For the past few releases, we've had work items in the RSS Bandit roadmap around helping users deal with information overload. We've added features like newspaper views and search folders to make it easier for users to manage the information in feeds they consume. Every release I tried to make sure we add a feature that I know will make it easier for me to get the information I want from the feeds I am subscribed to without being overwhelmed.

For the Jubilee release I had planned that the new feature we'd add in the "dealing with information overload" bucket would be the ability to rate posts and enable filtering based on this rating. After thinking about this for a few weeks, I'm not sure this is the right route any more. There are tough technical problems to surmount to make the feature work well but I think the bigger problems are the expected changes to user behavior. Based on my experiences with rating systems and communities, I suspect that a large percentage of our user base will not be motivated to start rating the feeds they are subscribed to or the new items that show up in their aggregator.

On a related note, I've recently been using meme trackers like Memeorandum and TailRank which try to show the interesting topics among certain technology blogs. I think this is very powerful concept and is the next natural evolution of information aggregators such as RSS Bandit. The big problem with these sites is that they only show the current topics of interest among a small sliver of blogs which in many cases do not overlap with the blogs one might be interested in. For example, today's headline topic on Tech.Memeorandum is that a bunch of bloggers attended a house party which I personally am not particularly interested in. On the other hand, I'd find it useful if another way I could view my subscriptions in RSS Bandit pivoted around the current hot topics amongst the blogs I read. This isn't meant to replace the existing interface but instead would be another tool for users to customize their feed reading experience the same way that newspaper views and search folders do today. 

If you are an RSS Bandit user and this sounds like a useful feature I'd like to hear your thoughts on what functionality you'd like to see here. A couple of opening questions that I'd like to get opinions on include

  • Would you like to see the most popular links in new posts? For an example of what this looks like, see the screenshot in Nick Lothian's post on  Personalized meme tracking
  • How would you like to classify new posts; unread posts or items posted within the last day? The reason I ask this is that you may already have read a few posts that linked to a very popular topic, in which case should it be ranked higher than another link for which you haven't read any of the related posts but hasn't been linked to as much?
  • Would you like a 'mark discussion as read' feature? Would it be nice to be able to mark all posts that link to a particular item as read?

I have a bunch of other questions but these should do for now.


Categories: RSS Bandit
Tracked by: [Pingback]
"Personalized meme tracking" (Vasanth Dharmaraj's Blogs) [Trackback]
"Discounted online pharmacy" (Discounted online pharmacy) [Trackback]
"Jubilee Thoughts: Personalized Meme Tracking" (Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life) [Trackback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback] [Pingback]

Sunday, February 19, 2006 7:27:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
As a long time RSS Bandit user I will lend my thoughts...

--I think the poopular link view would be a great addition. I like the screenshot on Nick's post you linked to.

--I personally don't think read items should have more weight, if if so make it an option. As the way I use it I mark the whole feed read when I scan my newspaper view and read (click if needed to see rest of the post) the items I want. So those others that I skipped are marked as read, but I don't really care about them since I skipped them so read status should not add more weight to the "link tracker"

--for the 'mark discussion as read' s you describe, I am not sure wether I would use that, so it would not matter one way or the other for me. At first I read it as "if you mark read a post, all the other posts that link to the same item as marked read also", but as writing this comment I re read it and now I take it as you mean "from the link tracker view you can select an item that is linked by multiple posts and mark all those posts read"

Look forward to see what other questions you have on this option as I think it would be a really great one to have in RSS Bandit
Sunday, February 19, 2006 11:20:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Some improvements in this area would be nice, but I'm not really sure what concrete suggestions to make.

I agree that getting readers to rate posts just isn't going to happen.

The existing one click "flag for followup" is a start, but it doesn't really seem to work well for keeping me on top of something current. I find myself leaving some posts unread just so I can stay on top of them.

Newsreaders have some features in this area; while Outlook Express is by no means the best, it some have some very basic features.

