Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Twitter Times - Friend Powered RSS

(photo courtesy)
I'd guess that most of the people reading this used to share lots of links on Delicious, and now tend to share them on Twitter. I follow lots of people on Twitter that I don't know, and many that I'll probably never meet, and I do that because they are interesting - they share stuff from other industries or other continents that is related to stuff i like. I've found that over the last year or so that has meant I read things like newspapers a lot less (actually that is partly to do with having all the bits of newspapers that i like downloaded to my phone using clever stuff like Viigo) and read more things that i get referred to on the internet. Decisions about which Sunday paper to buy used to be based on which one best aggregated interesting people writing for it, and in one sense relying on friends' recommendations is similar - you follow them because they are interesting - but it differs in having the power of recommendation behind it. And obviously in being on a screen, so without the tactile, lazy, spread out on the table benefits that come with a newspaper.

I was thinking about this while stuck on a train with no wifi over the weekend, because i'd just been sent a link to my personal Twitter Times, which aggregates all the links that my friends share into one feed reader. It also recommends stuff from friends of friends. There's a video of how it works below.

It isn't rocket science, but it is a really neat use of the API. I've moved away from my feed reader and spend more time on Tweetdeck recently, so this is something of a halfway house - friend-fuelled RSS if you like. Anyway, I was looking around at all the people who had remembered to buy a newspaper and wishing that I'd printed my Twitter Times. I don't think that this is what it was designed for, but I wish it could turn into that. A few months ago I made up some things that I thought the magazine industry could do, inspired by some famous magazine or other ceasing publication, including this

People like magazines (ok not enough to make them profitable). If you are using a site every day to check a few favourite feeds, then surely it should be able to learn enough from what you, other people like you, your friends, etc read to be able to put a pretty decent package of content together that you haven't read. And then your subscription could offer you a couple of printed copies per year (printed specifically for you, content specific to you that it knows you haven't read). (Perhaps when you book a train ticket you could be reminded to order it for delivery the day of travel) - the printed version becomes the personalised collectors edition.

There's not really been a way of making 'your friends' recommendations' a physical product like this, although most people have pretty good printing technology in their houses. OK you can print your Google Reader, but when you look at what something like Twitter Times could be when coupled with something like Ben Terrett and Russell Davies's
Newspaper Club, which can provide the design templates and printing (I think that's what they're up to), or Marcus Brown turning his blog into a book then there are some exciting post digital niche publishing opportunities around, and one excited potential customer here


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