SiliconFilter

Qwiki Comes to the iPad: Still Useless

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Qwiki, the service that reads Wikipedia articles out aloud for you, has now arrived on the iPad. While the app features a very slick packaging, it’s still hard to imagine why somebody would prefer to hear a robotic voice read these articles out aloud over just reading them.

It’s no secret that I’ve been very critical of the hype around Qwiki. I’ll be the first to admit that the service provides a nice visual experience – especially on the iPad. It gathers image from the base Wikipedia article and articles linked to from there and then displays them in a dynamic slide show. On the iPad, the narration is even relatively good, but just like all text-to-speech services, it quickly becomes annoying.

In its promotional video, Qwiki says that it “combines thousands of sources into beautiful, narrated presentations” and that it’s the “future of information consumption.” In reality, of course, the only sources it uses are Wikipedia and, in the iPad version, Apple’s app store. Qwiki features an “app of the day” section on its iPad homepage, where, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, the App Store itself is today’s featured app.

The app also puts a strong emphasis on maps and location. This is a nicely realized feature, but just like everything else in Qwiki, the emphasis is more on style than usefulness. When you are traveling, for example, are you going to stand on the Mall in Washington with your headphones on to listen to a Qwiki narration, or are you going to quickly read up on the Washington Monument and move on with your life?

 

The problem here, of course, is that having text read to you is a highly inefficient way of consuming information. In the time Qwiki takes to read you a few sentences, you could easily read through multiple Wikipedia articles yourself.

Related Story: Hacker Shows It Doesn’t Take $8 Million to Clone Qwiki – Just 321 Lines of HTML Will do the Trick



8:58 am


rdd.me: A New URL Shortener With Built-In Readability

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Readability, the service that reformats websites for distraction-free reading, just launched rdd.me, a new URL shortener. Even though there are already plenty of choices out there for shortening long domain names, this new one is worth a look. Once your friends click on an rdd.me link, they will either get a link to turn on the distraction-free mode above the regular website if they are on a desktop, or immediately see a Readability-enhanced view if they are using a mobile device.

Given that the extension will still show the full website with all its ads and distractions most of the time, I would think that most publishers will have no issue with this service (and Readability also has a program that compensates publishers,too).

Readability rdd.meOne major issue, though, is that rdd.me doesn’t currently feature a bookmarklet or browser plugin that would make shortening links easy. The developers promise to at least offer a bookmarklet in the next few days, but for the time being, you have to either use the regular Readability extension first and then use the share button from within the Readability view to get the link, or head to rdd.me and copy and paste the links there.

If you’re really serious about your social media metrics, you probably won’t like rdd.me, as it doesn’t offer any of the statistics that Bit.ly and Co. offer.

For those who are already big users of the Readability extension, though, rdd.me is definitely worth a look.



8:46 am


Tweetbot: All Hail the New King of Mobile Twitter Clients

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Twitter itself may not be a big fan of new Twitter clients, but that didn’t stop the developers at Tapbots to launch a new iPhone client tonight. It’s a good thing they weren’t dissuaded by Twitter’s anti-developer stance because Tapbots’ Tweetbot (iTunes link) is easily the best mobile Twitter client out there today. It’s even better than Twitter’s own iPhone app and more than worth the $1.99 Tapbots charges for it.

All the Features You Want

Now, with all the Twitter clients for the iPhone out there today, what makes Tweetbot better? It does, of course, feature all the standard functionality you would expect: support for multiple accounts, lists, old-style and new-style retweets, built-in browser, search and virtually every other feature you would expect.

But it also knows some other nifty tricks. By default, for example, a triple-click on a tweet start a reply. A double-click brings up additional context (maps for tweets with geolocation data, for example). A single click open up a menu underneath the tweet for replying, retweeting and adding a tweet to your favorites. That’s not all, though. Swipe to the right and you get to see related tweets. Swipe to the left and you get to see the whole conversation. This sounds a bit complicated, but is actually far more intuitive than it sounds and becomes second nature within minutes.

It’s clear that the Tapbots developers have paid a lot of attention to detail and how people actually use their Twitter clients on a mobile phone. Tapbots, for example, has decided to treat lists with the respect they deserve and allows you, as Shawn Blanc also notes, to set them as your main timeline.

