River of News Concept

I was having some periodical brainstorming sessions on River of News Concept throughout the whole day today. By itself, the concept is very simple: you just need a newspaper-like list of articles to scroll through. The question is where do you get these articles or news items?

The first level is definitely a feed. Any feed has several items in it, or it isn’t a healthy feed. Having the feed displayed as the list of complete article bodies rather than only their titles, you get a newspaper-like look of it which makes it easier for you to quickly review what’s on. This is what BlogBridge and some other aggregators do perfectly. And now we are close to some more interesting stuff…

The next step is to combine several feeds in one more wide river with more news drifting by. The most natural way of doing this is to group feeds you like and create “the river” for this group or, speaking in terms of user interfaces, click over the group itself to see every article of every feed in that group. In my opinion, though I’m not a usability expert by any means, this approach is slightly limited. It doesn’t allow me to create several “rivers” with different filters and properties for the given set of feeds. Of course, it will work fine for some time and I’ll be pretty satisfied until I realize that it could be better. For example, I might wish to have a river for today’s news only, the small stream with articles about my favorite tool etc. Having tens of feeds merged together into the same unfiltered stream is the most short path to drowning.

What I’ve learned so far is:

  • I need a way to join several feeds together into one virtual feed which I could quickly run through and get the most interesting content for me.
  • I need a way to apply filters to control what’s in this feed.

Pretty simple, yet advanced requirements. At this point, I started to check what our BlogBridge project is missing in order to fulfill my criteria and it comes that not too much. There are several loose ends in Search Feeds (type of Smart Feeds) functionality not allowing me to fully enjoy this whole news drifting stuff:

First and foremost, is that I can’t group all feeds from one guide. Actually I can since today as I implemented it by adding Guide Title property to the Search Feed query builder.

The second is it’s still not convenient to read the news. Any Search Feed should be supplied with the limit value – the number of articles it can have on display. When I have say 100 unread articles all over my subscriptions list and I create a Search Feed with some special criteria (like this: limit=10, status=unread) it shows me top articles only (10 in my case) as required. But when I mark them as read they aren’t being replaced by these in the back list. From one side, it’s correct because if you mark something accidentally and it goes, you won’t be able to get it back easily. On the other hand, I can’t just sit and read – I always need to jump off and get back to the Search Feed again to get another portion of articles.

So, as you can see, we are pretty close to the ideal river of news capable aggregator. There’s just one small step to make. Do you have any ideas on how it could be better to deal with this last problem?