Even though we’ve now spent 10 years using RSS to deliver news to our desktops and mobile devices, the feeds are remarkably difficult to manage. We’ve identified several projects that would reduce the amount of time reporters spend managing and skimming hundreds of feeds, while improving their ability to extract knowledge from the constant flow of often-repeated information. Here are a few parts of that project.
ARCHIVE and SEARCH: News isn’t just what happened today. It also putting the past into context, identifying trends, common threads or deviations from what happened before. Although feature-rich RSS readers are plentiful, we have found none that offer a simple archive of entries that allow searching and sophisticated filtering or faceted browsing of the feeds from a browser, desktop or mobile app.
REDUCING REDUNDANCY: Journalists often cover areas or beats that require keeping up with 150 or more different sources, many of which simply re-hash information without adding much original reporting. They’re less interested in breaking news — what everyone is talking about — than in the nuggets everyone else might have missed. Existing RSS readers don’t help with that, with their presentation of feeds limited to source and time. We’d like to find a way to surface more knowledge out of the overload of information.
Here, we’re thinking of Google News turned upside-down. Instead of breaking news clustered by story, we’d look for the oozing news by story that comes through the feed every week. Instead of the most popular and urgent stories migrating to the top, we’d like to see the ones that no one else followed up — the ones that might prove interesting or unique. We’d even like to explore the notion of the “newsworthy algorithm” — a way to formalize a reporter’s sense of what’s worth reading and what’s not.
Contact us to get a list of more than 100 feeds that a North Carolina state government reporter would follow that we can provide as test data to anyone interested in tackling the problem.