The design is minimalist but highly functional. You get lots of options (support for Instapaper and Read It later, 9 URL shorteners and 6 image hosts, for example), yet it works perfectly fine out of the box.

I should note that Tweetbot does not feature push notifications. Boxcar, however, already supports Tweetbot, so you won’t have to miss this feature either.

Verdict

Twitter may not like this, but Tweetbot is currently, in my opinion, the best mobile Twitter client out there. Unless you really don’t have $1.99 to spare, I recommend you give it a try (iTunes link).



11:56 pm


Reactions to Amazon's Cloud Drive Music Locker Launch

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Amazon just launched its online music locker last night and the topic is already dominating the discussion in the tech world this morning. Did Amazon get a jump on Apple and Google here in launching a service that these two tech giants don’t/can’t yet offer? Or is it really just a copycat product that quite a few other startups are already offering. What about the legalities of the service? Here are some of the most interesting reactions to the launch:

Hands on Reviews

Mashable’s Ben Parr: “Amazon has thrown down the gauntlet and set a high bar for cloud-based music streaming. Apple and Google, which are expected to launch their own cloud players sometime this year, will have to match Amazon on usability and price if they’re going to compete.”

GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel is generally positive about the service, likes the design and expects to continue to use the new MP3 streaming service, simply because of the convenience factor” (it’s worth noting that he was already a heavy Amazon MP3 customer).

Reactions

MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka is skeptical that this represents a big shift for music fans: Amazon’s Cloud Drive/Cloud Player combo sounds cool, because it has the word ‘Cloud’ in it. It’s quite useful, too. But if you’re a music lover looking for a paradigm shift in the way you consume tunes, this won’t be it.”

ReadWriteWeb’s Sarah Perez, too, is not blown away by the service and argues that it’s not as innovative as some make it out to be: “To be impressed with Amazon’s offering, you have to ignore the numerous startups already serving this space.”

TechCrunch’s MG Siegler wonders if this move will force Apple’s and Google’s hands and make them launch their music locker services sooner: “Amazon has won the race of the big three to deliver a fully cloud-supported music option. Current whispers have Google launching something very similar at their I/O conference in May. And Apple is working on a similar concept as well — but it may not launch until this fall. At least that was the original plan, Amazon’s move may alter things, obviously.

Legal Issues?

The music industry is obviously not too happy about this move. In the Guardian, Amazon’s director of music Craig Pape argues that Amazon doesn’t “need a licence to store music. The functionality is the same as an external hard drive.”

A Sony spokesman, on the other hand, tells the Financial Times that his company is “disappointed that the locker service that Amazon is proposing is unlicensed by Sony Music.



11:05 am


Joint Turns Twitter Into an IM Service

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Twitter DM’s are a simple and effective way of getting in touch with people, but they don’t quite feel like real-time chats, as you never know if the other person is actually currently online. Joint, a new project from the team behind content discovery service Lazyfeed, piggybacks on Twitter’s social graph and allows you to turn your social network on Twitter into a fully featured IM system. Joint offers one-on-one and group chats. It’s basically a private backchannel to Twitter.

Joint is currently in private alpha, but if you would like an invite, follow me and @imjoint on Twitter and leave me a comment with your Twitter handle below.

Getting Started

After you join Joint, you just have to install the service’s AIR-based desktop client and you are ready to go. The client is very straightforward, with a three-pane setup that shows you which of your Twitter friends are currently online on the right, your open chats in the middle, and the chat window on the right. New rooms can be public, protected by a password or completely private. You can also limit the number of people who are allowed into a room.

Joint alpha 1

The chat feature itself is text-only and it, too, is about as straightforward as it gets. Groups are semi-persistent (meaning they will disappear once the last person leaves) and there is no archive or the ability to see messages that were posted to a group before you joined. Joint doesn’t use any of Twitter’s own messaging APIs, so your messages on Joint won’t appear in your Twitter timeline or as DMs in your Twitter client.

As Louis Gray rightly notes, Joint feels quite a bit like the Y Combinator-backed Convore, though it’s neither browser-based, nor focused quite as much on group chats (though among the early adopters, this is definitely one of the main usage scenarios right now).

