Friday, October 10, 2008

Memeorandum Colors: geeking out a way to show blog bias

In this brave new world of political blogs, it's a given that they have a slant--but it's not always clear what that slant is, at least when clicking on a link. Couldn't there be some way of figuring that out? OK, figuring it out in a way that isn't overwhelmingly time-consuming? Couldn't it be done algorithmically? hacker-journalist Andy Baio and Delicious founder Joshua Schachter decided that the answer to those questions was yes and went on to create Memorandum Colors, a Firefox plugin that works with the political aggregation site Memorandum to display the political leanings of the sites it links to. And they make it look so easy:

If that's not enough for you, how about their ultra-detailed tech explanation:

Armed with the spreadsheet of over 50,000 blogger-to-article relationships, we needed to somehow find correlations in the data. We used a method called Singular Value Decomposition (SVD), a method to break down complex data in matrices to its component parts.

If that made sense beyond a conceptual level, then keep reading the rest of their deep background--it devolves into matrixy goodness quickly.

The script itself is cool, and I'd love to know if it could be ported over to something like Google News or even Drudge (be interesting to see if his links were ever blue). But as a proof-of-concept, it's brilliant and as the understanding of how to manipulate data points spreads to journalists, it's exciting to see what they come up with.

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