In Praise of the Left Column

Dave and Scoble have been chatting up a storm about all of the things wrong with Memeorandum.

In last week’s episode Scoble takes a hiatus and Dave says stupid newbies have ruined the Memeorandum club.

Now Dave says he has figured out how to save Memeorandum. He wants to get rid of the left column, where all the topics and discussion clusters are located, and make the right column, where the new primary story links are, the focus. He wants the new links to flow by like a river. Like a river, hmmm.

Then he says a couple of things that I find interesting and contradictory. The first:

Today I want my meme-tracker to get less discriminating. I don’t want to only see the stories that most people are interested in, I want interesting stories. More offbeat stuff. And I want much more than what I’m getting.

Immediately followed by:

I want the right column to move into the middle, and get rid of what’s in the left column. Once a day is enough to know what the top stories are. That’s why newspapers evolved that way because when you get a newspaper everything in it is new.

Here’s the problem with that. The right column that Dave likes only shows the primary story links, and none of the discussion links. The alternate viewpoints and offbeat stuff show up in the discussion links.

Under Dave’s plan, you’d have to make a choice from two bad options. Maybe you take away the discussion links and you have nothing more than a rotating list of links to the same stories that currently appear in the right column- like an automated Delicious links list. That would certainly look more like a river. A boring river that has no fish in it or boats floating by. Just some links you can click on as they scroll by.

What it would also do, of course, is get rid of those pesky newbies who show up first in the discussion links.

Or perhaps all of those discussion links go into the river too and we have one huge list of links flowing by in a random and chaotic fashion. I would never read such a page, but maybe others would dig(g) it.

What makes Memeorandum work is the very thing Dave and Scoble want to get rid of- the clustered, conversational organization that allows you to find and follow many perspectives at a central, intelligently filtered location. If there are a hundred links about Origami, that’s because a ton of people are talking about it.

So what’s really going on here?

First off, I see very little of all the flaming Dave keeps talking about. I’m starting to think flaming might be a secret word for the rising voices of the unwashed masses who don’t know enough to sit back and let the gurus run the show.

There seems to be a hidden conversation inside of the conversation. Manifest and latent. Like a dream. A dream of the good old days before the newbies started showing up.

Note to Gabe. If you want to destroy Memeorandum quickly and irreparably, Dave gives you the roadmap:

Flatten it out, get less picky, turn the ladder into a river, and I bet some of the magic comes back. I’m not sure it’s right, but the only way to find out is to try it.

I defended Scoble when he got flamed. I defended Dave when he says people are mean to him because he is a celebrity (his word, but I don’t quarrel with it).

But I’m starting to think a lot of this is because the voices that used to have the microphone all to themselves don’t like sharing it with the rest of us.