Current tracks and visualizes memes

May 27, 2010

It’s not easy keeping up with what’s going on around the Web. Trending topic here. Another topic there. Zoe Fraade-Blanar, a graduate student at NYU ITP, hopes to lessen the pain with Current: A News Project.

Through a combination of data from Google Hot Trends and cross-references via Google News, the last 24 hours of memes are charted over time. The focus is on providing a tool that allows journalists to report news that matters, without sacrificing the reader traffic that comes in for videos of cute puppy dogs.

News relies on soft stories like horoscopes, celebrity gossip and restaurant reviews to subsidize the important but less sensational stories that keep democracy running. At base, any solution to News’ present problems must address the balance between the hard news we need and the soft news that drives advertising dollars. By visually anthropomorphizing the capricious nature of public attention Current can spotlight these missed opportunities in news coverage.

It’s still rough around the edges, and I’m not really digging the whole amoeba aesthetic, but I could see how this might be useful. Next steps: provide a way to focus on specific topics, incorporate Twitter trends, and smooth out the interaction.

Try it out for yourself (available for Mac and PC), and toss your thoughts in the comments below.

[via ReadWriteWeb]

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