Remember that wonderfully mysterious Facebook preview group that reared its head back in March? Well it's been gone since the launch of the platform, but new features and interface tweaks continue to make their way into the system piece by piece. Here are three of my favorites that have rolled out in the last few weeks. Several more, and a roadmap for future updates can also be found at: www.facebook.com/whatsnew.php.
Google's RSS reader (newbie's guide here) got some handy updates last night. The most interesting of the bunch is a new recommendations system that will suggest feeds you might enjoy based on two things:
1. Feeds you're already subscribed to in Google Reader 2. Your Google Web history, including things you've searched for or sites you've visited from any Google search.
The recommendations show up on Reader's home page, and let you know how many subscribers each feed has to help gauge its popularity. You can also preview the feed before having to subscribe … Read more
If you're looking for another way to read Web content on your mobile phone, there's a new solution called Mippin that will let you browse and sort through popular Web feeds about as easily as you can using a desktop RSS browser. The service was created to tackle the problem of so many sites not offering a "mobile" version for cell phone users.
Mippin serves a variety of feeds, which can be browsed and sorted by genre. You can also search by URL, and the service will do its best to convert the content into something … Read more
Facebook has several layers of functionality that make it worth using, but my favorite is the once-controversial news feed. Why? I simply don't have time to check each of my friend's profiles for what's new, and the feed does a pretty great job at that without all the legwork or annoying e-mail notifications. FriendFeed is a new service that takes the idea of a news feed and extends it beyond the social network into other social services you're a part of. There are more than 20 to pick and choose from, including social news services like … Read more
Yesterday Google rolled out video alerts to its Google Alerts service. If you've never used Alerts, it's a handy way to get Web content updates delivered straight to your e-mail inbox based on keywords. In the case of the new video search, Google will deliver links to videos it's indexed. So how is this helpful? Say you're a big video fan, and you dig seeing those Diet Coke and Mentos videos online. There are always some crazy teenagers out in the suburbs doing new things with them, and that equates to a lot of new videos. … Read more
Three more companies making new micro-applications that track and deliver media preferences.
Matchmine allows consumers to figure out what kind of media they like by creating a MatchKey, or a visualization of their preferences.
Just give a ZIP code, date of birth and rate some movies, blogs, etc. with a star system a la Netflix. Users can share their MatchKey with friends and/or advertisers, but not any personal information. The Facebook widget version show what the person has in common with his or her friends--like Flixster, but not in list form. Matchmine has an API online for developers to … Read more
There are several newsreader apps for iPhone, but this app might have the others beat--at least in the ease-of-use category. Opening this app gives you a list of categories to choose from. Once you pick a category, you're presented with all the popular feeds that fit the category. We especially like the way this app presents feeds from a site with a ticker, making it easy to pick out a good story as it floats by.
iPhone link: http://www.feedmenews.net/
Google has added a handy search box to its popular Reader service. The new box sits snack dab on the top of the Google Reader screen and lets you search through any entries from your subscribed blogs. There's a handy drop down menu to sort what types of items you want to search though, including read and starred items, along with your folders and subscriptions.
This is a helpful addition to people who want to sort their news. While jumping from feed to feed in Google reader isn't tough, there really hasn't been a way to sort … Read more
This interestingly named program for iPhone is one of the better apps we've found for searching multiple popular sites for news and information feeds. An intuitive interface lets you quickly search the latest headlines at CNN, New York Times, Digg, BBC News, Engadget, and many others. Results show up with headlines and short blurbs before you go to the full story.
iPhone Link: http://www.yeahnototally.com/iphone/
Web site link http://www.yeahnototally.com/
Many bloggers put a "blogroll," a list of other blogs they like, on the sidebars of their pages. Blogrolls help the bloggers who create them feel like they're in a club with writers they like. Reciprocal blogrolling makes everyone feel all warm and fuzzy. But blogrolls aren't very functional, since static lists of links quickly become invisible to readers.
Lists of dynamic content are different. That's why Webware recently launched a news ticker (see the right-hand sidebar). It pulls related--even competitive--content from blogs we respect. We think it's useful, and we also think all site publishers, from retailers to highly focused bloggers, would do readers a service by offering something similar.
We use a Newsgator product, customized for CNET, to do this, but it's not the only solution. I also tried out two other services that anyone can plug into their sites: MineKey and RollSense. These services select content that's automatically custom-tailored to each site visitor. Google Reader and RSSMixer (review) are other options, without the fancy automatic story selection.
Both MineKey and RollSense let you feed in a list of blogs you like or respect, and then they create embeddable widgets that display items from those blogs that they think your readers will like. Based on what individuals click on, the list is further refined over time.
Of the two products, MineKey is simpler and easier to set up, and by default it makes more attractive widgets. If a user logs in, it will also give the person a history of what they've clicked on, which is useful. MineKey gives publishers detailed reports on what users are clicking on.
RollSense offers publishers more capabilities, including the option to turn off the personalization feature, which you may want to do if you your goal is just to keep readers up to date on the latest stories from your blogroll. You can then filter stories by keywords. RollSense also offers "packs," or pre-built blog collections, on specific topics. Like MineKey, it also creates reports, but they're not as useful.
How do they perform? Both need time to zero in on user preferences before they begin to deliver their best recommendations, but my quick testing shows that MineKey is better at automatically selecting content, although it doesn't seem to give enough weight to new items. But RollSense offers the control freak more influence over what is displayed. See for yourself. I've embedded both widgets in this blog (you may have to skip to the next page, depending on where you're seeing this), and fed them both three feeds: Webware, Crave, and News.com.
As I said, Google Reader and RSS Mixer are also options, although they don't have the automatic content selection of MineKey and RollSense. On Google, if you "share" posts from your feeds, you can display that list as a widget on any other site. Go to the "Your shared items" page to get the code. Google Reader doesn't automatically populate the widget; you have to manually select items to share them. But doing so is wicked fast, so if you want to maintain ultimate control over your news ticker, Google's the way to go. For just a river of items from feeds you select, see our writeup on RSSMixer.