Dave Winer: Something nice this time

As anyone who has read this blog for awhile probably knows, I have been hard on Dave Winer occasionally (and I think with good reason, but I don’t want to get into that right now).

The fact remains, however, that Dave is a pretty smart guy when it comes to things like RSS — let’s not get into whether he “invented” it or not — and he also thinks outside the box when it comes to things like how newspapers and other media present their content, and that is something I’m interested in as well. So I think it’s only fair that I point out when I think he’s doing something interesting.

The thing in this case is his New York Times keyword index. It’s a simple thing, in a lot of ways, since it just scans the newspaper’s index and comes up with the number of times a certain word is used, then ranks them from top to bottom — but it also has a couple of additional features, including the fact that it displays the headline of a story when you hover over the number.

That’s a nice touch. And it’s an interesting companion to Dave’s “river of news” NYT feed (something I tried to recreate with my Twitter feed of Globe and Mail headlines).

I don’t understand why the Times — or other newspapers, for that matter — don’t provide that kind of alternative search or browsing tool themselves. It’s not rocket science (no offence, Dave) and it might even attract users who don’t want to use the linear approach that most papers default to. Why not have a keyword tag cloud too? The Washington Post had a demo of such a feature awhile back as part of its Post Remix lab project, but it never became part of the actual site, which I think is a shame.

I think plenty of readers would be interested in alternative ways of finding stories, just as they now use features such as the “most read” and “most emailed” lists the Times and other papers have. Why not add even more ways of slicing and dicing the news?

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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