Zoecity.com: A New Way for Christian Leaders to Stay Up-to-Date

Many people admit to me that they are drowning in information. “How do you keep up?” they ask. “Between email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and, and the constant stream of news, I am overwhelmed. I don’t know what is important and what is trivial.”

A Drowning Man, Struggling to Survive - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Anton_Sokolov, Image #10025070

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/[photographer]

Consider this: new content is being pushed out at an exponential rate. As high-speed broadband becomes commoditized, it is becoming increasingly cheaper to produce and consume content. The Internet is doubling in size every 5.32 years. (Unfortunately, my brain capacity is not doubling in size every 5.32 years!)

On Monday, I had lunch with my friend, Dan Johnson. He introduced me to Rocky Tannehill and Colin Wong, the two entrepreneurs who founded Zoecity.com, a Christian content aggregation site. (Zoe comes from the Greek word for “life.”) The Web site is designed to answer the question, “What is the most important Christian content on the Web?”

Here’s how it works: The Zoecity search engine sifts through thousands of Christian articles. Rather than relying a rating system, Zoecity tracks how often specific content is shared. The premise is that if you share this content with your family or friends, you put your reputation on the line. It is thus more meaningful than content that is merely rated.

In the Zoecity system, shared articles have a higher value than unshared articles. If you can track how much sharing activity exists for any given content via Twitter and Facebook, you can rank its value. Then you can list in priority order the hottest topics, current events, and news that impact Christians. This is precisely what they have created.

As I am writing this, here are the three most-shared Christian articles on the Internet:

Screenshot of Zoecity.com Top Daily Articles

Notice that the Ouija board article is in the top spot. It is being shared more than any other article. It currently has been “shared” 333 times. If you mouseover the “Share” link, it shows you the exact count of how many times the article has been posted on Twitter and shared on Facebook.

Screenshot of Mouseover of Shares

If you click on the Facebook or Twitter buttons, you can share the link to the article with your own network of friends or followers. Simple, elegant, and free.

You can also view the most shared articles for specific time horizons: daily, weekly, and monthly:

Screenshot of Zoecity Time Horizons

Currently, Zoecity is monitoring over 250 Christian websites, including Christianity Today, Christian Post, CrossWalk, Gospel.com, Tangle.com (GodTube), CBN and many prominent Christian bloggers. They will continue to add more websites to their list of sources as they discover them. In fact, you can recommend your favorite Web site.

Zoecity won’t help you keep up with everything, but it will definitely help you keep up with the most important things. As a Christian publisher and blogger, I am especially excited about this new tool.

Question: What do you think of this new service?
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.christianclothingblog.com Greg Ryan

    This is a great tool for all Christians, but what a blessing for those who own a Christian business. Thank you for sharing.
    My recent post Why clothes Lord?

  • Pam Mayberry

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks so much for your blog. I am blessed by every post!

    Thanks also for the information regarding this site. I think it is great tool. I struggle, though, with the premise that what is popular equates to what is important. I guess it depends on which aspect of important we are talking about. It is important to know what is impacting the body of Christ and I think this tool helps us know just that. It helps us see conversations we might never see otherwise.

    I do think there's a lot that is important that is never going to be popular. As long as we remember that and continue to seek out those things, I think this site is great as one of the tools in our toolbox!

    Thanks again for all the blessings I've received from your posts.
    Pam

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I think that distinction—popular vs. Important—is helpful. I think the thing that is unique about Zoecity is that it indexes those articles that other people felt were important enough to share. So while they may not end up being important to you, a lot of Christian thought they were important. It's like crowd-sourcing your reading list.

      • Pam Mayberry

        Agreed. Thinking, too, not just of what's important to me, but what's important to God.

        I've got the site in my Google Reader now and will read it every day along with yours!

        Thanks so much.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/djchuang djchuang

    Zoecity does answer the question of "What is the most popular content on the Christian web?" And with popularity almost being in proximity of influential, this is good intelligence to be situationally aware of for Christian leaders indeed! I got to meet Colin in Seattle a few weeks ago, and heard about the software's development, and glad to see it launch – I've got a video interview with him next week, and will post that online.
    My recent post live coverage from Verge Conference in Austin

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I probably should have mentioned this in the post, but Colin was with Google for five years. He understands this kind of search and aggregation technology from the ground up.

  • Judith Robl

    When we get into numbers, sensationalism tops the chart. Witness the ouija board. Is there some way they can sift for eternal value? I'm afraid not. That requires more manpower than is possible in this electronic medium.

    Still it is a valuable tool. I'm grateful they did it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Easy to use interface and great content. I found some insightful articles on the first two pages and have bookmarked two great blogs. One thing to be aware of, it does use an inclusive redirect where it puts its own header on the linked page. You'll need to click on the X on the Zoecity header to actually get to the real page and be able to bookmark the actual site.

