If you love news then I don’t have to tell you that the best way (currently) to stay updated is still with RSS feeds. With RSS feeds you need something to pull them down for you, my guess is that you probably use Google Reader, with a smaller subset using something like Newsgator/NetNewsWire, and a minuscule percentage of you using Shaun Inman’s Fever°. I used to be a huge Fever° fan, until I realized just how poor it was at mobile usage. I currently use Google Reader through NetNewsWire on my Mac and Reeder on my iPhone/iPad. It is a great client and gets me through the news fast – one problem though, it could be a lot better. In fact news readers as a whole can and should be a lot better than they are.
I am not talking about Flipboard, or making news on the web look like a newspaper or magazine, that’s not what I want. What I want is something that is smart, something that just doesn’t pull down the RSS item, but actually does something with it.
- Auto-categorizing on an item to item basis should be a standard feature. Currently I lump my various subscriptions in general folders (e.g. Tech, Design, Humor) so that if needed I can jump to just one topic. The problem though is that often the topics are not relevant for every story, in order to be relevant all the time we need to categorize on an item to item basis, something impractical and not possible to do with todays software.
I do have a solution though: tags. Most bloggers tag all of their posts with keywords so that readers can click on those tags to see more of the same. I say that RSS readers should start grabbing those tags and using them to create ‘auto-groupings’ that allow me to see every new item that is talking about iPads and iPhones for example. This seems so simple, yet we still don’t have it.
Alerts for known topics of interest, should be another standard feature. Think of this much like Google Alerts, except for just your news items. I would set one up to alert me whenever a post comes in that has the word ‘breaking’ in the title, the program would then send a Growl notification to let me know.
Fever like scale to see what is being talked about. Fever currently has a scale that tells you the temperature of certain news items, the problem is that the algorithm (to my knowledge) works off of seeing how many people are linking to a particular item, which is a less than accurate way of seeing what is being talked about.
A better way would be to see what tags, and keywords people are using in titles to see what they are really talking about. Such a system should then be able to cull these items together a present them as a one stop look at everything on that topic (this would have been great during the iPhone 4 antenna hubbub).
Instapaper and Twitter integration are a must, we already have this in most news readers but it is so important I think it needs to be said again.
Built in summarization. This is the key, the one thing that would make life so much better. Have you ever used the ‘summarize’ feature built into Mac OS X? It is great, you can take a thousand word post and bring it down to 3 descriptive lines that tell you what the post is really about. I have no clue how it works, but it is damn accurate.
Why then if this service is built into a Mac already, is it not being used to give us a better idea of what the post is really about. I would like to see the article title as it was written and then a two sentence summarized blurb (done by the computer) below it, that way I know if this is something I really want and need to read.
Let’s Build It
Calling smart programmers and developers, time to start building an easier way for people to consume blogs and news on the internet. Someone wake up Brent Simmons.