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Filtering by Category: "news reading"

Why does CNN not get it?

Added on by Chris Saad.

Why is this poll on's home page?
  1. I don't have a pet
  2. I don't want to own a pet
  3. There are plenty of other more important things for CNN to cover than pets
  4. Argg!

Come on people... please. How hard is it to learn my interests and serve up relevant content (I don't even dare asking for APML support). Even without tracking user interests, I can almost guarantee you that people visiting do not care about Dog food. Not on the front page!

An even broader question - do they not watch Jon Stewart? Do they not get it? The world is begging for real questions and real answers to real problems. How hard is it to stick to real news in this day and age. Surely they can leave Pet food to the Lifestyle channel?

Why do they waste our time with O.J Simpson? Ratings? Imagine the ratings they would get if they actually picked a fight with Washington - if they actually spelled out the truth of things for everyone to hear and see.

This is why Media 2.0 will win. We can use tools to find the real content and skip the garbage.

Showing pets love... buh.

The Facebook AttentStream

Added on by Chris Saad.
The image below is a screenshot of my facebook News Feed. It is basically my Facebook AttentStream. Mix in posts from your RSS reading list and the LifeStream of your friends who don't live on FaceBook and you're done.

The Facebook News Feed, to me, is one of their most impressive innovations. Among many things it encourages viral swarming of friends to given activities, applications and groups. I wish more applications provided one.

The goal of Particls: To provide an interface into which the status changes of your friends co-exist with the news headlines you care about in a unified, ranked and filtered river of news.

All we need now is an RSS feed of your Facebook News Feed.

Dangerous Moves - Google news cutting content deals?

Added on by Chris Saad.
According to Techcrunch and the rest of the Techmeme world:

"Scotland's Sunday Herald is running a story reporting that Google has secretly
reached deals with several large UK news groups to formally license content for Google News."
They go on to write
"The issue is not Google's alone. In theory any site that indexes and provides snippets of content from big media companies could easily face the same problem. Topix and Digg immediately come to mind, let alone the many smaller startups and personal sites that index news from the mainstream media."
Kevin Burton from Tailrank and Spin3r posts in the comments:

"You're wrong that Google News would face problems if they ran ads. These publishers needs Google News more than they need them.

Even if they DO run ads everyone wins. Google News only shows a small fraction of he article mandating a clickthrough . A rising tide lifts all boats.

We run a pretty deep crawl with Spinn3r (and have similar issues with ads running on Tailrank) and we've only had a few people ask to be removed.

Unless these deals are about expanding Google's rights beyond fair use (i.e. the right to use full content rather than just snippets), this is a dangerous move for the syndication and aggregation ecosystems who rely on fair use and opt-out mechanisms

As Duncan says on Techcrunch, this can affect all sorts of services everywhere and if Google makes these deals it could:
  1. Set a precedent that could be destructive for innovation and fair use.

  2. If Google makes moves to make the deals exclusive the implications could be even more significant.

This is an unsettling move that should be followed closely.

Too much to see and do - where do you start?

Added on by Chris Saad.
Robert Scoble is like Dave Winer - he's feeling overwhelmed. Not him personally, but he is clear that most of us are. He rightly asserts that there are too many ideas and companies now and many of them will not achieve critical mass - not because they're not great, but because there isn't enough attention spectrum left.

I think one way to avoid this overload is to stop aiming products at our own sandbox and start aiming them towards mums and dads, executives, knowledge workers, cafe owners and others who don't care about myspace, or social bookmarking or making youtube videos.

Another way is to just let the information flow over you. Stop trying to hold onto it.

As I have written previously to Dave Winer and about Constant Pile Reduction Mode it's important to remember news was never supposed to be read like email. No one went through their newspaper and marked off each and every article. They browse and they get what they can about their world before going off to live their real lives.

With this in mind, publishers need to start offering tools to their users that are designed with this reality in mind.

I am reminded by a great quote from the movie "American Beauty"

"it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment..."

Great movie - I suggest you rent it!

Piping the internet - Yahoo Pipes released

Added on by Chris Saad.
Everyone is talking about the new service from Yahoo - Pipes.

Pipes is cool. It does a lot of stuff. Mainly it lets you take RSS (Ray Ozzie has referred to RSS as the "Unix pipe of the web") and literally pipe it. Through what? A series of services and transformations until it comes out look just like you want it.

Think of it as a super FeedRinse.

Unfortunately though, it's not exactly useful 'out-of-the-box'. But that's ok - because it is more a piece of Internet plumbing than it is a consumer facing service. Which is strange considering it's coming from Yahoo!

