Monday, January 24, 2005

Nearest Neighbor News Network

Jacob Lee and Ben Hodes from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have a research project called the Nearest Neighbor News Network. From their about page:
    The Nearest Neighbor News Network (NNNN) is a collaborative filtering RSS aggregator. NNNN collects articles from news sites and weblogs of your choosing and then displays them all together. It also displays other articles that it believes you would be interested in.
Very interesting. You explicitly sign up for various RSS feeds, then it shows you recent articles from those feeds (ordered by date, it appears) and recommended articles from other feeds (ordered by relevance, it appears).

It doesn't learn from what you read like Findory. You have to tell it what you like. It's more like a version of Bloglines that focuses mostly on helping you discover new weblogs and news sources. It's a very cool idea, an interesting step toward a next generation weblog reader.

Unfortunately, it's slow as a dog. The trick with personalization is providing high quality recommendations to hundreds of thousands of users in a fraction of a second. Not sure what algorithm they're using, but a simple implementation of collaborative filtering breaks down pretty badly with only a few thousand users. I suppose that might be their problem.

Anyway, it's a great prototype, a good demonstration of what a simple, easy-to-use, mass market weblog reader could look like. Worth a look.

[via Steven Cohen]

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