Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Human News Aggregator: An Interview About NewsMastering With Robin Good

Sponsored Links

Newsmastering is the ability to identify, select, aggregate, filter and distribute/publish news and informatiom streams on very tight, specific themes/topics.

Newsmastering is a new emerging and much needed network function allowing the huge news flow to be categorized, filtered, de-spammed and re-routed and contextualized in one one thousand and more ways.

Photo credit: Emsago

The output generated by a skilled and qualified newsmaster enables a great number of individual to avoid needing to subscribe to tens of RSS feeds or to having to visit multiple sites daily to keep themselves on top of the latest relevant news to their specific field of interest. The newsmaster aggregates and compiles very high-quality news feeds which completely replace the need to visit or subscribe to large number of RSS feeds, suddenly providing those same individuals with much greater time available to them and much higher quality up-to-date news available to them at all times.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, the official online interviewer at, took the time to cal me up and find out more about this emerging new practice and about the tools and processes required to make it all work.

Here is the full report of his online interview with me and a ten-minute audio excerpt from my exchange:

Photo credit: Michael Osterrieder

Mastering Information Overload: An interview with Robin Good of

Robin Good is an independent online publisher who works out of Rome, Italy. He is the editor of (on new media generally) (visual presentation for international audiences) and (online collaboration). He also publishes the Communication Agents Journal and is the producer-director behind the first open-source movie about blogs,

Robin has worked for the UN, World Bank, FAO, CGIAR and the Arab Planning Institute in developing complex online information systems and multi/language web sites.

His work today focuses on empowering individuals to sustain themselves ethically through creative use of new media.

Robin Good is the leading evangelist for the creation of a new type of knowledge worker - he calls them Newsmasters.

The role of a Newsmaster is essentially to subscribe to the RSS feeds of a large number of news sources, search queries and other dynamic resources. The Newsmaster then filters the results of the subscriptions with a combination of machine automation and topic-specific expert knowledge. The most important information resulting from these filtered subscriptions is then delivered to end users, either by RSS, email, on a web site or by whatever delivery is most appropriate.

Central to the concept is that one person should be responsible for filtering information for others in a group or community.

The responsibility of a Newsmaster is to turn information overload into pure value; thus vastly increasing the recipients' efficiency, access to information and ability to respond to key events quickly.

Robin told me that Newsmastering is all about acting as a curator of the huge new stream of information that is coming to us every day.

There is so much information coming at us that it is obviously very difficult to keep up with everything and thus the decision often comes down to "What can I afford to not read?". And to that Robin replies with the statewd belief that information overload needs to be tackled in an effective, intelligent way.

Newsmastering is a new role that fills the need to scale up in order to digest all of this information. Society has increased the number of media forms and the number of people who contribute to those information streams, but we haven't increased the number of hubs where this information can be aggregated and filtered in an intelligent way.

People serving this function can increase every one's efficiency and access to the most important information by delivering only what is most relevant for any given field or organization.

Newsmastering is an emerging concept, and the first movers are evangelizing a new vision. Until today, most of the newsmastering work has been done to date with custom systems, patching together tools, often free. The key technology in the process, though, is Really Simple Syndication - RSS.

Newsmastering can be as simple as splicing multiple RSS feeds together into a mix with a tool like The next step in sophistication is to filter your feeds and be specific in your sources. More complex topics require strategic choices in sources and filters.

Lest this appears as simple as just finding interesting things on the internet, Robin points out that not just anyone can be a good Newsmaster. The most important qualities to have are passion and competence in the particular field being covered. In order to select, edit and manage the real information gems in any sector, a Newsmaster must have a deep familiarity to recognize news and resources in their proper context.

One of the primary activities of a Newsmaster is to subscribe to the RSS feeds of searches for key terms and phrases. Searches that are too broad will bring in too many results and require too much processing to extract the best information. Instead, Robin advises subscribing to many highly targeted searches that will bring you just the kind of results that will be useful. A good search subscription may not deliver any results for days at a time, but when results do arrive they will be of high value.

A well informed Newsmaster should be able to determine what phrases are likely to be found in the most valuable documents online and make good guesses about phrases that would be valuable if they were found in the future. A quiet search subscription will sit silently in your feed aggregator until a result is found.

In other words, the creation of many small persistent search pipes that only bring the best information is a better strategy than creating big pipes for the immediate psychological reward of getting rapidly many results. The creation of those queries can be done by thinking about what keywords or phrases are most likely to be found in the really good content in your field.

When setting up a suite of queries on a topic of general interest, Robin recommends the following "universe of sources."

1. News search: is Robin's preferred source for news search RSS feeds.

2. Blog search: is Robin's preferred blog search feed source and he suggests that you consider subscribing to tag searches instead of or in addition to full text searches.

3. Social bookmarking: From human, through machine back to your human eyes again - harness the power of everyone else's research by subscribing to feeds in or [I would also recommend for some subjects.]