My friend Ian Forrester loves pipes. He has been talking about them for a long time. In fact he correctly noted that Touchstone is a sort of pipeline. Data comes in from a set of Input Adapters, is processed by our engine for Personal Relevancy, Cache and Routing, and is then passed on to one or more Output adapters for presentation to the user.

Of course our pipe is not as flexible or configurable, but it is immediately useful for consumers. It's interesting in fact that the first example that Yahoo provides (and O'reilly catches on to) is the idea of using pipes to aggregate and filter news alerts. But filtering is so 5 years ago.

How relevant is relevant?

Added on by Chris Saad.
Chris Anderson has a great post called 'The vanishing Point Theory of News'. He posts a great little musing about the relativity of relevance.

"For instance, the news that my daughter got a scraped knee on the playground today means more to me than a car bombing in Kandahar. [...] Am I proud of this? No. But it's true."

He goes on to say:

"There's nothing new about this (it's a truism of the American newsroom that Paris, Texas counts for more than Paris, France), but it bears repeating. The future of media is to stop boring us with news that doesn't relate to our lives. I'll start reading my "local" newspaper again when it covers my block."

I often tell people (in regard to Touchstone) "Put in the name of your kid's school and your favorite golf course" - how much more local can you get.

We can't work out if your daughter got a scraped knee unfortunately - unless the school blogs about it maybe.

Dave Winer - Are you Paying Attention?

Added on by Chris Saad.
Dave Winer just made a post that could not be more perfectly written if I had paid him large sums of money to endorse Touchstone. So... Dave, if you don't mind - I am going to quote this post of yours everywhere...

He says:

[...] Most RSS readers remind the user, all the time, how wrong he or she is. Or inadequate or lazy or behind in their work. [...]

[...] Think about it this way. Suppose you read the paper every day. What if at the top of the paper it told you how many articles from previous issues you hadn't read. Whoa. When you subscribed to the paper did you mean to imply that you would read all the articles?
Emphatically: News is not email. Unlike email, every article is not necessarily something you should read, or even look at. [...]

[...] Let the news flow by you and relax like someone sitting on the bank of a river looking for something interesting as you while away the time. That's how news works, and RSS is, emphatically, for news.

Try this one out. Imagine you're fishing, and there was some nerd on the other side of the river, shouting at you, the number of fish that went by that you didn't catch. How long before you'd want to kill the nerd?? [...]

Well Dave, I have good news for you.

Nowhere on the Touchstone interface do we count how many unread items you have. We do not have any 'mark folder as read' either.

News flows over you via a news ticker and popup alerts (or your own personalized RSS feed, or SMS etc).

In fact, we pride ourselves not by how many items we display but rather (using our clever Attention Profiling Technology) how many items we suppress because it knows the article doesn't rate based on your interests.

The only number our new build will display, in fact, is how many hours we have saved you by NOT showing you the items you wouldn't have cared about in the first place.

Because News is Not Email.

I said it ages ago, and now the man who popularized RSS agrees with me.

I think mainstream users understand the temporariness of news far better than us geeks and they will understand Touchstone far better than a full-screen, email/newsgroups type feed reader.

Techcrunch subscriber stats - This post can wait until Wednesday

Added on by Chris Saad.
We have all seen this post 'A peek inside Techcrunch's 100k' which shows Michael Arrington's meteoric rise from fledgling blog to blogging superstar.

It's old news.

But something struck me as I was looking at our own subscriber history today. We have the same up and down pattern every week that Techcrunch does. And we are nowhere near as cool as them.

The reason is obvious. Most people turn off their work PCs during the weekend causing the subscriber count to drop and most people turn on their feed reader on Wednesday - literally hump day for feed subscribers - when they are bored and feel like catching up.

So what does that mean? It means that feed reading is (at least for a noticeably large group of people) a 'sometimes' activity. It's an activity that we dedicate time to. It's like we go off to read a newspaper - we dedicate a block of time to 'reading the news'. And there are times when we stop reading the news and turn off the PC or the feed reader - or at the very least minimize it away and stop paying attention.

So what about those other times when something happens that we need to know. An event in a new fangled web-based app...

  • You have a reminder from Google Calendar - wake up!
  • Come and pick up that file in that workspace your working on in sharepoint
  • You have a friend request from MySpace
  • Your industry just had a major shakeup
  • Your employer just filed for bankruptcy
  • Your competitor just changed the game on you
  • A customer just said something negative about your company
  • Your daughter just posted a picture of her new child on Flickr.

These are important "right now" events.

We need a feed reader that can stay 'on' without being 'in the way'. Reading feeds does not need to be like reading a newspaper - it can be a filtered and managed experience so you can stay informed while you're being productive.

That's the dream of Touchstone.