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.