Want to Quickly Catch Up on Tech News While on the Go? Try Riversip


Keeping up with the constant flow of tech news can be hard. Sites like Techmeme make it easy to get a quick overview of what the hottest stories are right now, but it’s a bit harder to see the top stories of the last day or so that may have already fallen out of the tech blogosphere’s collective attention. With the free Riversip app for the iPhone, though, it’s now easy to quickly catch up on the latest tech news, though. Riversip uses its own proprietary algorithms that analyze a mix of social signals to decide how interesting it is. The app then displays them in descending order. You can set the app to display the current crop of top news stories, as well as the top stories of the last day or week.

Riversip tech news reader iphone

The Riversip team says that its mission is to “to give a user the soothing feeling of ‘I know what’s going on’, without having to work at it.” That’s indeed something the app succeeds in. The stories that are featured in the app are often quite similar to those you would see on Techmeme, though often from different sources. The app also assigns tags to every story, which allows you to build your then drill down into these areas (think mobile, web, gadgets etc.) and create your own personalized view of the news.

Algo-Social Recommendations

While the app can incorporate data from your own Twitter and Facebook feeds, this isn’t mandatory. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the highly sophisticated, algorithm-based personalization you would see in apps like Zite or My6sense, but then the idea behind the app isn’t so much to create a personalized magazine for you, but to allow you to get a quick view of what the web as a whole thought was worth reading. Riversip looks at the public conversations around an event to see how notable it is.

Riversip is likely only the first in a range of apps that will use this technology. It’s easy to imagine a Riversip app for political or sports news, for example.

As the company notes, the app should be especially useful for catching up on the news after a holiday or a long weekend away. Given that the Thanksgiving Weekend is just around the corner in the U.S., now would be a good time to give the app a try.


7:32 pm

Katango: Organizing Your Facebook Friends Has Never Been Easier


Google+ was developed around the concept of Circles – groups of people you organize according to your interests and relationship with them (tech bloggers, family members, etc.). While Google was working on Circles for its new social network, though, another company – Katango (formerly known as Cafébots) – was also working on a similar concept for organizing your friends. While Google makes you organize your groups manually, though, Katango developed a set of very smart algorithms that can automatically organize your Facebook friends into groups. Today, the company – which was funded by Kleiner Perkins’ sFund – is releasing its first product that uses this system: a group messaging app for the iPhone.

screen02This app, which is also called Katango (iTunes link), takes a look at who you are friends with on Facebook (the company plans to start working with other networks in the near future) and then organizes them into groups and lets you share content with them.

Using an Algorithm to Organize Your Friends

Unless the algorithms work very well, this kind of approach is obviously prone to being more of a hassle than just manually setting up groups, but luckily, the app actually works very well. The company’s VP of product Yee Lee gave me a demo of the service’s abilities earlier last week. Seconds after I gave it my Facebook credentials, Katango had organized my friends into instantly recognizable groups. The service, for example, recognized all my old work contacts from my last job at ReadWriteWeb and put them into one group. It also set up groups for all of my friends in Germany, as well as for my family members. I don’t have a massive amount of friends on Facebook, but according to Lee, other users with more contacts will also see groups based on where they live, who they play sports with or go to church with and share other interests with.

In the iOS app, users will also be able to add their contacts to groups. None of this data is ever made public, so while the service gets a pretty intimate look at who your friends are, none of this data is ever shared with anybody.

Having groups, of course, only makes sense if you can do something with them, so Katango focuses on sharing photos and other content with your friends. If your contacts are on Facebook but don’t use the app, they will see your content on Facebook. If they use neither, they will get an email.

Feature or Product?

To some degree, of course, Katango is really more of a feature than a standalone service and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody like Twitter, Google or Facebook would take an interest in buying the company. Lists, after all, are now a central part of all major social networking services and being able to automate this process is something most of these companies are likely looking at.

As for acquisitions or partnerships, Lee was obviously tight-lipped, but he did note that the company has talked to the “big two” players in the social networking space (I take this to mean Twitter and Facebook).

11:34 pm

Twitter Listens to Its Users: Kills the #DickBar


Twitter finally listens to its users and promises to remove the QuickBar from the next update of its iPhone app.

When Twitter launched the latest version of its official iPhone app, it added a new feature, the QuickBar, that displayed trending topic to the top of the user’s timeline. The problem with this feature was that just seeing the trending topics provides close to no value for most users, yet the QuickBar took up valuable screen estate. Many also felt that this was just a sneaky way to push “promoted trends” (Twitter’s version of ads) into a user’s timeline (as I said at the time, if a trend has to be promoted, it isn’t much of a trend). Thankfully, though, Twitter has finally listened to its users and today, the company announced that it will remove the so-called QuickBar from its app in the next update.

According to Twitter, the QuickBar – which its users quickly dubbed the DickBar in honor of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo – “was originally conceived to help users discover what’s happening in the broader world beyond people they already follow.” Interestingly, Twitter also notes that it wasn’t just meant to highlight trending topics, but that the company’s designers also though of it “as a potential means of in-app notifications for new @, DMs, and other important activity.” I can’t remember that Twitter ever communicated this broader goal for the QuickBar before and I also can’t help but wonder if its users’ reaction would have been different if Twitter had explained this before.

Twitter Saw “Incredibly High Usage Metric for the QuickBar”

As for the success of the QuickBar, Twitter notes that it likes to test features and then removes them “if we learn it doesn’t improve the user experience or serve our mission” – yet at the same time, the company’s blog post also states that it saw “incredibly high usage metrics for the QuickBar.”

10:11 am

Starbucks' App-Based Payment System is a Hit: 1 Million Transactions in Less than a Month


On January 19th, Starbucks launched its virtual Starbucks Card mobile payment app for the iPhone and select BlackBerry devices nationwide after running a number of tests in a few select markets last year. Today the company announced that it has already processed more than 1 million transactions since then. The app provides users with a virtual Starbucks card that allows them to make purchases after pre-loading the card with cash and also functions as a rewards card.

To make purchases, users simply present their phone with the virtual barcode to the cashier, who then scans this code. The company promises to release an Android version of its application soon and is also working on enabling support for the BlackBerry Torch in the BlackBerry version.

This is, of course, only a primitive precursor to the NFC-enabled phones that are quickly finding their way into the market. Starbucks’ success does show, however, that consumers in the U.S. are more than willing to use their phones to make payments. Indeed, chances are that app-based payment systems like Starbucks’ are only a stop-gap solution until more phones come with built-in NFC chips.

4:05 pm