May 3, 2010

How about More? A lot more More

by tolles at 2:42 PM

Everyone knows that you launch products in the Spring and Fall – and Web 2.0 has provided me an unconscious calendar for product launches since the first Web 2.0 Summit in 2004. I say “unconscious” since I informed my development team I wanted all the stuff that's in the hopper to ship by the Web 2.0 Expo happening this week. About two weeks ago. And last Friday at 8PM, they all rolled into my office and informed me that everything would indeed be shipping as per request. And it’s all great stuff for our community of users.

It’s a Performance PieceTopix Homepage

We increased the categorization yield on Topix by 2X in this latest release. We crawl roughly 140,000 articles a day from 50,000 sources, and previous to this release, you would see about 25,000 of those articles going up on the site on the aggregate of all of our news pages. Now, we are seeing around 50,000 articles going up. We are especially happy to see the 38,000 local news pages get a lot more updates a lot more often. If you look at the maps on every Topix page, you’ll find that we are doing a much better job putting local stories on the board, giving people more access to sources of local news and basically providing a better experience.

38,000 towns' worth of news – now available on Twitter for every town via @topix_local

While folks who have news for just a few places can easily get their stuff onto Twitter, we’ve always been a little puzzled about how to get people their local news via Twitter for the 38,000 localities we support. Turns out the answer was right in front of us. Or, rather circling above. The folks at Twisst had a really clever idea on how to alert people when the International Space Station would be appearing over their town. When you follow them, they use the geolocation you've set in your Twitter profile to send you an @reply when the ISS is nearby. We thought that was a really great way to deal with what Ryan Sarver at Twitter calls the “fan out” problem, and we implemented it. So, now if you follow @topix_local on Twitter, we’ll get you the news for your town, and just the news for your town.

I Like that

We are big fans of what Facebook just rolled out with extending the "Like" button to the entire Internet. Given that people want to reserve the ability to keep their identities and conversations private, connecting comments to your profile by default doesn’t work well – but enabling people to “Like” a town, and get other people to take a look, works really well. So we have integrated "Like" buttons throughout the site, onto the 38,000 town pages & forums on Topix and more broadly to all 400,000 topic pages as well. We’re excited to see what Facebook is going to do with the Open Social Graph, and think that adding a connection to our millions of local comments is a great chunk of local content to give people on Facebook.

Putting it all together

I’ve said before that local news is not a search problem, but rather a local opportunity. So while we are reinforcing performance, sharing and distribution of our news sitewide, we are also, for the first time, mixing in the commentary with the news on our new home page, along with updating the look and feel. We will be rolling out this treatment across the rest of the site after we try it out here, but I’m quite taken with the integration of commentary and aggregated news. The new front page also is a much better experience for new visitors, as it takes the local concept and really puts it front and center.


Orchestrating changes across a site with 38,000 towns and 400,000 different topics is always a little tricky, so it’s likely that we’ll be tweaking things over the next few weeks.

Update: GigaOm covers the new features here.