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  1. General
    1. What is MemeStreams?
    2. Is MemeStreams an online journal?
    3. Is MemeStreams another Slashdot?
    4. How do I pronounce "MemeStreams"?
    5. What is a Meme anyway?
    6. Who built this site?
    7. What are you doing with my personal information?
    8. How do I get in touch with Industrial Memetics?

  2. How do I use MemeStreams?
    1. How does MemeStreams work?
      1. How does the Reputation System work?
      2. How do I get my name/recommendations up on the main page?
      3. Hey! I recommended that URL first, but someone else got credit!
    2. Making Recommendations
      1. What is allowed inside a Recommendation?
      2. How do I install the Bookmarklets?
    3. Working with Circles
    4. What is a MemeBox?
    5. Using the Agent
    6. The Topic System
    7. Using the Search Engine
    8. Surfing the Social Network

  3. MemeStreams Interoperability
    1. How can I search MemeStreams by selecting text in any application and hitting a hotkey?
      1. Solution for Microsoft Windows
      2. Solution for Mac OSX
      3. I want the hotkey to search one of my circles instead of the whole site.
      4. I want the hotkey to search MY memestream instead of the whole site.

  4. Troubleshooting
    1. I forgot my password.
    2. MemeStreams doesn't work!
    3. Contacting support.

1. General

1.1 What is MemeStreams?

Memestreams is a social web surfing tool that helps communities of people work together to find interesting content on the Internet. It allows you to maintain collections of recommendations for Internet content, and it employs state of the art content rating technology to sort through your friends' and colleagues' recommendations in search of information that matters to you.

More information can be found here: About MemeStreams

1.2 Is MemeStreams an online journal?

Many people use web logging systems to keep online journals about their personal lives as opposed to making recommendations about websites. These two activities are really quite distinct and a website requires different sets of features to support each type of activity. Right now, MemeStreams is focused on providing the best possible feature set for making recommendations as opposed to keeping personal journals. There is nothing wrong with recommending your own writing, but if you are looking for an easy to use online diary there are probably other systems that are better suited to that task. We may decide to change this focus in the future, and your feedback about the kinds of features you would like to see is greatly appreciated.

1.3 Is MemeStreams another Slashdot?

People often ask this question. At first glance MemeStreams looks a little like Slashdot because the main page of both sites present you with a list of 10 articles with discussions attached to them. However, that is where the similarities end.

Slashdot covers stories of a technical nature chosen by a staff of editors. MemeStreams covers every topic, and the top stories are chosen democratically by the members of the site.

Every MemeStreams user has a web log in which they recommend articles that they think are interesting. Each of those recommendations is a vote for which articles are displayed on the site's main page.

The threads in Slashdot are moderated by a system called Karma. Karma provides a global view of what the top posts are. Everyone sees the same top posts in a given thread.

MemeStreams has a reputation system, which takes your perspective into account. The MemeStreams Agent uses the reputation system to provide you with a selection of stories that are chosen by the people on the site whose opinions you personally respect.

MemeStreams also includes a number of features for sharing recommendations with your friends, and for keeping track of what your friends are recommending.

The people who built MemeStreams love Slashdot. We read it every day. However, we wanted to build a different kind of site that lets our friends exchange the links that they find interesting.

1.4 How do I pronounce "MemeStreams?"

Well, everyone knows how to pronounce the word "streams." Its the "meme" part that seems to give people trouble. I've heard a lot of "Me me streams", "Mem Streams," "Mim Streams," and even "Mean Streams." The word "meme" rhymes with dream. MemeStreams sounds like "Meam streams."

1.5 What is a Meme anyway?

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary zoologist at Oxford University, coined the word "meme" in the mid 1970's while discussing genetics. I think the explanation is best left to him:

"Do we have to go to distant worlds to find other kinds of replicator and other, consequent, kinds of evolution? I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.

The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory,' or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. As my colleague N. K. Humphrey neatly summed up an earlier draft of this chapter: '...memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn't just a way of talking -- the meme for, say, "belief in life after death" is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.' "

Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene", Copyright 1976, page 192

1.6 Who built this site?

The site is primarily the effort of Tom Cross and Nick Levay.

