UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for February 4th, 2011

Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 February 2011

At about 7am this morning I noticed an interesting Facebook status update from Kerim Friedman, an anthopologist I’d met in Taiwan a few years ago. The status update came from a tweet from @Kerim:

If you use Twitter as your news reader, you really should try the “Smartr” iPhone app: http://smartr.mobi/ Nicely done!

This sounded interesting so I installed the app on my iPod Touch – and was impressed. As described in a pithy summary in a post on Mashable a few days ago “Smartr is a news reader for Twitter on the iPhone“. The post went on to add:

Instead of seeing tweets, the Smartr user views a Twitter feed filled with news snippets. “It’s a lens on top of your Twitter Feed,” says Factyle founder Temo Chalasani.

Users can click on updates in the filtered Twitter stream to read a Smartr reformatted, ad-free version of the article, share it with Facebook, Tumblr or Posterous, and choose to save it in-app or via Instapaper or Read it Later.

I tried it and was impressed. Later at work I created a Twitter list of official Twitter channels from a number of JISC services of particular interest to me. This provides a stream of official summaries of work from the various services, including links to further information, as illustrated. As can be seen this provides a summary of various reports, blog posts, news items, etc. In effect this provides the metadata for the resources and a link to the resources. But what of the resources themselves? The links need to be followed and, if like me, you use a device such as an iPod Touch you may download your tweets (and email messages and blog posts) before you head off to work to read on the bus, but aren’t able to follow any links whilst offline.

Smartr, however, follows the links to resources in your main Twitter feed or feeds in any Twitter lists you have created – i.e. it provides access to the data rather than the metadata. As illustrated the app provides a summary of the first few lines of the resource, which can then be viewed in full and also saved for reading later.

I’m impressed. In particular I think it will be useful for use with official Twitter feeds for which there is likely to be some consistency in the links which are shared, unlike the Twitter feeds from one’s followers which is likely to be a mixture of work and social links being shared (and if you follow people from around the globe they may be sharing their social interests during our working day).

This use of official Twitter accounts for resource sharing and ease of access on mobile devices is very interesting – and goes against the suggestions from Ferdinand von Prondzynski, former President of Dublin City University and forthcoming Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Robert Gordon University who, in a post on Institutional Tweets criticised typical institutional use of Twitter since “all tweets are …. announcements, either of some research project or other or of something the university wants to sell“; Twitter, he seems to feel, is a social medium and such only be used for conversations and not broadcasting. I disagree – Twitter, like all IT applications, is a tool and if it can be used successfully in novel ways I would applaud such innovation.

But, like Robert Murdoch’s The Daily newspaper for the iPad, is such innovative use proprietary? Not necessarily as it’s based on open data (tweets and links) and applications to read such information can be developed on any platform and there are other applications, such as paper.li, which provide similar functionality. For me Smartr seems  to provide strengths in being designed for a mobile device and I can see myself using it until competition catches up and provides similar functionality for my Android phone.   But to not make use of it because it is not cross-platform would deprive me of a potentially useful service.

Still unsure? Why not watch the video which is available on YouTube and embedded below. And if you’d like to install it visit the Apple iTunes store.


NOTE: On 5 March 2012 I received the following email:

Dear user,
Unfortunately, the Smartr team is moving on to new things and is unable to support its continued development. With a heavy heart, we will be pulling the plug on the service on the 15th of March @ 1pm EST.

Although Smartr no longer exists, I think it did provide an indication of a new generation of personalised newspaper, which could provide content based on Twitter feeds.

Note added on 22 August 2012.

Posted in Twitter | 9 Comments »