As Joint’s Ethan Gahng told me, the team also thinks that the app could be useful in meeting new people. When you are in a chat room, after all, you will likely meet friends of friends that you weren’t following on Twitter yet.

For now, Joint still stands as a separate entity from Twitter. It would be nice if it also included a few more basic Twitter features as well, including the ability to see regular Twitter DMs and @mentions and reply to them, for example (though Twitter is obviously discouraging the development of new third-party clients).

Overall, though, this looks like a very promising product with the potential to change how you think about Twitter DMs.



12:52 pm


Zite: The Personalized iPad Magazine App You Should Install Right Now

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Zite is a personalized magazine app for Apple’s iPad that gives you far better reading recommendations than any of its competitors like Flipboard or Sobees’ NewsMix. Instead of having to rely on your friends on Twitter and Facebook to recommend interesting stories to you, Zite’s algorithms are only seeded by looking at your Twitter and Google Reader feed. After this, Zite will learn which articles you are most interested in by looking at your reading behavior as you use the app.

I never quite bought the hype around Flipboard. While visually exciting, the app’s focus on social curation somehow doesn’t work for me. It is a highly popular app, though, and few have managed to challenge its position at the top of the personalized iPad magazine category. Zite could be this app.

Zite food

No Gimmicks

Zite is not quite as visual an experience as Flipboard, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, the app’s focus is squarely on the text and unlike Flipboard, it gives its users the full text of an article in a plain, Readability-like window whenever possible (or in a browser popup if not).

Setting Up

Setting the service up is as easy as giving it your Twitter handle and Google Reader account credentials. It will then come back with a list of topics you are most likely interested in. The list it created for me was a bit off, but correcting Zite’s choices only takes a few seconds and you can create your own sections if none of the apps preconfigured ones fit your interests.

Zite tnw

Learns About Your Interests as you Read

As you read, Zite watches what you do, but you can also explicitly tell it to show you more stories about specific keywords and from the sources and authors you prefer. Sharing to Twitter and Facebook is, of course, build right into the app.

If all of this sounds a bit familiar, that’s probably because you are familiar with services like my6sense, which is currently my gold standard for personalized reading recommendations. Sadly, my6sense doesn’t currently offer an iPad version of its service.

If you have an iPad, I recommend you give Zite a try right now.



10:10 am


NetNewsWire 4 Arrives in a (Very) Lite Version

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For a long time now, NetNewsWire has been setting the standard for feed readers on the Mac. The first version dates back to the middle of 2002 and the app has gone through three major revisions since. This week, NetNewsWire 4 Lite arrived in the Mac App Store. This free version (OS X 10.6.6, 64-bit only) will soon be followed by a more fully-featured paid version, which is a good thing, given that it does away with almost all of the features NetNewsWire 3 users have come to love over the last few years.

Lite on Features

As the name implies, the ‘lite’ version cuts back on features. There is no Google Reader syncing, for example, and no search functionality, no ability to star items, no tabs and no nested folders. Gone, too, are the multiple different views and ways to sort your subscriptions.

New Design

In return, you do get a new three-pane interface that is far more reminiscent of Reeder for Mac than NetNewsWire 3. It’s clean and very fast, but also infatuated with the use of white space. Because of this, whereas NetNewsWire 3 allowed you to skim around 40 headlines before you had to scroll further down, you only get to see about 10 in the new version.

It’s probably not fair to compare this new ‘lite’ version directly to the fully-featured NetNewsWire 3, but I’m not sure I like the direction the developers are going. Some people will surely love this new design, but I don’t think it makes for a better feed reading experience in the end.

To see for yourself, give the app a try. You can install it side-by-side with the old version.



11:25 am


Hate it When Blogs Only Give You Partial Feeds? FullTextRSSFeed.com to the Rescue

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Do you hate it when a blog only gives you a partial RSS feed and makes you click away from your feed reader to read the rest of a post? Well, starting today you can easily take matters in your own hand with FullTextRSSFeed.com. The site is as simple as it is effective: copy and paste the URL of the partial feed and out comes a new URL with a full feed.

