I used to be addicted to my RSS reader. Now I basically never use it anymore. I’m not sure the last time I had Google Reader open, but it’s just the backend for Reeder now. And even that is just my “catch all” to check quickly at the end of the day.
Instead, I use Twitter, and Facebook, and Tumblr, and Flipboard, and Pulse, and Techmeme to catch up on the news. I used to think I’d miss things this way. But I don’t. If anything, I get the news faster because humans are faster at tweeting things than Google Reader was at delivering the feeds.
The problem with this method of scanning the news is that it’s not all that scanable. For every news story, there will be 20 other personal tweets or status updates from friends.
At a high level, Wavii takes a look at the news being published on the web and extracts the key elements of any story. It then presents this information in Facebook Newsfeed-esque snippets. So, for example, if “Rovio Mobile warns that fake versions of Angry Birds contain malware designed to attack your Android phone.” — an actual Wavii snippet right now — you can easily read that rather than having to read an entire 500-word story on the issue, hunting for the facts.
While that sounds simple enough, it’s not a trivial problem. It’s a data problem that involves scanning all the news and gathering the correct subjects and verbs to spit out the news in a concise manner.
And the real power behind Wavii is the connections made by way of these nouns and verbs. You can follow news about Facebook and/or Instagram and see every time Wavii finds a story about those companies across the web. Or you can follow “acquisitons” and get the news when any acquisitions happen.
And, of course, you can comment, share, and “like” these news items (with Path-like emoticons).
Publishers will undoubtedly worry that displaying information this way will lead to less people reading their stories. But it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Wavii won’t work without those stories. They’re incentivized to try to get people to click-through to read the full stories. Their goal is to help people scan information quickly and allow them to decide what they’d actually like to read.
It’s the early days, but this system works well. My ideal use case for this is mobile. I’m constantly going from meeting to meeting now and often only have a few minutes in between to scan the news. Again, Twitter isn’t ideal for this. Techmeme is the best at this, but it only nails tech and is still at the mercy of a good headline. Many posts simply don’t have good headlines to convey what they’re trying to convey quickly — like this post, for example. And ledes are often buried — again, like this post.
Wavii’s iOS app — slow loading times aside (they’re working on it) — is completely scannable in a few minutes. I’m following 114 topics at the moment and it’s getting pretty good at a general overview of information I care about. It will get better.
RSS has never been more dead to me.