RSS is a great way to consume content. So you get all excited and start adding feeds to your RSS reader. And then it quickly becomes an unmanageable crazy avalanche of content.
Out of this pain outbrain was born.
The idea is simple – If every blog/post/feed is read by many people, why don’t we harness the collective wisdom of all the readers for everyone’s benefit? That way we can save each reader’s time by quickly floating the best posts and flagging the worst.
But ‘best’ and ‘worst’ are very subjective definitions. A post about ski that might be extremely interesting to my good friend, could be a total bore to me.
So we decided to try and take this one step beyond the collective ‘wisdom of crowds’ type sites (aka – Digg & clones, or should we say ‘wisdom of bored teenager sites’…), and develop algorithms that try to predict personal interest in a specific article/post before it is read.
We do this by asking all outbrain users to vote on the items they read. The algorithm then seeks out similarities in voting patterns among different outbrainers, and personalizes recommendations accordingly. The more people vote about stuff they read, the smarter their outbrain becomes in recommending the right items to them.
Which brings me to the second goal we set – We hate being bugged by sites where submissions are a 5-minute process including logins, captchas, forms, etc. We want to bug our users as little as possible, and give them the benefit of the technology wherever they’re already used to consuming their RSS feeds. Except for signing up, I don’t think you’ll ever have to visit the outbrain.com site again.
The first small step of outbrain is now available. More information about it on the outbrain blog here.
If you’re interested in joining the outbrain project – head over to the website and submit your email address. I’ll shoot you back an email with a user name and details on how to get started.