User Interfaces for News Aggregators

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I mostly use bloglines to read RSS feeds, though I’ve been seeing some opinions from others on different feed readers, including Peter Da Vanzo’s recent endorsement of Google Reader.

A new Microsoft study, prepared for CHI2007, looks at the features and attributes of different feed readers based upon interviews with 34 participants, who described how they use a feed reader.

The study also tries to come up with some common terms to use to describe feed readers: Taxonomies for News Aggregator Interfaces and User Patterns.

The paper doesn’t go into a tremendous amount of detail on the results of the study, but it does lay out some interesting groundwork for future studies.

Reading through this study made me think a little about how I use Bloglines.

In subscribing to feeds, I usually place them into different categories, and and I prioritize the reading of some feeds in a handful of folders over others. I presently have 795 feeds in 52 different folders.

Most of the feeds I read from blogs, though a few are search-based feeds from locations like Craig’s List, which show new items based upon the results of searches for specific terms.

There are about five folders that I look at a few times a day. Another ten or so I’ll read once a day. I’ll usually go through the contents of the remaining folders around once a week.

The folder that I check on the most often is the SEO folder, and I have 329 feeds in that folder. Most of those are about search and marketing, though there are a few that are completely off topic – to provide a counter balance to all of the SEO talk (for example, Neil Gaiman’s Journal is amongst those.) The majority of the sites in the SEO folder are also in English, though there are a few in other languages, too.

When I read feeds, I’ll sometimes click through to see the original post, and possibly bookmark it, or check to see if there are any comments, or leave a comment myself. If I’m going to click on a link that appears in a feed, about half the time I’ll try to visit the link through the feed reader, and the other half the time I’ll visit the page before following the link.

The paper does describe some strategies others use when reading feeds. It would be interesting to hear more. I wonder if the Bloglines folks are keeping track of how people use their service. I would guess that they are.

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5 thoughts on “User Interfaces for News Aggregators”

  1. Hey Bill – interesting paper, thanks.

    I particularly like the “river of news” idea, which has been hanging around for a while now.

    Any system that facilitates scanning, and reduces management :)

  2. While I admit that I have not had the time or inclination to check out Bloglines or Google’s Reader, etc., I use Netvibes, and it is absolutely fantastic – it has improved my efficiency tremendously!

  3. I like the river of news approach, too. But I can see the attraction of netvibes – it seems pretty well put together. I may have to try it out.

    The pieces seem out there for making Google Reader more than just a feed reader, Richard. Thanks for pointing to that post.

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