Information Overload? Filter Failure? Here Comes Alltop…

Aggregation Without the Aggravation


There are several places I visit at least once a day to keep up with what’s going on. I usually stop at the larger news aggregator because it saves time. But I’ve always wanted a personalized aggregator for the news outlet and blogs I’m most interested in. I haven’t found one that fits my idiosyncrasies like a glove, but I’ve found that Alltop is a good place to start.

Alltop says that its purpose is to help you and me answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest us. Whereas a search engine might be great in answering a query such as, “How many people live in China?” Alltop’s intent is to answer the question, “What’s happening in China?”

This grand aggregator, collects the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs on the web and then they group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. They display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. The feeds are refreshed approximately once every hour, so it should be as current as they come.

It says upfront that 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.”

It’s not there yet in my case, but it’s doing a fine start. And if you submit your feed, and other feeds you’re interested in, Alltop will build it into their system. The site must have RSS feeds however, or they cannot be imported into Alltop.

Imagine if you are a Political Officer in Latin America and have the option of being able to check with one click of a mouse “one online rack” that contains all the headlines of the newspapers and blogs in your region — wouldn’t that be super? Alltop is not quite at that level yet, and inclusion depends on availability of feeds but, if you want it done and you send in the feeds, they might just build you one.

Here are the things I like best about Alltop:

#1. I can go to one page and scroll through the headlines of the sites I’m interested in quickly. Saves time, mouse clicks and my eyesight. See Diplopundit’s Alltop page. And if you’re a speed reader and a news junkie rolled into one, you probably will find this really cool.

#2. Pointing the cursor over a headline prompts the display of date and first paragraph so I can decide quickly if I want to read more or skip the item.

#3. If I have already read a specific article without using Alltop, the headline of that article is grayed out in my Alltop page, which allows me to skip it quickly.

Here are the things that need some refinement:

#1. The topics are currently limited, but they welcome suggestions for additional topics and you can submit additional sites. Requests for inclusion can be submitted here: http://alltop.com/submission.

#2. I don’t know many feeds run through Alltop, but government agencies and think-tanks even those with multiple feeds are not really represented at this time. They did say if you submit the feeds, they will build the page.

#3. Some topics (see Politics) are so extensive that its Alltop page is quite long. The politics page is a mish-mash of feeds from online newspapers, individual blogs, organizations, global affairs, etc…. it’s almost as wild to navigate as the web. Well not nearly as wild but you get the drift. I would like the additional functionality of creating my own tabs or breaking down my page into several main topics (similar to Huffington Post) instead of lumping everything into one single page. This would allow me to create a tab for world affairs, politics, technology or whatever else interests me.

#4. I would like the added functionality of a site/blog look-up to help me build my My.Alltop page. Right now, I either have to scroll through the topics listed or browse the alphabetical listing. This takes way too much time. I already know which news outlets and blogs I want, I should be able to just look them up and add them to my page without having to dig them from the ever-expanding topics and ABC-listing

#5. I’d like to be able to pick the color displayed, but — I can live with orange.

Alltop is owned by Nononina, a “two guys and a gal” in a garage operation—according to its website one guy in a 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.”

This post is cataloged under “technology and work” where I occasionally write about online thingies that I find interesting or could be useful at work. I have no personal investment in Alltop or Nononina. Have fun building your own page!

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Information Overload? Filter Failure? Here Comes Alltop…

Aggregation Without the Aggravation


There are several places I visit at least once a day to keep up with what’s going on. I usually stop at the larger news aggregator because it saves time. But I’ve always wanted a personalized aggregator for the news outlet and blogs I’m most interested in. I haven’t found one that fits my idiosyncrasies like a glove, but I’ve found that Alltop is a good place to start.

Alltop says that its purpose is to help you and me answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest us. Whereas a search engine might be great in answering a query such as, “How many people live in China?” Alltop’s intent is to answer the question, “What’s happening in China?”

This grand aggregator, collects the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs on the web and then they group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. They display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. The feeds are refreshed approximately once every hour, so it should be as current as they come.

It says upfront that 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.”

It’s not there yet in my case, but it’s doing a fine start. And if you submit your feed, and other feeds you’re interested in, Alltop will build it into their system. The site must have RSS feeds however, or they cannot be imported into Alltop.

Imagine if you are a Political Officer in Latin America and have the option of being able to check with one click of a mouse “one online rack” that contains all the headlines of the newspapers and blogs in your region — wouldn’t that be super? Alltop is not quite at that level yet, and inclusion depends on availability of feeds but, if you want it done and you send in the feeds, they might just build you one.