The app simply scans the feed you give it for links and then grabs the full text. I’m not sure how, but I’m guessing something like Readability is involved here. It’s also easy to give it any other kind of feed with links. A feed from Hacker News’ frontpage, for example, returns the full-text view of all the articles currently linked to from there.

This worked very well for the majority of feeds we threw at it, though it choked on a few – most notably ones from the New York Times.

There are Yahoo Pipes and a few other similar tools like WIzard RSS that let you do this, but FullTextRSSFeed.com is the most effective and easiest to use tool in this category I’ve seen so far. Head over there and give it a try.



4:50 pm


Fight Information Overload on Twitter.com with My6Sense

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Given how many links your Twitter friends likely post to their timelines every day, it’s almost inevitable that you will miss some very interesting stories. What if there was a piece of software that could learn which stories you are most interested in and highlight those for you, no matter when they were posted? I often use my6sense‘s mobile app on the iPhone to catch these stories, but starting today, you can also use the company’s Google Chrome plugin that integrates directly into Twitter’s own website (a Firefox plugin is also in the works).

My6sense has long been my favorite recommendation service, but until now, the only way to access its service was through its mobile apps for iPhone and Android. The company’s mobile app also recommends stories from your Facebook account and RSS feeds (including a tight integration with Google Reader). As more of us have come to rely on Twitter as a source for interesting stories, however, it only makes sense for my6sense to bring its service to Twitter directly, especially given that Twitter has greatly expanded the functionality of its own web service over the last few months.

Once installed, a new option to sort your timeline based on my6sense’s “digital intuition” will appear on your Twitter homepage. The plugin gives you the option to limit the timeframe of tweets you see to just the last 6, 12, 24 or 48 hours. Over time, my6sense then learns which stories you are most likely interested in, based on which tweets and links you read, reply to, favor and retweet. The service also looks at a tweets metadata, including the source, time and, of course, the content of the story behind the link.

Another nifty feature of the plugin – and one that would make installing it worthwhile even without the recommendation service – is that the plugin expands Twitter’s own ability to preview content in the right pane and can show excerpts from articles right in Twitter’s own preview pane.

My6sense twitter integration

If you are already using the service on your iPhone or Android phone and have linked your Twitter account with your my6sense account, the service will automatically recognize this and your recommendations will immediately be highly relevant. If this is the first time you use my6sense, it’ll take a day or two before all the links it chooses for you are relevant.

Hopefully, this is just a first step for my6sense and we will soon see columns with tweets sorted by relevancy in apps like TweetDeck, Seesmic and HootSuite as well.



10:05 am


The Daily: Old News in a Flawed Package

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News Corp. today launched The Daily, the first new national newspaper in the U.S. that is specifically designed for the iPad. At the launch even in New York today, News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch argued that The Daily will give his company the ability to innovate in the tablet age and introduce readers to a “fresh and robust new voice.” For the first two weeks, the Daily will be available for free, courtesy of Verizon. After that, a subscription will cost $0.99 per week or $40 per year (there is no monthly subscription option). You can now download the app from Apple’s App Store.

Given that, according to Apple, there are already over 9,000 news apps out there and news apps have been downloaded over 2 million times, can the Daily really make a splash in this market? To find out, we took a closer look at the app.

Interesting But Flawed

After spending some time with the app, it seems as if the designers tried to pack the best parts of the traditional newspaper and online world into this product. Sadly, the mix between the two is anything but satisfying and errs on the side of  old-school newspaper thinking.

The app features the serendipity of reading a newspaper (mostly because it doesn’t have a decent table of contents that would make browsing to a specific article easy), glossy design, high-quality editing and great photography. The app can pull in tweets for articles when warrant it, there are outside links to blogs and other traditional papers online, you can leave audio and text comments on articles and you can share links to stories on Twitter and Facebook.

As for the journalism and writing, it’s probably not fair to judge the app by its first edition, but there seems to be a lack of hard news and a strong focus on lifestyle stories (“The Man Snoot”? Really?). The fact that The Daily features a horoscope section is a clear example of its legacy sensibility.

Also, the news part of The Daily isn’t keeping up with recent developments. The story about Egypt, for example, is based on old information and the paper currently makes no mention of the violent clashes that happened in Cairo today.

