Some things I agree with
(or not as the case may be)
Friday, January 6 Newsvine.com - the next generation of collaborative news sites - starts, review + first look!
So, this is something I'm fairly excited about. And for good reason; it's a brand new collaborative news site, designed by the guys behind the fantastic ESPN.com site, and its mantra is to become one of the focal points for reading up on world news. The name: Newsvine.com.
This may sound like a bit of a copycat idea at first. "Oh," you do exclaim, "but Yahoo! News does this. MSNBC.com does this. Google News does this." Why yes, yes it does - but that's where the similarity between these sites and Newsvine.com ends. Let me enlighten you.
The aim of the Seattle-based Newsvine.com is to provide a balanced spread of news from established, reputable news sources including the Associated Press and Reuters - and at the same time, bring in a whole new element of community-based news reporting and commentary. This it achieves quite neatly by bringing in two parallel strands and combining them: the 'seeded' news and the 'wired' news. You register as a member, and then you can 'seed' the vine (nice jargon!) by submitting stories. These can be articles from other news sources which haven't been mentioned yet, or they can be further commentary or crossover news from a major source. It really doesn't matter - the whole point is that the community collaboration, combined with the existing newswires, enriches the breadth and detail of the news reported upon to the point where you don't really need to go anywhere else to read your news.What separates Newsvine from the chaff is that now there exists an almost unparalled level of user interaction, commentary, feedback and discussion on news articles which has never existed before. Newspaper web sites may be featuring blogs, comments and forums now, but these are few and far between, and feel somewhat detached - integration is the keyword for Newsvine's coverage. Everything feels seamless. You can vote up/down articles, you can chat with other users - in realtime! - via an embedded chatroom on each article's page. You have a list of Top Wires and Top Seeds, a list of Most Active Stories, and - one of the best features of all - your own publishing space. You can write up articles, seed them and have them become part of the site itself.
Categorisation is done via tagging articles - you can also add tags to articles if you feel that there are tags missing, a great feature - and the wired articles are pre-categorised. You can syndicate blog contents, allowing you to feature your own news-orientated writings (or those of others) on an existing web site or blog if you already have one established (as I do). Once I get active, I'll integrate my Newsvine feed into this blog.
Let's go take a peek!
Newsvine.com - First Look NB: Click on any of the thumbnails for the full-sized image.
First off, and we might as well - the front page.
Everything you need to get cracking is provided - the main news article of the moment, your popular articles (both seeded and wired), Featured Writers - the most rated and the ones who have seeded the most up to this point - along the right hand side, underneath the Top articles. Access to your member features are all via the left-hand panel, and you can access categorised news via the menu across the top. More on that later.Here's what clicking on the main article gives you:
"But what," I hear you now exclaim, "what if you live in a particular region in the US? I want to get my fill of local news instead of the supersized, all-together world news." Well, at launch, there's a selection of regions in the US (and selectively abroad too, mainly in points of large amounts of news such as Iraq) available from the dropdown box at the top-right of the screen. As I'd been to San Francisco for my holiday last August, I picked SF.
Immediately, you're presented with a customised view of news which is relevant to your area. For example, down the right I can see an article linked from the Guardian (a paper here in the UK) discussing forthcoming Apple keynote speeches, moving to discussion about Steve Jobs and his perfectionist standards (it's an interesting article). The more local news is central - in this case, an article on the San Jose ice hockey team's latest win. The regional pages are updated frequently, as and when new news is published by the newswires or seeded by users. You'll also note each article has many tags, which is really helpful for cross-referencing articles, finding other news of relevance, or just plain finding articles in the first place.
Let's have a gander at the Categories! Why the hell not.
I'm sure more subcategories will be added as time goes on, especially subcats such as Open Source - however, for a starting lineup, the list of subcategories is absolutely massive. You can further define any seeded articles via the usage of more tags on the article, which you can then cross-reference and search.
"I fancy being a journo now," say you. "Let me have a go." Ok, enter seeding:
Bingo, this is what a (fairly simple) seeded article looks like. The author's not been overly elaborate with the accompanying text of this article, but it shows you what you can do. Another nice little feature - on any seeded article, if you click on the light grey arrowbox to the left of the seed's title, it will take you directly to the source URL for the original story. The article's title text is a link back to the same page (for trackback purposes and search engine indexing, I can only imagine). As with any and all articles, seeded or wired, you can add your own comments and/or chat live if anybody else is on the same page. This I was doing in excess of two hours on the Newsvine Blog article page discussing the site's launch - and many of the site's design team and VC joined in! The potential for member interaction is staggering - you can just tell that this featureset is only the beginning. In terms of social interaction, Digg and the like come nowhere close in this author's humble opinion.
Earlier, I was deep in discussion with several of the Newsvine creators, including Josh, Nick (the VC) and another designer hiding behind the group 'Newsvine Team' username. We were discussing new bugs found, forthcoming features, the functionality of existing features, and forwarding first impressions of the site. Everyone in the chat was suitably impressed, and the designers sounded very pleased!
Ok... Let's get more user-centric again. So, you've seeded some articles, written some stuff - what does it look like to others? Well, when you register, you pick a username and all that, but you also choose a name you'd like to be displayed on the site and a name for your unique subdomain on the Newsvine site - what the Newsvine bods have cleverly called your User Column. It's like having your own virtual column on the Newsvine newspaper, and editorial control is all yours. Thing blogging Mk2.0.
The genius of this is that what you write is seeded, and instantly referenceable, you tag your items and they can be searched and cross-referenced in an instant, and if you wish to turn your User Column into a blog proper, you can do that. You don't need a subscription to view any of the content, and your user column is always viewable by your own unique subdomain. I chose 'christopher' for my User Column, thus giving me christopher.newsvine.com (I like to keep it simple).
Finally, we come to the User History - the central location from which you have a complete overview of your interactions onthe site from the moment you register. All your comments are viewable, along with the articles they discuss, your seeds, everything. You can also edit your profile information from this page (also allowing you to write a short Biography for your profile page, which is publicly-viewable).
As soon as you start to use this site, you can just feel that it's going to become something great - it was coded and designed by a team of just five people, but they've really hit upon something special - news in all its forms is nothing without people to read it, and Newsvine lets you do this, along with submitting your own news and discussing everything - all in an instant. News on demand with the key social interaction element. Watch out Digg and del.icio.us, Newsvine ain't no Web 2.0-buzzword-special, it's plan and simple a great idea, and it's coming after all the competition with a vengeance. Brace yourselves, this should get interesting.