Erich Schonfeld does a once over on News.me, the new Betaworks/NY Times collaboration on social news. He is likes what he sees:
News.me is a social news reading app that presents the news that the people you follow on Twitter are reading, and filters it based on how many times those stories are shared and clicked on overall. It pulls in data from not only Twitter but alsobit.ly, the betaworks company that shortens billions of shared links every month.
News.me is still a work in progress, and new features are being added every few days. but its basic skeleton is in place. It is more along the lines of Flipboard but with a few new twists. You sign in with your Twitter account, and you can see a stream of news stories and videos being viewed by the people you follow in their Twitter streams. Instead of just seeing the links, the underlying text and images are displayed inline. Not only can you see your own Twitter news stream, but you can also see the Twitter news streams of any other News.me users who you also follow on Twitter. These people should already be familiar to you, but instead of seeing what they are Tweeting out, you get to see the news that is being recommended to them by the people they follow.
That’s the fundamental hook of News.me. You get to see my upstream articles: those being recommended to me by those that I follow. You can already see what I recommend — just follow me on Twitter — but this shows what’s upstream of that.
As I have said many times, the most interesting aspect of curation is not what you recommend, but where you are positioned in the sprawling, worldwide, social network. Where you position yourself determines what you get to see, the raw material from which recommendations come.
I think News.me is headed in an interesting direction, but I agree with Erich’s recommendations for improvements:
- Merge the streams: It’s cool to be able to click on 20 different avatars of people you know from Twitter and see the social news stream through their eyes, but if you are anything like me, the people you follow pretty much all tend to be interested in the same things. The result is that Everyone’s News.me stream is very similar with the same tech news stories popping up in each one. There is an option to mute a story once you’ve read it so that it does not appear again even in other people’s streams. But a better solution is to show a unified stream with a little avatar icon for everyone who is implicitly recommending that story.
- Show more signals: In addition to showing everyone in whose stream a particular story appears, News.me could also highlight when someone you follow explicitly recommends something by retweeting it or sharing it themselves. Anything that allows readers to tell at a glance which stories are more important than others would be a step forward.
- Filter by topic: Right now there is only one “Big News” button based on bit.ly data, but that button could be broken up into categories like politics, international, tech, sports, and finance. Show me the best news stories in each category.