Somehow, though, none of this feels very satisfying. The app is riddled with little usability issues (see below for details) and even though it is far prettier than most news apps and looks more like a magazine, the app is held back by Murdoch’s insistence to bring the old newspaper paradigm to the iPad.

Hands-On With the App

The first thing that stands out while looking at the app is the production value the team has put into the design and images. The overall design, with a focus on photos and clean typography, makes for a pleasant reading experience that is actually more intuitive than that of the early iPad magazines from Wired and Popular Mechanics.

The central view of the paper – the one you see when you first start the app – is a carousel that shows thumbnails of all the papers’ stories. From every story, you can also navigate to the paper’s different sections (News, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Games, Sports). Oddly, the tech section – which includes a profile of Quora in today’s edition – is called “Apps & Games.” You can’t directly browse to a tech news section in the app.

You can share stories on all the major social networks. After you share a link, your friends will be able to see a copy of the article on the Web, but won’t be able to see any other content from The Daily.

Odd Design Problems

Even though the overall design of the app looks nice, this first version features so many annoying little design issues that using the app isn’t quite as much fun as I expected.

One thing that immediately caught my attention was that there doesn’t seem to be a way to just get an overview of all the articles in the app. Even though the carousel is very pretty and you can bring up a list of thumbnails by clicking at the top of the screen, you can’t just press a button somewhere and see a full table of contents.

Another thing that annoys me about the app is that its functionality relies too much on switching between portrait and landscape modes on the iPad. Generally, you will see photos related to a story when you are in landscape mode and the text while you are in portrait mode. I tend to lock the iPad’s rotation, however, as it’s too easy to inadvertently switch back and forth between the two while I’m reading on the couch or in bed. So switching between the two just gets annoying after a while but is essential if you want to get the most out of your The Daily subscription.

Also, the preview images on the carousel are over-compressed and hence very grainy. Also, the 360 degree pictures that the editors highlighted during today’s launch are of surprisingly low quality.

One feature I dearly miss while using the app is a browser-like “back” button. In the first edition, for example, there is a link to a graph with stats about Egypt at the end of the lead article. This link takes you to the middle of the paper – but then you can’t easily get back to the position you jumped off from.

Another annoyance (though I guess I’m nitpicking now): when you share a story on Twitter, the keyboard blocks the “post” button and you can’t actually send your tweet until you dismiss the keyboard.

The web versions of the articles are also rather unsatisfying. Given that News Corp. wants you to subscribe to the tablet app, that makes sense, but a bit more attention to the design there would probably entice more readers to actually download the app.

Worth Subscribing To?

Overall, then, this is an interesting experiment. Will I keep my subscription after the first two weeks? Currently, I don’t think so. The New York Times app (which will soon move to a paid model as well) isn’t as pretty as The Daily, but it is far more usable and gets me to the news I want to read faster while still keeping that sense of news discovery and serendipity that makes browsing a physical newspaper so satisfying.



11:00 am


Will Deck.ly Change the Way You Tweet(deck)?

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Back in the day, Twitter’s 140-character limit made sense, as the company was still mostly focused on the mobile market and tweets had to comfortably fit into a single text message. Now, however, as the majority of Twitter users use the Web and mobile and desktop apps to engage with the service, this limit makes less and less sense. TweetDeck, the popular mobile and desktop Twitter client just unveiled a new service, Deck.ly, that allows users to write blog-length Tweets without character limits.

TweetDeck announced this service last week and now, thanks to the latest update to its desktop, Android and in-browser apps, the service is available to all TweetDeck users. TweetDeck users will be able to see these long Tweets in their apps, while everybody else will see a link to Deck.ly where the full text of the message is then displayed.

Other services like TwitLonger also offer similar features, but TweetDeck has the unique advantage of being able to build this service right into one of the world’s most popular Twitter clients. It’s worth noting, too, that thanks to its open architecture, Seesmic also offers a TwitLonger plugin for its desktop client.

Deck.ly post by Neal Cross-1.jpg

For TweetDeck, This is About More Than Just Long Tweets

There is more to this service than just breaking Twitter’s 140-character limit, though. With Deck.ly, TweetDeck now offers a nascent web service that looks quite a bit like a minimalist blogging tool. It offers Disqus comments for every Deck.ly post, for example. Deck.ly also resolves links to images on popular Twitter photo-sharing services and displays them on the site. As of now, though, users don’t get a permalink to a list of their long tweets.

