Is Skrenta going to get fired or is the damn thing working? :-)
So far it looks GREAT. We've approved over 500 editors in the first week. Not all are active, and some of them signed up for non-local channels. But at this point we've got about 100 daily active local cities being edited.
Just after we launched this stuff I realized something which hadn't occurred to me before, about the DMOZ/wikipedia model and how we're trying to apply it to local news. There's an advantage to community-edited news which actually makes it a much easier problem to tackle than either a web directory or encyclopedia.
At DMOZ we signed up 75,000 editors, who ultimately created 400,000 categories and filled them with links. The problem was that, even with 400k categories, we hadn't even made a dent in the problem of organizing the web's information. 400k categories is less than 1% of what you need for that problem.
But local news is a finite domain. We have 32,500 local news channels. Once we approve an editor for a town, if they become active then that town's page is basically 'fixed'. We aim to sign up multiple editors, and of course the character and style of editing varies, but pretty much any human can do a better job than our roboblogging technology.
So if we signed up an equivalent number of editors to DMOZ, we'd have an average of 2 editors per locality. It wouldn't work out that evenly, we'd have clumps with multiple editors in bigger cities, and some small towns would still only be roboblogged. But I'm guessing we'd have coverage over about 1/3rd of the US map, or 10,000 towns.
Another neat thing about this model that I hadn't thought of before is that any kind of commercial spam we might receive is going to get "washed away" in the daily flow of articles on the local pages. Unlike the wikipedia or DMOZ, where a spammed link can hide for years, nothing really "sticks" to topix, since it's all new each day. This does mean we need continuously active editors though, or at least a steady re-supply of new editors if some of the old ones drop out.
Something about the redesign has also lead to a big jump in our local forum activity. We set a new forum record yesterday, with 47k posts. That's a 25% increase from two weeks ago.
So early results look good. I'll post more detailed stats on our active coverage and posting volume in about a month.