Alltop.com: An Online Magazine Rack
Many of you have, no doubt, heard of Alltop by now. The website has been much talked about since before its formal launch on March 11, 2008. The three people behind Alltop are Will Mayall, Kathryn Henkens, and the front man of the operation, Guy Kawasaki. They are the same three who earlier created Truemors.
I first heard of Alltop through Twitter, a social networking site that spreads news faster and quicker than any other I have found, and Alltop seemed to hit the floor running with the help of Twitter. Guy's involvement in the community was and is an important tool in the development of Alltop:
"Twitter played a major role in Alltop," Guy told me. "It would not be the same without Twitter. Without fail the Twitter community would always come back to me with the best stuff."
Alltop, then, is a collection of the stuff that top bloggers, Twitterers, and social media buffs like to read. It's not the wisdom of crowds, so much as the wisdom of the most engaged social media advocates.
- excerpt from "The Guidewire: Alltop Is One Stop Blog Shop; Curation As It Should Be", 11 March 2008
When I first found Alltop, I immediately liked how easy it is on the eyes. It does not accost its users with blinking objects or garish colour-schemes, and the feeds in each of the categories are arranged on one page for easy browsing through each of the what are now 46 categories.
I will let Alltop sell itself:
We help you explore your passions by collecting stories from "all the top" sites on the web. We’ve grouped these collections — "aggregations" — into individual Alltop sites based on topics such as environment, photography, science, celebrity gossip, fashion, gaming, sports, politics, automobiles, and Macintosh. At each Alltop site, we display the latest five stories from thirty or more sites on a single page — we call this "single-page aggregation."
You can think of an Alltop site as a "dashboard," "table of contents," or even a "digital magazine rack" of the Internet. To be clear, Alltop sites are starting points — they are not destinations per se. The bottom line is that we are trying to enhance your online reading by both displaying stories from the sites that you’re already visiting and helping you discover sites that you didn’t know existed. In this way, our goal is the "cessation of Internet stagnation."
- excerpt from "About Alltop" on Alltop.com
There are quite a few who also laud the simplicity of Alltop, including ReadWriteWeb and Download Squad. They see that it "... is a nice, simple service that you can start pointing your non-geek friends and family to", and that it is "... a way to quickly access the headlines for a certain topic, without having to open up the RSS reader (or even Google Reader)". Guy Kawasaki describes it best as "... an 'online magazine rack' that displays the news from the top publications and blogs." In other words, it is an uncomplicated, user-friendly guide to some of the best of the web.
Not everyone understands this simple, pared down, magazine-rack concept, though, and strangely, it is Alltop's apparent simplicity that is drawing the most criticism. TechCrunch called it a "big pile of nothing", and Paul Stamatiou denigrated Alltop because "[Guy Kawasaki] seems set on launching... ideas for cheap...":
Person 1: Hey! We should build an awesome Web 2.0 app.With a modicum of research (that same day, an interview between Kristen Nicole of Mashable and Guy Kawasaki at SXSW came out that explained the costs incurred with Alltop) and some anger management, Paul would have learned how that $10,000 was spent:
Person 2: That’s a great idea! Think we can do it for $10,000?
Person 1: No problem, we’ll just launch with no features and overpay someone to use open source RSS aggregation tools to grab headlines.
Person 2: I like it. When’s launch?
Person 1: Is tomorrow good for you?
- excerpt from Paul Stamatiou's "Useless Has A Name: Alltop", 11 March 2008
G K: Alltop cost us, so far, $10,000, but out of that $6,000 went to buy three Macbook Airs, as gifts for the programmers, and of the remaining $4,000, three went to buy Alltop.com, the domain.
- excerpt from Red Herring: Kawasaki Talks Alltop And Egos, an interview with Lalee Sadighi, 17 March 2007
Alltop has even been criticized for its inclusivity, which just strikes me as sour grapes. Exclusivity would have drawn a lot of bitterness out of those seeking fame on the internet, but inclusivity that still excludes them is like throwing blood in the water for people who feel that they have been left out. Personally, I find such criticism laughable. The complaint of oh-my-gawd-he-let-too-many-sites-in just sounds hollow. If you think Guy Kawasaki's magazine rack is too diverse, create your own. If you don't want to be a part of somebody's club, talking about how much they suck does not convince me of your apathy.
I am obviously a fan of Alltop, and to be perfectly transparent, I was a fan before I was inducted into life.alltop.com:
Yep, that's this very website listed in the top right corner of that screenshot. I was already clicking through it before then, because I found Alltop to be an excellent hub from which I could find some truly decent weblogs across a lot of categories. I am honoured to see that my website has been included.
So, drop in at Alltop and wander around a while. Guy has chose a diverse range of categories and websites, based not on their preexistent popularity but on whether or not he likes them, which means that if you like Guy, you might like what he's got to show you. I know I do.