The project studies "Cost-effective Outbreak Detection in Networks" and in the case of news, it's looking at how news (information) cascades through thousands of blogs on the Internet. The Top 100 list is basically the best places to see news surfacing.
It's described this way:
If I can read 100 blogs, which should I read to be most up to date? Unit cost (each blog costs 1 unit), optimizing the information captured -- population affected (we want to be the first to know about something with many people blogging about the story after us)See the full list.
By the way, they say the technique works just like systems for detecting disease outbreaks in water ... and that's one comparison to news I have never made.
Here's what the researchers say:
Same techniques and algorithms as used for blogs also apply to detecting disease outbreaks in water distribution networks. Consider a city water distribution network, delivering water to households via pipes and junctions. Intrusions can cause contaminants to spread over the network, and we want to select a few locations (pipe junctions) to install sensors, in order to detect these contaminations as quickly as possible.I suspect there's a business model in here for someone. As far as a top blogs list, this makes a lot more sense to me than Techmeme's Leaderboard for one, although you'll find many of the same sites.
The sensor placements obtained by our algorithm are provably near optimal, providing a constant fraction of the optimal solution. Our approach scales, achieving speedups and savings in storage of several orders of magnitude.
(via J.D. Lasica)