Deck.ly also gives the company a new way to monetize its services. While there is currently only a large house ad on every page, it’s easy to image a standard display or text ad taking its place in the long run.

One Major Problem: No API, Yet

As of now, though, Deck.ly doesn’t offer an API, so other developers can’t bake the service into their own apps. I would be surprised if the TweetDeck team didn’t have this on its roadmap already, but for now, this makes Deck.ly slightly less appealing.

Will This Change How You Tweet?

If you are a TweetDeck users, will this change how you tweet? Are you going to post long missives to Twitter now instead of pithy one-liners? Or will the closed nature of the system keep you from using it until other clients (and maybe Twitter itself) supports it?



11:58 am


Skype for Mac 5 Improves on Beta – Still Far From Perfect

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For a lot of us, Skype is one of the most important applications on our computers. The early betas of Skype for Mac 5, though, were rough, as they introduced the same single-window interface that Skype for Windows users have had to live with for a while now. Many of the user interface choices the Skype for Mac team decided on also made the app harder to use. The betas also took away far too much space on the screen.

Wasting Screen Estate

The final release of the Mac version fixes some of the earlier problems (less whitespace, return of fullscreen mode for video etc.), but it still keeps its focus on the single-windows interface. This means you can’t just see a single chat conversation in a separate windows. Instead, you are forced to keep the contacts list open at all times. As so many things with this new version, this means you need far more real estate on your screen to use Skype now.

Skype says this new version is small enough to be kept at the side of your screen. I guess that depends on your screen, but just know that at a width of 460 pixels in its slimmest mode, it still 50% wider than the Skype for Mac app.

Interestingly, while you are on a voice or video call, you can close the contacts pane, but not while you are just using the text chat.

The Skype team did a lot of things right in this new version, though, especially when compared to the betas. The dial pad is now prominently displayed in the toolbar, it’s easier to find the Contacts Monitor (a list of all your contacts who are online now) and the UI now features less whitespace and a more condensed view of the information you actually want to see.

Free Group Video Calls are Gone

The new version does away with free group video calls. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as the same thing happened with the Windows version and has long been part of Skype’s roadmap. For $4.99, you can buy a day pass and $8.99 get you access to this feature for one month.



9:43 am


Read Smarter: Genieo Brings its Content Recommendation Engine to the Mac

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Genieo is a piece of software that constantly watches what you read online and then builds a personalized newspaper-like startpage for you and alerts you when it finds new stories about topics that you are currently interested in. At launch, Genieo was only available for Windows machines. Now, the Israel-based company is finally launching its Mac version as well. I’ve been testing it for a while and the service has quickly become a daily staple in my information diet.

What makes Genieo so special? As the company’s co-founder Sol Tzvi told me when I first wrote about the company last September, one of the features that makes the app stand out is that it doesn’t just look at the feeds you subscribe to and those that your twitter and Facebook friends share (though it does all of that as well), but it also actively creates a database of topics you are currently interested in. This matters, because one day you might be interested in buying a new laptop and want to see information about that, but then a few days later, you have bought your new machine and don’t want to see these stories anymore.

genieo homepage

Genieo tracks your reading behavior as you go through your day. Thanks to this, it can identify new topics you are interested in, automatically subscribe to the RSS feeds of sites you often visit and also notice when you are not interested in a certain topic anymore. Of course, you can also manage all your feed subscriptions and the range of topics the app should watch by hand. For the most part, though, this isn’t necessary at all.

While the service offers a mobile page for smartphones and tablets as well, it’s important to note that those personalized sites only work while your desktop is up and running.

Privacy

All of Genieo’s calculations happen on your own machine, so you don’t have to worry about your privacy.

Great Recommendations: Design Could Use an Update, Though

While the reading recommendations are top-notch and on-par with my favorite mobile recommendation-based RSS reader My6Sense (though that service has a slightly different approach), the overall user interface of Genieo feels a bit antiquated in the age of beautiful apps like Flipboard. It’s perfectly adequate – and the app’s mobile site actually looks very good – but the homepage looks rather cluttered.