Other contributors are listed here.

The company that runs MemeStreams is called the Industrial Memetics Institute. You can learn more about it here.

1.7 What are you doing with my personal information?

Please take a look at our Privacy Policy.

1.8 How do I contact Industrial Memetics?

Please note the contact information here.

2. How do I use MemeSteams?

2.1 How does MemeStreams work?

2.1.1 How does the Reputation System work?

The reputation system is a personalized view of whose recommendations you find valuable. It ranks people, not articles. Furthermore, it is not a global view. The people that you rate highly may be very different from the people that someone else rates highly. The reputation system is only concerned with your view. This means that you don't have "a reputation" on MemeStreams. You have many of them. Each user has his/her own perspective of the value of your recommendations.

When you are logged in, MemeStreams notes whose links you click through. If you click through a link on MemeStreams, and then recommend it within 24 hours, MemeStreams takes a note of this as well. Furthermore, when you click through or recommend someone else's links, MemeStreams doesn't just give them credit, it also gives credit to the person that they got the link from.

The Reputation Agent goes out into the site and finds the 15 mostly highly rated people who recommended articles in the timeframe you are looking at. It shows you their recommendations. The scheme for determining what "highly rated" means is something we are constantly improving. It is not a flat comparison of recommendation numbers. It takes a number of factors into account, including the difference between recommendations and clickthroughs, a person's signal to noise ratio, and what topics you are looking at. Our goal is to produce something that shows you the new content that you really want to see on the site with a minimum effort involved for you.

If you really want to understand the power of the reputation system, it's important to understand how reputation flows through MemeStreams. Your agent shows you the articles recommended by the people you rate highly. Some of them you decide to rerecommend. When you do this, you're not just giving more credit to people that you rate highly, you are also giving credit to the people that they got the links from, some of whom you may not rate highly.

Let's say you like to read recommendations from Alice. Alice always recommends articles from Bob and from Carol, neither of whom you read. You like the articles that Alice gets from Bob, and you often recommend them, but you don't like the articles that Alice gets from Carol, and you never recommend those. When you recommend articles that Alice gets from Bob, you are giving Bob credit as well as Alice. Eventually, you'll start pulling articles directly from Bob. Alice may even fall from your list of top rated users over time, as you apply reputation capital directly to Bob. And, of course, this process may continue, as Bob may be getting his articles from more people that you have differing opinions about.

The result of this reputation flow is that as you use the site you get pulled closer and closer to the sources of information that you are really interested in, and hence people who share your views.

2.1.2 How do I get my name/recommendations up on the main page?

The links on the main page, and on the topic pages off the main page, are chosen by a flat democracy. When you recommend a link, you are issuing a vote for that link to appear on the main page, and the page for the topic you recommended it into. The main page shows the most popular links in any topic over the past 24-48 hours. The topic pages show the most popular links for that particular topic, and all sub topics of that topic, for the past 7-8 days.

When you are looking at one of the topic pages off of the main page you can click on "View Timeframes" at the top right corner of the page. You will see the most popular links in that topic, and in its subtopics, for the past day, week, month, and for all time.

2.1.3 Hey! I recommended that URL first, but someone else got credit!

The person who is given credit on the main page, and on the topic pages off the main page, for a URL, is the person who wrote the most popular description for that URL. The reason is that the description that should be shown on the main page should be the most popular description, and the person who wrote it ought to be given credit for having written it. So, if you want your name on the main page, its important to not just recommend interesting content, but also to give it a meaningful description.

2.2 Making Recommendations

2.2.1 What is allowed inside a Recommendation?

We want you to be as expressive as possible when writing a recommendation. Accordingly, Memestreams allows you to use a subset of HTML to create posts with style, images, and even embedded videos. Memestreams supports the following tags:

2.2.2 How do I install the Recommendation Bookmarklet?

Follow this link back to the Introduction page.