Here are the things I like best about Alltop:

#1. I can go to one page and scroll through the headlines of the sites I’m interested in quickly. Saves time, mouse clicks and my eyesight. See Diplopundit’s Alltop page. And if you’re a speed reader and a news junkie rolled into one, you probably will find this really cool.

#2. Pointing the cursor over a headline prompts the display of date and first paragraph so I can decide quickly if I want to read more or skip the item.

#3. If I have already read a specific article without using Alltop, the headline of that article is grayed out in my Alltop page, which allows me to skip it quickly.

Here are the things that need some refinement:

#1. The topics are currently limited, but they welcome suggestions for additional topics and you can submit additional sites. Requests for inclusion can be submitted here: http://alltop.com/submission.

#2. I don’t know many feeds run through Alltop, but government agencies and think-tanks even those with multiple feeds are not really represented at this time. They did say if you submit the feeds, they will build the page.

#3. Some topics (see Politics) are so extensive that its Alltop page is quite long. The politics page is a mish-mash of feeds from online newspapers, individual blogs, organizations, global affairs, etc…. it’s almost as wild to navigate as the web. Well not nearly as wild but you get the drift. I would like the additional functionality of creating my own tabs or breaking down my page into several main topics (similar to Huffington Post) instead of lumping everything into one single page. This would allow me to create a tab for world affairs, politics, technology or whatever else interests me.

#4. I would like the added functionality of a site/blog look-up to help me build my My.Alltop page. Right now, I either have to scroll through the topics listed or browse the alphabetical listing. This takes way too much time. I already know which news outlets and blogs I want, I should be able to just look them up and add them to my page without having to dig them from the ever-expanding topics and ABC-listing

#5. I’d like to be able to pick the color displayed, but — I can live with orange.

Alltop is owned by Nononina, a “two guys and a gal” in a garage operation—according to its website one guy in a 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.”

This post is cataloged under “technology and work” where I occasionally write about online thingies that I find interesting or could be useful at work. I have no personal investment in Alltop or Nononina. Have fun building your own page!

Insider Quote: Past is Present Even in the FS

“You see, you can change your life; you can move half way across the world, but you can never totally leave your past behind. In some unplanned way, when you least expect it, it will hit you like it happened yesterday. If your past contains some pain, and frankly whose doesn’t, thankfully these moments will diminish as you get further away from the events.”



Becky Boo
Travel Tales You can run but you can’t hide
(FS Specialist Blog)

Insider Quote: Past is Present Even in the FS

“You see, you can change your life; you can move half way across the world, but you can never totally leave your past behind. In some unplanned way, when you least expect it, it will hit you like it happened yesterday. If your past contains some pain, and frankly whose doesn’t, thankfully these moments will diminish as you get further away from the events.”



Becky Boo
Travel Tales You can run but you can’t hide
(FS Specialist Blog)

That Unprecedented Title of Deputy Ambassador

Last week was the confirmation hearing for General Eikenberry, the Obama Administration’s nominee for the next US Ambassador to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Senator Lugar asked the nominee, “How competent will be police ever become?” He wondered — after all is said and done, what will be the judgment of the Afghan people when this is all over. And how diplomatically can all this be put together — will this work out? Will the plans we have be acceptable to the Afghans as opposed to being resisted by them? Why would we be more successful with more troops coming in now than we have been in the past?

General Eikenberry’s response — “every poll shows that over 90% of the Afghan people firmly reject the Taliban – reject the dark Taliban primitive ideology.” Jeff Stein of CQ has a post on that 90% poll number.

General Eikenberry cited a few things that must be done in Afghanistan — to change things in parts of Afghanistan where the Taliban is strong— also more security (not just how many troops, but what are they doing), the need to help and increase the rule of law and the need to think through very clearly the reconstruction program. He also mentioned the need to have more civilians out in the outer regions … You can see a video of the hearing here (1:43 min). His prepared testimony is here.

The nominee was accompanied to the hearing by his wife, Ching (who is going with him to Kabul, if he is confirmed; post is currently an unaccompanied assignment) and Ambassador Frank Ricciardone who is now, I supposed, officially the next DCM new Deputy Ambassador to Kabul (or just as soon as the general is confirmed).

Reports called the use of the “deputy ambassador” title as unprecedented. True — you normally do not use that in the Foreign Service. The second ranking official in an embassy is called the Deputy Chief of Mission – but the use of “Deputy Ambassador” is not unprecedented.

As far as I could tell, and now confirmed by the Historian’s Office — the title of ‘Deputy Ambassador’ had been previously used in Vietnam from 1964-1973. In fact, career diplomat, U. Alexis Johnson arrived at Saigon on June 28, 1964, as the first of a series of Deputy Ambassadors to Vietnam.

