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TechCrunch50: New ways to read and react to news

Four companies at TechCrunch50 aim to lower information overload, but they approach the problem in different ways.

The second session at the TechCrunch50 event was called, "Memes and News," and the companies presenting were all about mining the Web for information that's relevant to you. In other words, they are trying to reduce information overload. They approach the problem in different ways:

DotSpots is a "semantic annotation system." It lets users reading content on any site add their own text or media to the story. That's nice, but who will see the notes? DotSpots hopes that publishers will add the include to their services so they can take advantage of this "completely free" way to add community to content. This service is reminiscent of ThirdVoice, and will compete with other comment systems like Disqus.

Angstro mines the Web for "business news about the people in your social network." Now that is a killer pitch; who wouldn't want to read what business associates and competitors are up to? Angstro Picks up your social networkgraph from sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and then scours the Web and the blogosphere for news about--not by--those people. Some semantic analysis helps with the disambiguation, so you don't get news about people with names close to your friends.

LiveHit: Ooh so pretty. Tells you what on the social Web is hot, in a fancy, moving "Live Map." The company plans to work with social network partners to help them display their content in more live-y way, showing users what's hot. This service could indeed help the social nets, but I'm not sure they'll be open to outsourcing their interaction design. Might be a decent acquisition candidate for a social-network company, though, like their early partner, Piczo.

Quant the News is an AI company that tries to understand the "sentiment" of news so users can make better stock buy and sell decisions. Combines their "computers reading the news" with some crowdsourced opinions, and "measures the relationship between sentiment and price." Most important is an alert system that tells you when there's likely to be a big change in price. This is what the quants on Wall Street do. One thing that wasn't discussed: the historical performance of the Quant the News system, although it's a compelling pitch.

My personal pick from this group: Angstro, by far. Can't wait to try it.