    Thanks for sharing a powerful new service.
    My recent post The Genesis of Better Blog Design

    • http://twitter.com/colinwong @colinwong

      Hi John. Very good point. We'll put further thought into how we can make it easier for people to bookmark the actual URL.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dannyjbixby dannyjbixby

    I'm torn on this. John Saddington posted a quasi review of it a month or so ago ( http://churchcrunch.com/do-we-need-a-christian-so… ) and I thought that the premise of it sounded intriguing, but the implementation just led to more of the same.

    In my opinion, a Christian news aggregator could be useful. It would allow people to view new blogs that they may enjoy, and allow for potentially wider dialogue. Expand people's perspectives, etc.

    But then I remembered what a great many Christian articles and posts are about…and thought it was a horrible horrible idea. In my opinion, the most shared posts will often be those written in an alarmist tone, attempting to inform people of some evil be it culturally or politically. Those articles will be the most shared because they'll get the most traction.

    In the same manner that we all receive those obnoxious alarmist chain emails about people's secret plots to corrupt humanity through our breakfast cereal.

    And so the #1 most shared article is about the evils of the Ouiji board, a toy that has been mainstream for decades which still has Christians up in arms about its intrinsic 'witchcraft.' And the #2 article is a conservative political piece. Both from the same parent website, by the way.

    The real content starts at (right now) 50% below the shared rate of even the #2 ranked article.

    Sorry, but I don't really see this as much more than how to stay informed about what innocuous thing Christians are currently crapping their pants over.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dannyjbixby dannyjbixby

    I'm torn on this. John Saddington posted a quasi review of it a month or so ago ( Chainsaw the Giraffe

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I don't think this is always the case. In fact, when I viewed it on Tuesday, my post on “How to Read a Non-Fiction Book” was #1. I don’t think this tool is designed to tell you what you might find important (which would be, by the way, a great tool) but what the community finds important by virtue of the fact they are sharing it.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/dannyjbixby dannyjbixby

        Oh I agree, and I hope it won't always be the case…but that's just my opinion on it at the moment.

        I think the problem comes in inherently with tracking the most shared posts as opposed to submitting and voting on entries as mainstream aggregators do..

        Every system of aggregation will have its downfalls though.

  • http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com JamesBrett

    I’ve looked the website over and can see how it will be quite useful for keeping up with popular Christian culture. But I’m with Pam. I don’t believe the articles people share with one another are necessarily the same articles Christians might benefit from. The popularity of certain content only suggests it resonates with people. I would argue this is often because it supports what they already believe — which is why they share it with others.

    I know there are cases in which popularity and importance are the same. But using these guidelines to deem what is useful for me to read is nearly the equivalent of asking for the latest gossip. If I shared with you the most viewed google searches or shared websites, you would never argue these items were the most important things for you to read, know, or understand. The argument could only be made that these are important if I so desire to understand popular culture and the world around me — which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    But if shared interest is representative of importance, then I suppose what we all ought to be reading about today is sonic the hedgehog 4, valentine’s day, random pornography, and what celebrity I most look like. [http://www.google.com/trends/hottrends]

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    Kind of like Digg.com for Christians. It looks like a good resource, although I agree that it will not present a well-rounded view of what is important to Christians, but instead will probably skew toward the sensational.
    My recent post Now “choice” is controversial?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BrettBarner Brett Barner

    I think I'm there with Danny on this:

    "I'm torn on this. John Saddington posted a quasi review of it a month or so ago ( http://churchcrunch.com/do-we-need-a-christian-so… ) and I thought that the premise of it sounded intriguing, but the implementation just led to more of the same. "

    I hope it does well. I'll be trying it out for a while to see how it goes. We'll see. :)

  • http://www.aardsma.com Mark Aardsma

    Very cool. I am amazed by how the ease of integration and interconnection that the web-based world allows is creating a exponential increase in this sort of thing. Since the information is already available (about articles and sharing in this case), a lot of cool things can be done by collecting it and connecting it. The pace just keeps increasing, and it's exciting.

    I notice two of the three top articles had a controversial aspect, and I can see how that would generate buzz. I wonder if this type of service will struggle with that the same way cable news headlines tend toward shock value vs. constructive input. I wonder if something could be tweaked to allow more than one type of ranking to reflect the interests of different types of users.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing with us.

    Mark

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MarkYoungBooks MarkYoungBooks

    Anything that helps cut through this deluge of information in a meaningful manner is greatly appreciated. Thanks for this information.
    My recent post James Scott Bell

  • http://forrest-long.blogspot.com Forrest Long

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm sure this new service is good, but there will be alot it shares that won't be of interest to many. I find that even in my email people share alot of posts and sites for me to check out and it's all just too time consuming. I have cut back on my internet time because I believe it's simply not good stewardship of my time, when I could be more productive doing other things. This means even cut back on my time spent with people on the net.
    My recent post YOU ARE AN IMAGE BEARER OF GOD!