2.3 Working with Circles

Circles are one of the most powerful features on MemeStreams, but also one of the least understood. Circles are collections of people. As you move around the site, you can place people in different circles. They are then easy to access in the agent, and in the search engine, if you want to see what they are recommending, as well as in the bookmarklet, if you want to forward a recommendation to them.

Circles can contain both MemeStreams usernames, and email addresses. Email addresses come into play in the bookmarklet, where you can forward a recommendation to someone else in email, instead of sending it to their MemeBox. Putting your friends' email addresses in a circle keeps you from having to type those addresses in everytime you want to send something to them.

The best way to add someone to a circle is to click on that person's name somewhere in the site. This will take you to their "about me" page, at which you can add them to circles. You can search for people using the search engine on the page with the user lists (/people).

When you are forwarding a recommendation to friends using the bookmarklet, you can type a username, nickname, email address, or real name into the "add user or email address" field. It will match this information with the username of the person you are looking for and add that username to the destination list for your recommendation, unless you have entered an email address which does not belong to someone on the site, in which case the email address will be added directly.

The Manage Circles page gives you some ability to work with your circles. Its most important feature is the ability to move people from one circle to another.

One of the interesting things you can do with circles is organize people by their perspectives. You can make two political circles, one for people on the left and another for people on the right. Or you could make interest based circles, such as putting tech people in one circle, and political people in another circle. Then, using the agent, you can compare these groups and see what the differences are in which stories they think are important. Also, using the search engine, you could search both circles for stories about a particular event and see how the stories they recommended about that event were different.

2.4 What is a MemeBox?

The MemeBox is like an email inbox for MemeStreams recommendations. When you forward a link directly to a MemeStreams user, it appears in his or her MemeBox. Also, when you reply to a posting on MemeStreams, your reply is automatically forwarded to the poster's MemeBox. When someone sends you an article in private (meaning they haven't posted it to their MemeStream or to the threads) the letter "P" appears next to the article in the MemeBox.

The MemeBox is a way to get your friends to separate email that they are sending you for the purpose of correspondence from links they are asking you to check out. Tell them to send email to your email address, and to join MemeStreams and send links to your MemeBox. That way, you can deal with email correspondence in your email client when you are looking to correspond with people, and you can deal with links people send you in your web browser when you feel like reading web pages. I personally find it very useful to separate these two activities.

2.5 Using the Agent

The agent collects recommendations from MemeStreams and presents them to you as determined by the reputation system. There is more information about the reputation system above. There are three features of the agent that I want to highlight.

The first is the timeframe setting at the top of the page. By default it is set to "Since Last Visit." This means that the agent is only looking for articles that were posted since the last time you used it. The other settings are fairly self explanatory.

The second is the topics, on the right side of the page. If you select a topic, you will only see articles in that topic. Users of the advanced topic system will find that they can also agree to see subtopics of that topic. Subtopics are included automatically in the basic topics system. The reputation system collects separate reputation data for each topic, so you can see content coming from your top users in that particular topic.

The third is the circles, on the left side of the page. You can select a circle, and see articles posted by the members of that particular circle, regardless of their reputation. This is a great way to keep track of people that you don't often read, or to keep tabs on a new user that you are interested in who may not have developed a lot of reputation capital yet.

All three of these features can be combined in any way that you want, so you can see what posts came from a particular circle in a particular timeframe under a particular topic.

2.6 The Topic System

There are two topic systems in MemeStreams, a basic topic system and an advanced topic system. The basic topic system includes a short list of main topics and is intended for beginners who don't want to deal with a lot of complexity. The advanced topic system allows you to categorize recommendations into around 200 different topics.

Using the "Add/Remove Topics" feature you can switch between the basic and advanced topic systems, you can subscribe to topics, and you can pause them. A subscribed topic appears in your MemeStream and in the pull down list of topics when you recommend an article. If you pause a topic, it will still appear in your MemeStream, but not in the pull down menu when you recommend. This allows you to limit the number of topics you have to scroll through in the recommend window.

