We Need A Social News Reader That Highlights Opposing Views


Credit: Corbis / John S. Dykes

I have tried out quite a few social news readers, and they all suffer from pretty much the same flaw: they give me more of the same. I will already have seen most of the stories that they present in either Twitter or Tumblr or Techmeme. What I really need is a reader that gives me the opposing view. For instance, when I see a tweet about the “pied piper” version of the Brooklyn Bridge arrests from this weekend, I would love to also see a tweet about the NYT blog posts that presents two police videos.

I realize that is a much harder problem to solve. On one level, I could arguably solve it myself by following a more diverse group of people, and I do some of that. But it’s difficult to find people who hold opposing viewpoints (Twitter’s suggested “whom to follow” doesn’t help here), especially across a wide range of topics. My feed has probably less than 10 percent opposing views, which means that they tend to get drowned out.

Instead, for each topic, I would love to be able to drill down into both “similar” and “opposing” views.  This would also be great as a browser plug in, so that when you are already outside of a social system and on a “story” page you can still bring that exploration with you.

My desire for this “Opposing Views Reader” is related to my concern about information cascades. In general, we seem to be building too many positive re-enforcement systems on the web.  How about “agree” and “disagree” buttons? If all you can do is “like” or “favorite” items, it becomes very hard to express that you care about something but have a different opinion.  Would love to hear if others feel the same need and find out if anyone is working on a solution.

Albert Wenger is a partner at Union Square Ventures. He has founded or co-founded five companies, including a management consulting firm (in Germany), a hosted data analytics company, a technology subsidiary for Telebanc (now E*Tradebank), an early stage investment firm, and most recently (with his wife), DailyLit, a service for reading books by e-mail or RSS. Wenger also served as the president of Del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). You can follow him on Twitter @albertwenger.

This article originally appeared in Continuations.


R Macdonald

The not too distant future of semantic analysis of large-scale social media graphs; pivoting around specific events, issues or persons; will afford opportunities to see the same root event or issue through
others’ perspectives.  A digital Rashomon. For example, such analysis could be usefully applied to Twitter feeds and blog postings (including links) from obviously orthogonal civic organizations, like the Republican and Democratic national committees.


Have you tried Taptu? Our clustering technology can bring together different or else alternative opinions to the streams you can curate yourself from the various sources into the mix, but also from others that you have misses to mix. 

Give it a try, related stories appear for certain number of stories.

KP (pm @taptu)

Jan Huelsmann

I do also agree but I cannot imagine that you can program an algorythm that can identify opinion. The editors would have to make an indication themselves what opinion they represent. 
And as to the “agree” / “disagree” button: This is also an interesting idea. One step beyond: On amazon you would not only get a list “people who chose this products also bought…” but also “people who chose this products have definitely turned away from these products…” – would lead to an interesting lawsuit of those companies who see there products blamed…

Anders Gyllenhaal

I think this is a great ideas — and a truly valid point. Not sure how on earth you’d pull it off, but sign me up.

Marc Köhlbrugge

Ironically enough, I agree.

At *openmargin we’re building a platform where readers of the same books can exchange viewpoints right in the margin of the text. We don’t necessarily promote opposing views (nor demote it), but we do use the topic as the central meeting place rather than for example your current ‘friend graph’ which a lot of other companies seem to be doing.

The ‘Disagree’-button you describe is quite interesting, not just because it’s funny, but it allows one to build an disinterest-graph next to the interest-graph. I wonder if there are existing metrics out there that already allow you to build such an disinterest-graph.

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