A Beginner’s Guide to Meme Hunting

Do you constantly have co-workers, friends and family sendingyou interesting and fascinating links, leaving you asking wherethey find them Do you wish that you had the chops to be apromiscuous link propagator, letting everyone know about the funnyhamster dancing Star Wars baby with a bad translation?

Just a few sites are all you need to get the best of the currentmemes, giving you a lot of source material for endless link emails.Soon enough you’ll be a link Jedi, saying “That’s ancient news. Isaw that three hours ago” to coworkers.

http://www.slashdot.org

Slashdot is a technology focused site that’s been around forsome time, and it still holds a lot of influence (Slashdot’sdemise has been greatly exaggerated). While Slashdot is split intosections (for instance a section dedicate to Apache), anything meme worthywill appear on the front page as well.

Slashdot content generally comes from the users (includinganonymous cowards) submitting “stories” with linksof interest. Stories often consist of multiple links, sometimesjust a Google search. A small editorial group at Slashdot selectsfrom the submissions those that they think would be interesting tothe community, either relegating it to a single section, orcross-posting to the front page. Due to this process, and a queueof sometimes dubious “news”, Slashdot tends to be one of the slowerdisseminators of fast-spreading information, and you generallywon’t find chest-beating “we’re great!” type stories.

One of Slashdot’s greatest assets is thewell-proven commenting system, with a user-moderated scoringof each post from -1 (usually indicative of a troll) to 5 (either agreat karma-whore pandering to the group think, or a trulyinsightful post): You can usually glean some additionalinformation, or at least get the lay of the land, by readingcomments above a threshold of 3 or so.

http://www.digg.com

Digg is a relative newcomer that, while supposedly technologyfocused, is more often than not covering general interest links. Ithas gained mindshare very quickly.

Similar to Slashdot, Digg is split into sections (for instancehardware), again with the concept of a front pagecontaining the best of all of the sections.

Also similar to Slashdot, Digg stories are courtesy of the users.Unlike Slashdot, though, all of the stories are postedimmediately, and there is no editorial control at all (beyonddealing with user-reported spam/abuse type submissions). Instead itis up to the users of Digg to promote (by “Digging”) those storiesthat they think are good, or ignore (or reporting asspam/abuse/etc) those that they think aren’t. Web 2.0content democracy in action, although there have beenhigh-profile instances of people gaming the system, automaticallycreating hundreds of users to digg their own submissions right tothe front page. With its rise in popularity, the number of spamstories on Digg has dramatically increased as well.

Due to the lack of editor-lag time-delay, Digg is a good place tofind very quickly spreading information. Unfortunately it alsosuffers from a severe case of group-think, and it’s pretty evidentat this point that quite a few content providers and bloggers knowexactly what to write to elicit a hearty digging: Many of the”front page” entries these days are clannish “Digg versus SomeoneElse” type stories, and more and more it’s focusing on itselfrather than the original goal, becoming primarily a banner for thebored to rally behind. Several highly-ranked front page storieshave been completely ignorant, mistake-laden misdirections, butgiven that anyone can Digg, with no proof of any effort (likeactually reading the linked site), they get promoted to the frontpage.

The comment system on Digg is truly terrible, and the generalquality of comments is even worse.

Despite all of that, occasionally Digg is good for wildfirespreading news, and can serve as an entertainingdiversion.

http://www.reddit.com

Reddit makes no claims to being a technology focused site, andthe links are general interest. It has been gaining popularity, albeit nowhere near thelevels of Slashdot and Digg.

Using a relatively minimalist interface, Reddit is similar to Diggin that it lets users submit links which are immediately published,and the user community can vote up/down stories, possibly right tothe front page. To the best of my knowledge, Reddit has nocategorization, and instead is just a lump of links with minimalisttitles.

Reddit’s comment system is barely used at all, but it’s quite agood foundation if a community did evolve.

Reddit definitely needs some work, and some major gaps in theplatform and infrastructure are readily apparent. Nonetheless it’sa great place to scan for interesting new links, even if you dohave to go by a barely useful title to decide if you want to followit. I expect great things of Reddit when they start doingassociative analysis. e.g. I don’t care what every artificialaccount and loyal herd member thinks, but I would like if it couldcorrelate people who “think like me”, giving me a personalizedfrontpage based upon the selections of people who’ve shown similartastes to me.

http://del.icio.us/

Delicious is a community bookmarking site where users can hosttheir bookmarks (presuming they aren’t something they want tobe private), categorizing them through keywords.

Through the power of numbers, the growing trends and popular links caneasily be determined. You can even look at what links are popularfor a given keyword, for instance concerning Microsoft or SQL or .NET.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/

StumbleUpon really doesn’t fit in the same category, but insteadworks as a toolbar for your browser in which you can thumbs up ordown pages, as well as provide page reviews, as you’re browsing.You can then “Stumble” around to interesting pages that other usersenjoyed. Interesting tool, although it seems that a largepercentage of stumbles lead to humorous Flash movies.

http://www.plastic.com/

Plastic isn’t really a meme site or link propagator atall. Originally the work of a couple of http://www.suck.com (which was a greatsite) alumni, Plastic is like Slashdot but with a better community,more editorial original content (rather than just linkpropagation), and a good comment system. You won’t findlink-of-the-days at Plastic, but if you just want some interestingdiscussion it’s a good place to look.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/

Kuro5hin is again very similar to Plastic, which is again verysimilar to Slashdot. Again it focuses more on original content andcommentary over link propagation.

http://www.boingboing.net/

Slashdot run through a blog. You’ll find many of the samestories that you find on the other meme propagation sites, butoften with a nicer package.

http://www.technorati.com/pop/

Technorati’s “popular web topics”. Most blog content is justsomeone repeating what other blogs have said (and so on), soTechnorati senses that and makes a popular listing. Seemssuspiciously like a convenient place to put some affiliate linksfor books and movies.

http://www.technorati.com/pop/blogs/

The Technorati popular blog list — Know who’s getting the linklove right now.

 

There are others, such as Fark, SomethingAwful, amongmany, however they’re often not safe for work,nor are they appropriate for the sort of memes that you’d wantto mass email to all of your friends.

Hopefully this list has provided a good starting point in makingyou a meme kung-fu champion, emailing and IMing the interestinglinks faster than your friends.