  • http://twitter.com/KarynBrownlee @KarynBrownlee

    Super information! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  • http://twitter.com/KarynBrownlee @KarynBrownlee

    You can also follow Zoecity on Twitter. @zoecity

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MikeHolmes MikeHolmes

    Thanks for sharing this
    My recent post My interview with Christian Entrepreneur

  • http://twitter.com/colinwong @colinwong

    Hi folks,

    My name is Colin Wong and I am the CEO of Zoecity. First of all let me just say that I am are very appreciative for all the comments here. It's very interesting to see how our product is being perceived and used, and I am very thankful to Michael Hyatt for introducing us to his audience.

    I am especially grateful on the topic of popularity vs. importance with regards to Zoecity. This distinction is indeed useful and as we continue to refine the Zoecity aggregation engine, we will strive to find the right balance for it.

    Defining what is "important" is often a very tricky proposition. What is important to a person is very much dependent on context. For example, if a family member is very ill and is in need of healing and peace, then that topic is the most important issue to him/her today. If you are a parent with very young children, then perhaps the Ouija Board topic (number 1 today) becomes very important. Yes, it was sensational. But to a young parent such as myself, I actually find it to be very important. I may or may not agree with the conclusion of the article, but I am at least made aware of a topic that many young parents are thinking about today.

    Aggregating content is a very tricky business. Not everyone is going to find everything interesting, relevant or impactful to their life. There is no magic formula, and computer technology today can only do so much. Ultimately it is impossible unless the computer can scan your mind and understand your individual context. A scary proposition but we may be heading there sooner than we think!

    As we built Zoecity, we asked ourselves, what is the best way to aggregate content in a meaningful manner, despite the fact that importance is highly dependent on individual context. Our value proposition is this. If you are a very busy person, how will you get the most meaningful news that may impacts your Christian life? Ultimately, we want to be an igniter of thought, discussion and practical action so that Christians can make informed, Godly response to what’s going on in culture.

    Sensational stories do make an impact on our lives whether we like it or not. Being made aware of these stories gives us a context to respond to current culture. The number one article of this month is Don Miller's response to Pat Robertson's Haiti statements. Pat's statements certainly was sensational. But I did find myself educated in the process by reading Don Miller's response. I was also educated by the number three article of the month where Jean Gelin, a Haitian-American pastor researched the topic. What' interesting is that, that article was posted 5 years ago but it became relevant this month.

    We understand importance will ultimately be different from person to person. We realize not everything we present will be interesting to everyone as well. What we do hope to achieve in the end, in God's Kingdom, is to provide value. We're still a very young company. Our product is now only 2 days old. We understand that we have a long way to go in building, iterating, improving and getting better at adding more value to our busy readers. We most definitely appreciate your comments and feedback. It has been very enlightening and positive for us. Thank you so much.

    Colin Wong
    CEO, Zoecity
    My recent post Gospel Centered Reformed Theology: Audio | TheResurgence

  • http://kevinmartineau.blogspot.com Kevin M.

    Looks a very cool resource to me! I am going to have to check it out further!

  • Dana

    So, it looks like Michael Hyatt got paid to write this blog about ZoeCity. The whole blog post is very promotional sounding — like ZoeCity might have even given him the copy to use. uh? This is what I don't like about the Internet. Promotion can come disguised as a personal recommendation.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Actually, they didn't pay me a dime, nor did they give me or my company any other compensation or consideration. By the way, the site is free.

      I do occasionally do sponsored posts; however, in accordance with the new FTC Guidelines, I full disclose these. Bloggers can not endorse products today without disclosing “material connections.” In this case, as it indicates at the bottom of this post, I have none.

    • http://twitter.com/colinwong @colinwong

      Dana,

      For the record, we did not pay Michael, suggested or even hinted that he blog about us. He did it from his own heart and it is a great blessing to us. I hope this clears any confusion to Michael's reputation and business ethics.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Kevin_Martineau Kevin_Martineau

    Looks a very cool resource to me! I am going to have to check it out further!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I visited Zoecity today at school (during a free moment), and I did something that I hope is okay. I registered my blog as my favorite website (sorry, Michael). I'm hoping some of my content will find its way onto the site. One of the things that I really like about the internet and being connected is that there is something for everyone. I hope Zoecity is successful and helpful to many readers.
    My recent post #28 BECOMING A SON OF GOD: THE NEW BIRTH

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  • Jennifer

    I needed this a few weeks ago, but now I have the Michael Hyatt RSS feed on iGoogle and I'm all set.with my reading! IJust kidding.. 'm about to go browse this site NOW.. thanks! Seriously though, Your blog is amazing! THANK YOU for the time and energy you put into this. It is making a difference!

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  • http://twitter.com/mattstephens268 @mattstephens268

    Love it. Thanks for sharing!