Filtering out the noise (or What are Smart Categories at MXNA?)

One of the biggest problems we have had with MXNA (or any aggregator) over the past year or so is that they are primarily category based, and not content / conversation based. So, if a weblog is in the Flash category, and someone posts about what they had for breakfast, then that will appear in the Flash category.

While, this is not always a bad thing, as it allows you to get a feel for the people in in a particular community, it can lead to problems. One, it can make it harder to find the latest information being posted about Flash (or whatever category), as the category may contain a lot of off topic posts. Two, and as we saw during the past year, when the posts are about controversial or incendiary topics, then it can just annoy people trying to find info about the category. Finally, it omits relevant posts that are made by feeds in other categories (i.e. someone in the ColdFusion category makes a post about Flash).

The Macromedia XML News Aggregator 2 (MXNA) beta that we launched yesterday helps solve this problem with a new feature that we call Smart Categories. In short, Smart Categories are categories based on the content of the post, and not the category.This means that if anyone being aggregated makes a post about Flash, then it will appear within the Flash Smart Category. This makes it incredibly easy to follow all of the latest thoughts and conversations about a particular topic.The other cool thing about Smart Categories is that we can quickly add temporary ones to help track hot topics. So, if you check out MXNA, you will notice that there is an MXNA Smart Category, which allows you to quickly see what everyone is saying about the MXNA beta.I think that the addition of Smart Categories is the single most useful addition to MXNA, and I have found that I am finding posts and information that I would have missed before.Oh yeah, we also have RSS feeds available for all of the Smart Categories. You can find those on the RSS Feeds page. We will also be adding RSS links to each individual Smart Category and Category page.Of course, when you want to get a feel for a particular community, you can still view posts by the traditional categories.You can view the MXNA beta here. You can find more information about Smart Categories here.Have any suggestions for new Smart Categories? Post them in the comments.

3 Responses to Filtering out the noise (or What are Smart Categories at MXNA?)

  1. How does it work? Does it depend on the feed text in the RSS which may not contain the whole post?I think it’s a great feature, and if we know how it works under the hood, it will help (on the other hand it may get abused).For example if I start an off-topic post: ‘well, this is not about Flash but I’m posting it anyway’, what happens?Thanks.Best regards,Burak

  2. mike chambers says:

    >How does it work?It is based on the RSS feeds we are aggregating. If that is a short feed, then just make sure that the first part describes what the post is about. Thus far, short feeds haven’t been a problem.The biggest issue has been tweaking everything to make sure the terms and algorithm are correct. It has been surprisingly solid thus far, but we expect it to only get better over time as we are able to run more and more posts through it.>well, this is not about Flash but I’m posting it anywayRight now, that would probably get though, but our goal is that in a week or two, a post like that wouldn’t get through.Again, the more posts that go through the system, the smarter it gets.mike

  3. Guy Watson says:

    Hi Mike,Any chance you can add permalinks for all the of the Smart Categories or add a preference which allows you to change the default category that is displayed when you visit the site. Currently i have to go to the main page and click a category, would be great if i could link directly to a category with a nice something along those lines. Same with searches, a nice url such be great for direct linking from other websites.Nice work!