None? Would I want them all to say that they were submitted by me?

Of course not. I'd want my personal ratio of stories that were popular enough to make it to the home page to my total number of stories submitted to be as high as possible. Submitting less serious and less original content would work against that.

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