The best advice I can give for using topics is try to categorize your information as accurately as you can. It helps other people find it better, and find YOU better. You don't have to worry about people not seeing a recommendation in a very specific topic, because most of the time people looking at higher topics are including those subtopics in their view. However, if you are recommending interesting content about computer security in the misc topic, then people interested in computer security won't read what you are recommending. YOU LOSE, because you won't build up reputation capital with the people who are interested in the subjects you are interested in. The whole point of recommending an article is to tell other people to take a look at it, so you ought to put it in the right place so that they can find it.

2.7 Using the Search Engine

Search engine results are ranked by relevancy and popularity. Searches on a circle can provide interesting results that may be more relevant than those available from any previously existing tool, as the most popular search results according to a group of people you rate highly are likely to be more relevant to you than the most linked sites on the internet at large.

2.8 Surfing the Social Network

The social network maps allow you to visually explore the connections between people in the reptuation system.

If you follow the "Social Network" link in the Nav bar, you will be presented with a graph of the interconnections between the most popular users on MemeStreams. This information is also presented in table form below the graph.

If you click on a person's name, you will be taken to their personal map. You can view their "sources" (the people whose links they like to recommend) and their "audience" (the people who recommend their links.) In the table, you can click on "Show Links" and see exactly which links were recommended by a particular audience member or from a particular source.

As the community grows these graphs will allow you to find different clusters of people within the community and see how they are interconnected. They will help you visually understand how the reputation system ties the people on the site together. They will also provide you with some useful feedback about who is reading your recommendations.

3. MemeStreams Interoperability

3.1 How can I search MemeStreams by selecting text in any application and hitting a hotkey?

This section involves two tools, one for Windows, and one for OSX, which allow you to select text in any application, hit a hot key, and receive search results for that text. Both tools perform Google searches, and both have been adapted to perform MemeStreams searches as well. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a comparable tool for XWindows (Linux/UNIX), but if I become aware of one I will certainly post about it here. Might be a good excuse for a small open source development project if you are so inclined.

The power of these tools is that they extend searching such that it becomes a kind of augmented knowledge system. When you are reading or writing something, and you come upon a subject that you want more information about, you can get access to more information at the touch of a mouse. If you get into the habit of using these tools, they really can make you smarter. You don't have to rely on just the information in your head or the information easily available to you when thinking about a subject. You have the whole internet at your fingertips.

The advantage of searching MemeStreams as well as Google for terms like this is that instead of getting results that the entire internet thinks are most relevent, you can get links that have been selected by specific people whose opinions you respect, including links that you may have found in the past on a particular subject. This is a specific kind of augmented knowledge called a remembrance agent, because it helps you recall links you've memed in the past, as well as links other people have memed in the past.

I have to offer one temporary caveat about doing this. These tools make it easy to select a large block of text and submit it to the MemeStreams search engine. If you do this, you will find that MemeStreams responds very slowly. The reason is that currently MemeStreams indexes every word you might want to search for. In order to rapidly handle large text blocks, it would have to index every combination of every word you might want to search for. This is obviously a much bigger problem. We do intend on doing this sometime in the future, but for the time being you'll get better results if you only select small bits of text instead of whole paragraphs.

Thanks to Jello for doing some research on these tools.

3.1.1 Solution for Microsoft Windows

AimingTech makes a great tool for Microsoft Windows called AimingClick Web Search Assistant. Its really easy to install and configure. You can select text in any application, hit one hotkey for a default search, and another hotkey for a list of different searches you can choose from.

AimingClick is a shareware application. You can try it out for free for 30 days, and if you like it, its only $14. You can download it here

Adding searches into AimingClick is very easy. Just choose "Add New" from the program Options. The URL for a standard MemeStreams search is

3.1.2 Solution for Mac OSX LIFTworks has a public domain program out for Mac OSX that allows you to perform a Google Search by selecting text and hitting Shift-Apple-G. I've modified this program so that it also provides a MemeStreams search if you hit Shift-Apple-M. You can download my modified version of this program here.

The only difficulty you are apt to have with this is that you sometimes have to access the MemeStreams/Google search item using the Services menu the first time you use it. After that the hotkey will always work. This is a bug in OSX and a fix will be forthcoming from Apple.