4. Industry Press Releases - Many companies only know to put their information out via a press release. The best place to subscribe to a query feed according to Robin is at, which uses press releases from PR Web.

The above sources could be complemented by more topic specific sources of information as well.

I asked Robin whether there was a clear Return on Investment for organizations dedicating resources to the creation of a Newsmaster position. He acknowledged that there is not a quantifiable ROI but said that the role fulfills an undeniable and powerful purpose in serving stakeholders.

The aggregation, editing and delivery of the most high-quality and timely information on a particular topic will help those stakeholders overcome their sense of information overload, will build prestige for an organization offering this kind of information service and aggregate a body of high quality content that can be used in traditional newsletters, online or in briefings and research.

The newsmastering concepts presented here are part of an emerging space where early adopters are breaking new ground and evangelizing while the tools develop. Many of the tools available to Newsmasters are experimental, they sometimes cease functioning when overwhelmed by too many users, for example. And for every feed manipulation tool that fades out of existence, it seems two more appear in its stead and are more capable, professional and supported. Robin says he enjoys the "carousel" of tools available as it is an incredible opportunity for innovation. There is some risk with investment in experimental tools in this space, but the risk is mitigated by the fact that RSS is an open source format that won't leave users locked into any particular vendor.

Robin emphasized that purchasing inexpensive marketing-oriented newsmastering software solutions that claim to automatically generate best news on any topic is no substitute for a good newsmaster with the right tools. Machine discovery and selection is of far less value than the unique power of a well-informed human mind combined with a flexible software strategy.

For those interested in Newsmastering software suites, Robin recommends looking at for hosted solutions working across all platforms or to Hexamail's News2Web for Windows- and Linux-based server software solution.

I told Robin that some of the tools I'm most excited about right now are those that use RSS to offer alerts in conjunction with IM and SMS. I asked what emerging tools he was most excited about and he said that he believes feed creation tools to be a key area of innovation underway. Tools like,, and one of the most established in the class, These tools let you create an RSS feed to subscribe to updates from sites that don't offer their own feeds.

The landscape of tools and best practices for mining the living web appears set to continue developing rapidly for as long as the risk of information overload is an issue. Hopefully Robin Good's will remain a key resource for engaging with these issues for a long time as well.

Here is also my unedited origjnal replies to Marshall questions, as I replied to them live during our online conversation. Here is a fully downloadable .MP3 version of this 12 minute recording, or you can start listening immediately to the streamable version of the same by simply clicking on the "play" button in the audio toolbar here below.

Interview written by Marshall Kirkpatrick
for NetSquared

About the author:
Marshall Kirkpatrick is a new media technology consultant, advisor and online writer. He is one of the authors/writers behind Tech Soup's Net Squared- Remixing the Web for Social Change, and he also writes for The Social Software Blog at Weblogs, Inc./AOL. Marshall is also on board at The Committee to Protect Bloggers.

What is NetSquared?

Today, for the first time in the short, intense history of personal computing, the main obstacle to success is human capacity, not financial capacity. We see a fundamental change for nonprofits, NGOs and social change efforts occurring at the intersection of three new developments:

a) More pervasive access to existing technology;

b) Emergence of web-based technologies that vastly facilitate end users' access to information and communication;

c) Cultural value being increasingly derived from individuals and micro-communities acting as content producers.

It is the combination of these three developments that is potentially transformative, not just for individuals, but also for organizations that know how to work with these super-empowered individuals.

In this light, CompuMentor has therefore, launched the NetSquared (N2) project targeted at identifying and highlighting projects around the world that achieve success at the intersection of pervasive access, new tools, and new audiences.

Read more on CompuMentor's and N2's backgrounds.

The NetSquared Conference

The TechSoup Net2 Conference will be held on May 30-31, 2006 at the Cisco Systems' Vineyard Conference Center, 260 E. Tasman Drive, San Jose, CA. We expect at least 300 in-person attendess,
and a larger number still to follow the conference via the Internet. The conference will cover three overall themes:

1) Technologies/driving factors - What is changing in social networking technology and society that can be used by non-profits and/or will affect non-profits?

2) Non-profit response / impact on non-profits - How are non-profits responding to these factors, individually and collectively in sub-sectors?

3) Directing change - What can the NetSquared Community and the non-profit sector do to direct/manage/accelerate these changes?

The Conference will include a broad inter-sectoral mix of attendees, including technology and non-profit visionaries, futurists, social networking developers, venture capitalists, early adopters of non-profit web innovations, non-profit and non-governmental sector executives. You can get a preliminary sense of this mix from the Net2 Advocates page.

For more information on the conference, see

Marshall Kirkpatrick -
Reference: Netsquared [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
blog comments powered by Disqus
posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, May 24 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Search this site for more with 








    Curated by

    New media explorer
    Communication designer


    POP Newsletter

    Robin Good's Newsletter for Professional Online Publishers  



    Real Time Web Analytics