The Deputy Ambassadors and their periods of service in Vietnam are: U. Alexis Johnson (Jun 1964-Sep 1965), William J. Porter (Sep 1965-May 1967), Eugene M. Locke (May 1967-Jan 1968), Samuel D. Berger (Mar 1968-Mar 1972) Charles S. Whitehouse (Mar 1972-Aug 1973). We did have our accredited ambassadors in Vietnam when these men served there as deputy ambassadors. But we left in April 1975 and did not re-established diplomatic relations until July 1995. I’m not sure we want to draw any real parallel from this…

So there … the question is — who decides if you get this title or not? Or how do you get this specific title from the bureaucracy if you feel like using ‘DA’ instead of ‘DCM’? It could not be the number of ambassadorships under your belt, because see – like Ambassador Ricciardone (Philippines and Egypt), the current DCM in Kabul, Christopher Dell is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and had two prior ambassadorships (Zimbabwe and Angola). It could not be for importance of location – after all, wasn’t Iraq for a while, our most important foreign policy engagement? The most recent DCM there was Patricia Butenis (previously ambassador to Bangladesh) and her replacement reportedly is Robert S. Ford (previously ambassador to Algeria); neither of them had been introduced, as far as I know, as Deputy Ambassador to Iraq.

Anyway, I am stumped silly – I can’t find anyone who will give me a straight response, must be kind of like that special handshake thingy. Do enlighten me if you know — so I can get some decent sleep …

That Unprecedented Title of Deputy Ambassador

Last week was the confirmation hearing for General Eikenberry, the Obama Administration’s nominee for the next US Ambassador to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Senator Lugar asked the nominee, “How competent will be police ever become?” He wondered — after all is said and done, what will be the judgment of the Afghan people when this is all over. And how diplomatically can all this be put together — will this work out? Will the plans we have be acceptable to the Afghans as opposed to being resisted by them? Why would we be more successful with more troops coming in now than we have been in the past?

General Eikenberry’s response — “every poll shows that over 90% of the Afghan people firmly reject the Taliban – reject the dark Taliban primitive ideology.” Jeff Stein of CQ has a post on that 90% poll number.

General Eikenberry cited a few things that must be done in Afghanistan — to change things in parts of Afghanistan where the Taliban is strong— also more security (not just how many troops, but what are they doing), the need to help and increase the rule of law and the need to think through very clearly the reconstruction program. He also mentioned the need to have more civilians out in the outer regions … You can see a video of the hearing here (1:43 min). His prepared testimony is here.

The nominee was accompanied to the hearing by his wife, Ching (who is going with him to Kabul, if he is confirmed; post is currently an unaccompanied assignment) and Ambassador Frank Ricciardone who is now, I supposed, officially the next DCM new Deputy Ambassador to Kabul (or just as soon as the general is confirmed).

Reports called the use of the “deputy ambassador” title as unprecedented. True — you normally do not use that in the Foreign Service. The second ranking official in an embassy is called the Deputy Chief of Mission – but the use of “Deputy Ambassador” is not unprecedented.

As far as I could tell, and now confirmed by the Historian’s Office — the title of ‘Deputy Ambassador’ had been previously used in Vietnam from 1964-1973. In fact, career diplomat, U. Alexis Johnson arrived at Saigon on June 28, 1964, as the first of a series of Deputy Ambassadors to Vietnam.

The Deputy Ambassadors and their periods of service in Vietnam are: U. Alexis Johnson (Jun 1964-Sep 1965), William J. Porter (Sep 1965-May 1967), Eugene M. Locke (May 1967-Jan 1968), Samuel D. Berger (Mar 1968-Mar 1972) Charles S. Whitehouse (Mar 1972-Aug 1973). We did have our accredited ambassadors in Vietnam when these men served there as deputy ambassadors. But we left in April 1975 and did not re-established diplomatic relations until July 1995. I’m not sure we want to draw any real parallel from this…

So there … the question is — who decides if you get this title or not? Or how do you get this specific title from the bureaucracy if you feel like using ‘DA’ instead of ‘DCM’? It could not be the number of ambassadorships under your belt, because see – like Ambassador Ricciardone (Philippines and Egypt), the current DCM in Kabul, Christopher Dell is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and had two prior ambassadorships (Zimbabwe and Angola). It could not be for importance of location – after all, wasn’t Iraq for a while, our most important foreign policy engagement? The most recent DCM there was Patricia Butenis (previously ambassador to Bangladesh) and her replacement reportedly is Robert S. Ford (previously ambassador to Algeria); neither of them had been introduced, as far as I know, as Deputy Ambassador to Iraq.

Anyway, I am stumped silly – I can’t find anyone who will give me a straight response, must be kind of like that special handshake thingy. Do enlighten me if you know — so I can get some decent sleep …