One of the biggest problems we have had with MXNA (or any aggregator) over the past year or so is that they are primarily category based, and not content / conversation based. So, if a weblog is in the Flash category, and someone posts about what they had for breakfast, then that will appear in the Flash category.
While, this is not always a bad thing, as it allows you to get a feel for the people in in a particular community, it can lead to problems. One, it can make it harder to find the latest information being posted about Flash (or whatever category), as the category may contain a lot of off topic posts. Two, and as we saw during the past year, when the posts are about controversial or incendiary topics, then it can just annoy people trying to find info about the category. Finally, it omits relevant posts that are made by feeds in other categories (i.e. someone in the ColdFusion category makes a post about Flash).
The Macromedia XML News Aggregator 2 (MXNA) beta that we launched yesterday helps solve this problem with a new feature that we call Smart Categories. In short, Smart Categories are categories based on the content of the post, and not the category.
This means that if anyone being aggregated makes a post about Flash, then it will appear within the Flash Smart Category. This makes it incredibly easy to follow all of the latest thoughts and conversations about a particular topic.
The other cool thing about Smart Categories is that we can quickly add temporary ones to help track hot topics. So, if you check out MXNA, you will notice that there is an MXNA Smart Category, which allows you to quickly see what everyone is saying about the MXNA beta.
I think that the addition of Smart Categories is the single most useful addition to MXNA, and I have found that I am finding posts and information that I would have missed before.
Oh yeah, we also have RSS feeds available for all of the Smart Categories. You can find those on the RSS Feeds page. We will also be adding RSS links to each individual Smart Category and Category page.
Of course, when you want to get a feel for a particular community, you can still view posts by the traditional categories.
You can view the MXNA beta here. You can find more information about Smart Categories here.
Have any suggestions for new Smart Categories? Post them in the comments.