The real 'meme' trackers are yet to be invented

The word 'memetracking' or ('meme tracker') has been used to describe services such as Memeorandum, Megit, Tailrank and Chuquet.

I can't call them 'memetrackers'. I like them, they're useful sites and all that, but they aren't 'meme' trackers.

A meme, as defined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, is

"a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.

...Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.

... If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passed it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.

(There are other definitions floating around but the originator's will do to make my point.)

There is imitation going on at these these sites: 'oh, she's reporting this news, it's interesting, so I will' . These sites track the act of passing on units of news. In this sense these sites are tracking the memetic quality of blogs.  However, generally speaking, these sites are not tracking the spreading of 'ideas' or 'memes'. They are tracking bits of news being passed on from one blogger or site to another.

A bit of news is not a meme, nor an idea, it is a bit of news.

Memeorandum, Megit and Chuquet are not 'meme' trackers. They are news trackers.  Or tittle-tattle trackers. Or gossip trackers.  Again, generally speaking, there are no 'memes' being tracked at these sites, just the passing on of news occasionally with a little 'value-added' - 'This is good news because' or 'this is bad news because' .

Here is the definition of 'news' as defined by Wikipedia:

"News is the reporting of current events usually by local, regional or mass media in the form of newspapers, television and radio programs, or sites on the World Wide Web. News reporting is a type of journalism, typically written or broadcast in news style. Most news is investigated and presented by journalists (or reporters) and often distributed via news agencies. "

(Note to self: It should be revised to include blogs as a source of news.)

The Blonde Joke meme was meme. Did that make it on Memeorandum? Nope. What about the Number 4 meme? Nope? Why not? Because these memes weren't news, they were memes. Many blogs postings, as Sifry's data shows and I pointed out earlier this week, are largely event-driven. The most popular blogs are news driven.  These news tracker sites reflect that fact as they track popular blogs (with some exceptions).

Don't believe me? Have have a look at Memeorandum's front page, or Tailrank's or Megit's or Chuquet's. What do you see? 'Memes' or 'news'?

The idea that these are 'memetrackers' is actually quite a good example of a meme.  One day, somebody blogged these sites as 'memetrackers'. Other bloggers picked up on it and they imitated and also called these sites memetrackers, and so on and so forth (even though these sites aren't meme trackers...)

A 'meme', not 'news' occasionally makes these sites' front pages.  One example that surfaced recently is this 'memetracking meme' when it did the rounds.  It is an example of an exception, not the rule. I'll say it again - these sites are current affairs / news sites.  They track links to posts and cluster these posts...ok, but that doesn't make them 'meme' trackers. The real memetracking aspect of these news trackers is the following, look:

Spot the difference:

spot the difference

How about now?

China's big, folks...

(China's news tracking market is potentially move)

While on the topic of the news tracking clustering meme, here's Chuquet:

So, the news tracking sites *are* running with a useful meme - it's the 'track news posts and item and cluster them' meme, a meme I'm sure we will see propagate to become a common feature of hundreds of services. In my view (and arguably by definition) the real 'meme' trackers are yet to be invented.


Tags: meme, memes, memetics, news, tech, web