Ok, here's one concrete idea: make the newsreading part of RSSBandit as good as (if not better) than Outlook Express. Once you've done that (and frankly, reading newsgroups is SO BAD in RSSBandit that I still use OE :-( ), figure out how to apply the newsgroup concepts to RSS feeds. Is that the ultimate solution? No, but it's a step in the direction you want to go.

Around 15 years ago I used a newsreader called "nn", I think the "nn" stood for "No News (is good news)". The idea was that you could manage newsgroup postings enough so that you'd only see the stuff which you really cared about. With nn, I was able to plow through dozens of newsgroups in short order.

With RSSBandit, I'm find myself needing to "keep up", if I miss a few days I'm practically inundated with hundreds of new unread entries. And that doesn't even count following up (comments, trackbacks) on articles I found interesting.

Monday, February 20, 2006 3:22:26 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I also use Memeorandum on a daily basis and have been pretty pleased with its interface. Aggregating these moderately trusted metastreams can make finding certain niche posts easier. Looking at Digg, I have no desire to read even 10% of the items coming through it. But if someone I've subscribed to linked to something that's also on Digg, chances are higher that its worth reading.

I'd like to see this information in a separate Meme Tracking section of RSS Banding. An interface similar to Nick's wouldn't be too bad, but being able to filter/order associated posts by date/time could help establish relevancy.

As for Read/Unread, I'd actually say that things I've already read would cause a Meme to decrease in value. Maybe I just get bored faster than most, but it seems like the more links to a specific Meme there are, the less likely any of those links will contain anything I haven't already seen.

I'd love a Mark Discussion Read feature. I'd also like to be able to specify a specific link and say "Automatically mark posts that link to this as Read". Put a customizeabl sunset period (I'd default to one week) and I'd be very happy. I look at this last week and I'd love to not see any of the Office Live announcements. The first one was fine, but after that I had to endure all my blogs linking to the exact same press release without giving me any new information.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006 5:07:54 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I have sub-divided many of my topic folders be read behavior at this point. For example, I have one folder full of software blogs that I read carefully; each one. Then I have another folder that contains things like Gizmodo and Engaget, etc., that I scan quickly (I use newspaper view for both).

I agree with the above poster that the newsgroup interface still needs a lot of work to make it easy. In particular, subject grouping. Also, news groups are supposed to be two-way conversations. One idea I had (which could also be for comments for blogs). At the bottom of a message you could have a small triangle. When you click on it an empty text box opens up and you can type in a response/comment. RSSBandit would then ship it off to the blog/newsgroup. That way you'd not get the huge dialog for composing messages, etc. I don't know how uniform the comment adding API is, but perhaps for some subset of blog engines... And a "kill discussion" feature would be great in the news reader interface as well.

I'm ambivilent about mark-discussion-read. I scan some of those tech blogs so fast -- often relying on pictures to tell me if it is interesting, pausing to click on "mark this item as boring/read" would slow me down more than scanning by it on the next blog.

I have a third class of blogs. Those only get read when I have time -- perhaps once a week. These are the 'gossip' blogs. And they are also shunted into a folder so I can ignore those most of the time.
Gordon Watts
Saturday, February 25, 2006 2:42:16 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare, you saw my earlier wish to be able to flag or tag items with any number of custom topics. That remains what I'd push for.

The online meme trackers are doing a good job of grouping material for you/us already. We can take a feed from those. But the issue arises that we can't always go to read all the items that come in, not at least right away.

If I could send these items to custom folders, heaven! Saw Google launches some new video search enhancement. OK, I end up with 10 different posts. I might skim them in my Unread Item folder and decide that three or four of them deserve a closer look. I want to flag them something like "Google Video" and know there's a folder holding them for a later look.

Do that, then maybe next you can come up with some logic that lets the posts in each folder assemble themselves in some Memeorandium like way.
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