Sunday, January 08, 2006

Viners whine at New Svine

The launch of Newsvine (or New Svine as I shall refer to it... think of it as being spoken by Siegfried from Get Smart) has started to attract a lot of blog interest, but no one has linked to the most interesting critique: 8 Suggestions To Improve Newsvine by Dickard. That's probably because Dickard is blogging on New Svine's own server, which is currently password-protected to beta users.

I think it's a great thing for New Svine that one of their users has spent enough time and thought on their service already to have produced a critique in such detail. If Tinfinger attracts such attention after its beta launch, I'd be happy. With that said to those who accuse me of breaking a confidence, as a service to the wider blog community, here is the post in its entirety.

Perhaps just to be an ass, I want to post a quick column criticizing this site. Yes, I have spent all of one day as a member and I am already posting a critique. Why?

a. I'm gonna test their patience. See if they let negative comments stay up or intend to enforce a pro-newsvine atmosphere. This is what is known in the business as "teasing out the fascists." What business, you ask? Mine.

b. It's always cool to be the first dude kicked off of a site.

c. The obvious purpose of being in on the beta-test is to offer constructive criticism right?

So here goes -- my first impression criticisms...

1. Lack of Organization or what I like to call "This Thing Is Going To Rapidly Digress Into A Morass of Links." If, indeed, everyone can post as many links as they want, this is going to turn into a repository of every crappy link in the universe -- particularly if folks is gonna get paid for doing it. There needs to be some process whereby links that are posted are heirarched onto the front page by readership interest, etc. Although I get that the little arrow acts as some sort of organizing principle, it isn't clear how it works -- or how you can "mine" new or under-read stories (like Digg). Moreover, why are the "AP" stories (with no positive hits) at the top?

2. There Needs to be Positive Correlation to Quality of Links, Not Number. Similar to above, I notice there is a "top posters" section. This should be changed to quality of post, not quantity. You should be able to not only vote plus or minus on the story but on the post author as well. Otherwise you're encouraging greedy dudes like me to post every dang thing they run across without spendy the time to write a snarky little comment that shows how smart, world-weary and/or reasoned I am.

3. Don't Pay for Links. This is trouble. I get that it's sort of a marketing deal but I suggest you use NewsVine Points or something like that. Let people trade em in for NewsVine crap, not real cash. Again, this just encourages folks to post as much trash as possible, not to post quality. Plus, who wouldn't want themselves a newsboy cap with the NewsVine Logo. That'd get you the admiration you're looking for with the ladies and what not.

4. Spell checker?

5. What Are My Friends Writing About. Maybe this is because it's an invite site but I really just want to see what my friends are writing and saying. I'm like that -- creepy, reclusive and unfriendly. Is there a myspace-like feature coming where I can ID my friends and view their new posts? This could make this like Myspace for adults. Instead of the real myspace which is a whole lot of adults checking out twenty year old chicks who CLEARLY aren't that hot or at least I just haven't been around.

6. Politics. People tend to view and visit politics pages for stories that reinforce their deeply-held and seldom analyzed personal beliefs. Right now this reads like CNN's politics page. Divide this sucker up. I suggest three separate pages. A red page, a blue page and maybe a purple page (what I would call No Man's Land). Are you a dyed in the wool GOP'er? Then visit the red page and post your self-indulgent lies (err, "opinions"). Same for the blue page. Maybe these pages would have a moderator to ensure that the battle lines aren't crossed or maybe this would be self sustaining. In the middle would be the place where you try to antagonize your compatriots on the other side. Just an idea.

7. Sports. Right now this is just a rehash of every other dang sports page in the world. I suggest you make it local and/or tailored to the users' particular preferences. E.g. it should be set up so that I only see: a. the top five stories nationwide (by reader preference); and b. All local stories about the teams that I have indicated. Right now the top story is something about the Jags not caring about something or other...guess what? I don't care about the Jags not caring about something or other...

Is such a thing even possible? Cuz that would rock.

8. Get Local. You guys are from Seattle so I see a lot of Seattle junk on their (like a car crash on I-90?) I mean, I guess that's cool to me but it's pretty fricking meaningless to 90% of your readers.

In short, I had about three valid criticisms but since nobody takes you seriously unless you say some sort of oddball or high number I went with 8. I expect to see about fifty responses saying that I'm a moron and how you guys have already thought this through and how I'm a moron and how I should spend more time before I criticize and again with the moronity but so be it. It's Friday, I'm bored and I'm hung over like the wolf. Adios dudes.


(By the way, this was originally title 8 problem I got with Newsvine or something like that but after I read the article about the guy complaining about the Newsvine CEO not saying please and thank you I decided to rename it. Plus, this is more appropriate to what I have to say.)

And here's one of the comments:

bmvaughn writes:

Also, I should add... a number of your criticisms could be solved with the use of tags. Actually, #1, #5, #6, #7, #8. Perhaps they just need better tutorials for getting up to speed on vining.
# Fri Jan 6, 2006 8:15 PM ET

I don't like inventing site-specific words for common tasks. Instead of tagging, you "vine" an item. Instead of voting for an item (or digging it), you "seed" it. Enh, I get it, the tree analogy. I was toying with going with a finger thing for Tinfinger, but it seemed too twee even for my idiosyncratic tastes.

Like Ben Barren said, it's mystifying as to why New Svine fills every single page with AP stories. The Associated Press represents the deprecated establishment of one-to-many content syndication. RSS et al have already heralded the new grassroots of many-to-many. Any site which solely relies on old-style news sources is doomed to be marginalised, including the sites of the old-style news organisations. What makes it harder to understand is that the New Svine FAQ admits this:

The great majority of stories you read on major news sites like MSNBC, CNN, and ESPN come from The Associated Press. At Newsvine, we not only show you every single story from the Associated Press and ESPN newswires (hundreds or thousands per day), but also any story a Newsvine author writes as well as any story from around the web that a Newsvine user finds interesting.

So the Svines admit that those old-style news sites are acting as arbitrageurs, repackaging vanilla content which everyone else has. Didn't the Sviners look at Google News, as I did, and get frustrated that pages and pages of search results would be filled with the same frakking AP story posted to hundreds of different news arbitrage sites? Even Google, notorious for being slow to correct zero-day beta release design flaws, woke up to that glaring bug after a while, but New Svine is basing its content around a vanilla AP feed.

I was having this discussion with an executive from a New Svine competitor the other day, urging him to empower users to take over his site and make it their own. Mainstream news content can not be the sole focus of your site any more - that has been done too well by Google, Yahoo and the other major portal players. Any site with sub-billion capitalisation has to accept that they can't out-aggregate GEMAYA by mimicking newspaper sites. If a bunch of communist Eastern European women librarians end up ruling your site, that's a good thing.

(For those who think I'm being nasty by bestowing the New Svine label, I assure you it's a time-honoured tradition for journos to give competing publications pet names, and it's more affectionate than nasty. I'm a nice bloke, really!)


Anonymous Jens S. said...

Hmmmm. Tinfinger. Sounds like "Sin Bringer". That's fun, let's make up nonsense names for companies we fancy as our competitors. What do you guys do again?

And what's a svine?

What's the point of this post?

11:06 am, January 08, 2006  
Blogger Paul Montgomery said...

Come on Jens, you can do better than that mate. I've already thought up several more abusive names for Tinfinger.

5:06 pm, January 08, 2006  

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