Social Reading

Feedly, the RSS Reader I’ve been using ever since Google Reader shut down, has announced a feature called “Shared Collections“. This is something like the Google Reader shared items (much loved by its loyal users including me, but something that apparently wasn’t good enough for Google to retain), except that it is available only for premium users.

 

While this is in theory a great move by Feedly to start shared collections, recognising the unfulfilled demand for social reading post Google Reader, their implementation leaves a lot to be desired. And I’m writing this without having used the feature, for, in an extremely daft move, it is available only for pro users. My problem is with the pricing model, which charges content creators (or curators or aggregators, if you like to call them that) for sharing content!

There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t know where to start. Firstly, if you charge people for creating content, that significantly increases the barrier to creating content. If there is an article I like and want to share with my (currently non-existent) followers, the fact that I have to create a premium account to do so means that the barrier to doing so is too high.

Secondly, if I’m going to be a consumer of shared collections from other people, I’ll need a certain critical mass of friends before I start using the feature. I won’t start using a feature only because one or two friends are curating content on it. The critical mass is much higher. And by putting barriers to entry to people who want to share, it makes this critical mass even more difficult to obtain.

Thirdly, Feedly doesn’t have a social network of itself so far (though I’m not aware what permissions they’ve taken from my when I used my Google account to log in to the service). And without having a ready social network for discovery (Google Reader leveraged the Google Talk network), how do they expect people to discover each other’s collections, once created? Are they relying on external networks such as Facebook or Twitter?

It is not easy to build a social network of curation. Google Reader had managed it quite well back in the day by first allowing people to share items without comment, then add external content, and then to add comments. It was an extremely powerful way for people to share blogs and other content, and discussion on that was rather active. I even remember quite a few people adding me on Google Talk for the sole reason of wanting to follow my Shared Items.

In recent times we’ve seen the news aggregator app Flipboard starting its personal collections feature. I have a collection, but don’t remember the last time I put something into it – for without any interaction on that, there’s absolutely no motivation. Flipboard, by the way, has access to your Facebook and Twitter graphs, and so has access to some sort of a social network. Yet, despite keeping the feature free, they haven’t been able to generate sufficient activity on it.

Feedly has got just about everything wrong with its Shared Collections feature. There is disincentive for content creators. There is no incentive for content consumers. They don’t have a ready social network. And there doesn’t seem to be any interaction.

If only Google were to bring back Google Reader and Shared Items, now that they’ve decided to dismantle Google+.

 

Twenty Six

The reason I’m writing this so late in the day is that I’ve been confused as to what to call this post. I started from a short list of maybe a dozen names, and then brought the list down to two – “twenty six” and “twenty fucking six”. Finally I decided to go for the former since the swearword in the latter doesn’t seem to add much value.

If I were to count my years using letters of the English alphabet, I would today increment it from Y to Z, taking into consideration that the Gregorian calendar may not be perfectly accurate. However, for this kind of a time horizon, and given our desired least count, it is definitely more accurate than the Hindu calendar so we will stick to it. Ok, if you have still not got the point, “aaj mEra happy birthday hai“. Imagine me wearing a yellow suit and shouting that line upwards as you look down from your balcony.

My original plan was to write about birthdays itself, as to how they seem to have lost significance, and as I’ve grown older, and started feeling old, they seem to have been reduced to a counter. I was planning to write about how I have to go really long back in order to find a memorable birthday, and about how it’s generally been a disappointment in recent time.

Vyshnavi Doss, who is older than me by ten days, decided to use her Twenty Sixth by writing something on these lines. It was as if she was exploiting her seniority by taking away words from my fingers. Here is a quote, but I urge you to read the whole thing. I completely empathise with the first part of the essay.

Now this is going to sound nutty, but I used to feel more pressure than elation on my birthday. Not counting my school years of course. That was when by default, either you distributed sweets to everyone at school, or your mom hosted a party for you and you got all the attention and gifts. Your birthday was announced at the assembly, your classmates sang for you, and you pretty much owned the day! Those were the protected years. Then I got into college where I had to work my way up towards making friends. I am a confirmed ambivert. I am a friendly person, but not necessarily popular in the zillion people on my friend-list sense of the term. So the birthday situation after I left school had always been very iffy – there was noone to really ensure it was special. To give me that “Surpriiiiiiseee!!!” People have always mattered a lot to me, and I believe that a good birthday is made up by the people around you. And while my birthdays after school were simple and pleasant, my expectation of something utterly out of the world remained the same. So the worry on my birthday could be attributed to mainly two things – a small closeted social circle, and high ambitions. Often my expectation has been met with disappointment. Don’t get me wrong – of course my parents, my relatives and my close friends have made all the effort in their capacities to make my day special. And I have been happy. But I think I’m quite a tough-to-please person. I’ve always wanted that climax.

Instead, I think I’ll do one of those this-day-that-year things. Given my superior long-term memory, I think this is the kind of stuff that I’m likely to be good at. Here are some excerpts.(rest under the fold)

Continue reading “Twenty Six”