“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” – Clay Shirky
Before you do anything, watch:
Video by Atelier Transfert
The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. You may wonder how Alltop is different from a search engine. A search engine is good to answer a question like, “How many people live in China?” However, it has a much harder time answering the question, “What’s happening in China?” That’s the kind of question that we answer.
We do this by collecting the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a topic. We group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. Then we display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. Our topics run from adoption to zoology with photography, food, science, religion, celebrities, fashion, gaming, sports, politics, automobiles, Macintosh, and hundreds of other subjects along the way.
You can think of Alltop as the “online magazine rack” of the web. We’ve subscribed to thousands of sources to provide “aggregation without aggravation.” To be clear, Alltop pages are starting points—they are not destinations per se. Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed.
Here’s how some other people have explained Alltop. First, Dan Roam, author of Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems with Pictures, used these two pictures to explain Alltop vis-à-vis Google. Second, read the review by Sarah Perez in ReadWriteWeb. In a nutshell, Alltop is an information filter to help you find your nuggets of gold.
This is the true story of Alltop. If you hear anything else from us, it’s because we retroactively changed the story for marketing purposes. We are the creators of Truemors, a site that is “NPR (or CBC) for your eyes” in the sense that it contains unusual breaking news, stories, and rumors like what you’d hear on NPR. A bit after the site’s launch, our friend Thomas Marban included Truemors in his single-page aggregation of news and tech sites called popurls.
We noticed that popurls sends Truemors as much traffic as Google. Clearly, he was onto something: Aggregate and display a bunch of sites for people, and they will come. This got us thinking about other topics that (a) have a large readership and (b) hasn’t been aggregated in an elegant and efficient manner, and we came up with idea of a doing a popurls of celebrity gossip sites. Then one thing led to another: Why not other topics like gaming, sports, politics, Macintosh, fashion, etc.?
If we had stopped at just celebrity gossip, we could have stuck with one clever domain, but we had to figure out a way to gather everything together when we kept going. “Sugar” was taken, so we came up with “Alltop” as in “all the top” stories—you get it. Alltop is the main website that hosts all the subtopics like celebrities, fashion, egos, sports, and gaming.
Nononina is the company that owns Alltop. It is “two guys and a gal” in a garage—or more accurately, one guy in home office (Will Mayall), one gal on a kitchen table (Kathryn Henkens), and one Guy in United 2B (Guy Kawasaki). They’ve been working together since the previous century and are still friends.
Q. How do the Alltop sites work?
A. We import the stories of the top news websites and blogs for any given topic and display the headlines of the five most recent stories (except Moms.alltop which has fewer headlines because there are so many feeds). When you place the cursor over a headline, we display part of the story so that you can decide if you’d like to read it. To read the story, click on its title. To go to the home page of the site, click on its domain name.
Q. How can I see the topics that you cover?
A. There are four ways you can easily find a topic in which you are interested:
• Enter a term in Search Topics to find topics related to the term.
• Choose a category to view all related topics.
• Click a letter to view alphabetically.
• View every topic alphabetically on one page.
Q. How often do you update the feeds?
A. Approximately once an hour.
Q. How do you decide which sites and blogs are in a topic?
A. We use a patent-pending, semantic computational algorithm derived from the post-doctoral work of Guy at Stanford. Just kidding. We rely on several sources: results of Google searches, review of the sites’ and blogs’ content, researchers, and our “gut” plus the recommendations of the Twitter community, owners of the sites and blogs, and people who care enough to write to us. Let us declare something: The Twitter community has been the single biggest factor in the quality of Alltop. Without this group of mavens and connectors, Alltop would not be what it is today.
Q. How do you decide on the order?
A. An even more complex algorithm:
Some sites and blogs bring us credibility. For example, Politics.alltop.com has to display the Washington Post fairly near the top. If it were missing or far down the page, we’d expect a first-time visitor to question our quality.
Some sites and blogs are relatively unknown but provide such high-quality information that we feel it’s our moral duty to tell the world about them. Newmedia Jim on Twitterati.alltop.com is an example of this; he’s only a NBC cameraman flying around the world on Air Force One.
We like to shake things up and urge people out of their comfort zones. Hence, Aljazeera is early in the News.alltop.com topic, and we mashed together Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism together in Religion.alltop.com.
We take care of our friends. If sites or blogs help us, we help them. In particular, we have lots of friends in Moms.alltop.com.
We like to help out underdogs and undiscovered gems; for example, in Humor.alltop.com check out Stuff White People Like.
If you’ve gotten the impression that Alltop is not based on computer algorithms or popular voting, you’d be right. We are highly subjective and judgmental.
Q. Some of my favorite sites are not included, how do I get you to add them?
A. Make the suggestion through our submission form. Please note: if your favorite sites don’t provide an RSS feed, we cannot import their stories. And please, tell us what topic you hope to see them in.
Q. Why does the order of feeds sometimes change?
A. If our server cannot get a site’s stories in a reasonable time, we skip it, and go on to the next one.
Q. What if I want to customize what sites are displayed or the order of the feeds?
A. By clicking on the “x” next to the feed’s name, you can hide that feed. If you want to get it back, click on “Restore” in the menu bar. We may make Alltop more customizable in the future, but we know that this is something a few people will ask for, and nobody will use.
Q. Couldn’t I build my own custom aggregation using a feed reader, customizable home pages, Netvibes, etc?
A. Yes, you could—knock yourself out. While you’re at it, you could backup your hard disk, bake your own bread, iron your own shirts, floss daily, tune your own car, and bike to work.
Q. How do I suggest an additional topic?
A. Make the suggestion through our suggestion form.
Q. How can I advertise on an Alltop site or sponsor the whole thing?
A. Please see our Advertising page.
Q. What’s your business model?
A. See immediately above.
Q. Is there an iPad App for Alltop?
A. Sure is and it’s free! Download the app from the Apple App Store.
Q. How do I get my site or blog added to Alltop?
A. Use our submission form to provide us with information about your site or blog, and we’ll see what we can do.
Q. How do I add an Alltop widget to my site or blog?
A. You can get widgets from our widgets page. These widgets list the five most popular stories during the day from a topic.
Q. How do I get an Alltop badge for my site or blog?
A. Our badges are located on our badges page. We particularly like “Confirmation that I kick ass.”
Q. How do I get the title of my blog or site changed on Alltop?
A. The title comes directly from your feed. Simply change the title of your feed and the title will change on Alltop the next time Alltop reads your feed.
Q. How do I get my site or blog moved up the page?
A. Send us a persuasive message. FYI, telling your readers about Alltop, adding our badge, and blogrolling are particularly persuasive.
Q. What if I want my site or blog removed from Alltop?
A. Because you have too much traffic? Sure, just contact us, and we’ll take it off.
Q. My feed was on Alltop and now it’s gone—what happened?
A. Several things could have happened. First, we “hide” feeds that have not updated in twenty-eight days. If you don’t keep it updated, we won’t display old stuff. Second, your feed address may have broken. This often happens when you switch to a different feedburning vendor. Try validating your feed at the W3C Feed Validator. Third, we may have decided that your feed no longer fits in with our topic.
Q. Do you have information about advertising on Alltop?
A. Please see our Advertising page.