2:00 pm


NewsMix: Flipboard Gets a Worthy Competitor

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Flipboard, the personal magazine app for the iPad is probably one of the most hyped mobile app in recent memory, but even though it has lots of dedicated followers, I never quite warmed up to its idiosyncrasies. The idea of a personalized magazine-style app for the iPad, however, is more than intriguing and with NewsMix, Sobees is sending a new app ($2.99, iTunes link) into the race today that has the potential to beat Flipboard at its own game.

NewsMix gives you a magazine-like view of the articles your Twitter and Facebook friends have shared. You can also add RSS feeds and your Google Reader subscriptions into the mix. The app also offers a video-only and photo-only view of your subscriptions. Of course, you can also share any story, retweet it, share it by email and even send it to your Instapaper queue.

Visually, the Flipboard and NewsMix look similar, with article headlines and images laid out on a grid and a homepage that is organized by categories. Flipboard makes it easier to personalize its homepage, while NewsMix, of course, does away with the cutesy flip animation that gives Flipboard its name and focuses more on the reading experience. The app’s reading pane is straightforward, with a Readability-like view of the story that keeps the focus on the text. The original Twitter or Facebook message that was the source of the link appears at the top of the page. In comparison to Flipboard, that’s quite a relief, as that app’s reading pane can feel rather busy.

By default, NewsMix features a standard set of newspaper-like categories on its homepage (technology, health, culture, politics etc.). While you can add your own RSS feeds to the app, you can’t set up a category just for a certain set of feeds. Instead, these get organized into whatever category NewsMix thinks is best for them. To me, that’s the major downfall of the app so far.

What I like about the app is that it doesn’t waste time and space on showing me single tweets without links as Flipboard often does. Unlike Flipboard, NewsMix doesn’t learn what you are most interested in. Instead, it just shows you links in mostly chronological order.

Overall, I prefer using NewsMix over Flipboard. The app feels faster and less cluttered. If you are a Flipboard fan, give NewsMix a try and let us know what you think.



3:46 pm


Twitter’s New Desktop App for the Mac: A Disappointment

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This morning, with the launch of the Mac App Store, Twitter also launched its new desktop app for the Mac. While the app is pretty, it’s missing too many essential features that serious Twitter users have become accustomed to. It also doesn’t keep up with the high standards that the official Twitter for iPhone and iPad apps have set over the last few months.

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter for Mac is a decent, lightweight client for those who only follow their closest friends and family members (and maybe a few celebrities), but it’s no replacement for clients like TweetDeck, HootSuite or Seesmic.

Twitter_for_mac.jpg

The Bad:

Here are a few examples of what I didn’t like about the app:
[list type=”red”]

  • What makes the Twitter for iPad app so great is that links open up in a third pane and don’t take you away from the app. Twitter for Mac does away with this. Clicking on a tweet in your timeline does absolutely nothing and clicking on links brings up your browser.
  • The app has amnesia. The moment you click away from the lists view, it will forget what list you were looking at before and you’ll have to click through to that list again.
  • Same thing for searches. Do a search and click away from it to see your direct messages, for example, and the app will have no recollection of what you just searched for when you click on the search button again. Annoying.
  • No button to start a new tweet? You have to either use the keyboard shortcut (and one of the nicest features is that the app allows you to set a global hotkey for new tweets) or click through the menu at the bottom of the screen to start a new tweet.
  • If there is a conversations view, it’s hidden away. I haven’t found it yet.
  • No support for third-party URL-shorteners? Seriously?
  • Clicking on a person’s avatar bring up a timeline, not the person’s profile.
  • I know I’m nitpicking now, but this is quite annoying as well: the minimalist interface makes it hard to drag the app across the screen. You have to find a spot on the sidebar to actually move the app around.
  • [/list]

    The OK:

    Not all is bad, of course. The app is lightweight, fast and new tweets happily scroll across your screen in real time. A global hotkey for sending new tweets is a nice feature as well. So is support for multiple accounts, which the app also handles quite nicely.

    Over on TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld calls the app a “half-hearted attempt” – an apt description. For now, you won’t miss much if you stay away from it.



    11:32 am