Note: Shortly after I posted this I learned that the Shift-Apple-M hotkey opens and closes the drawer in Apple Mail. As a result, you have to use the Services menu to do MemeStreams searches from Apple Mail, or you have to change the hotkey. The hotkey is in the Info.plist file that you access to change the search URL below. The variable you want to change is Root : NSServices : 0 : NSKeyEquivalent : default. You can change it to anything you'd like.

You can get more information about the original SearchGoogle Service here.

3.1.3 I want the hotkey to search one of my circles instead of the whole site.

If you don't find what you are looking for from a search, its easy to select one of your circles from the MemeStreams search page in order to further refine it. However, if you want to default to searching a specific circle, this is also possible, if you modify the URL your tool is using.

The first step is to determine what the new URL ought to be. Perform a search on MemeStreams, and then select the circle you want to default to, and click the Search button. Look at the URL. There will be a section of the url which says "&newcirc=XXXXX&" where XXXXX is some number. Write that information down.

Once you've got your circle number you need to change the URL that you are searching on. In Windows, this is easy. Set the url for your search to where XXXXX is that same number.

In OSX this is a little more complex. Follow the following steps:

  1. Open the Library folder under your home directory.
  2. Open the Services folder.
  3. Control-Click on SearchMemeStreams.Service
  4. Select "Show Package Contents"
  5. Open the Contents folder.
  6. Open Info.plist with the Property List Editor
  7. Under Root you'll find SGDefaultURL. Change its value and save the file.
  8. The new value should be set to where XXXXX is that same number.

You may find that you have to logout and log back in for the changes to take effect.

3.1.4 I want the hotkey to search MY memestream instead of the whole site.

You can create a circle that only contains you, and select it if you want to narrow a search to just your MemeStream. However, you can also set the URL for your default search to check your MemeStream.

Changing the URL is the same as described above for circles, but instead of adding "newcirc=XXXXX&" into the URL, you add "user=USERNAME&" where USERNAME is your username (NOT your nickname, the name you login with.)

4. Troubleshooting

4.1 I forgot my password.

Just try to login to your account using your best guess as the password. The screen that will be displayed includes a link which says "I forgot my password." Follow this link and follow the instructions from there.

If you don't recall what your username was, then you should search for yourself here. The user search results display nicknames instead of usernames, so once you've found your memestream, you should click on it, and look at the URL you are taken to. The urls are of the form:

or if you are looking at your biographical information, then:

Take your username and try to login. If your password does not work, you should be able to click on the "I forgot my password" text and follow the instructions from there.

4.2 I am having trouble using MemeStreams. I think it's broken.

MemeStreams is much more complex than most websites. It makes productive use of a lot of features in your web browser that many websites, particularly in seedier parts of the net, tend to abuse. Most of the problems that people have using MemeStreams come from security settings in their browser or security software on their computer which prevent MemeStreams from working.

In your browser: You must allow MemeStreams to set cookies and use javascript. Also, various browsers are starting to implement pop-up blocking, and some do it better then others. Some web browser pop-up blocking works great with MemeStreams, but if you are having trouble, particularly with getting the bookmarklet to come up, you might try turning pop-up blocking off.

Personal Firewall software: These tools can also wreak havoc with MemeStreams. All of the things I said above about browser security settings bear repeating for firewall software. Furthermore, firewalls will sometimes remove your "referer" information from web requests. This actually breaks a security feature in MemeStreams which prevents malicious website operators from using javascript to force you to recommend their site! One MemeStreams user observed that some versions of Norton Personal Internet Firewall modify the Bookmarklet code when you view the page that explains how to install it.

as a computer security professional, I think running a personal firewall at home is a good idea. However, if you are having trouble with this site, you might want to turn off your personal firewall and see if the problems go away. If they do, then you might want to play with some of the settings and see if you can get MemeStreams working with your firewall on.

Of course, if you have trouble with MemeStreams it might just be a bug. Feel free to contact me about it.

4.3 How do I contact Industrial Memetics?

Please note the contact information here.

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