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Lazyfeed's New Realtime Interface Tips Into Information Overload

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Today, Lazyfeed, a realtime interest feed reader which launched at our first Realtime Crunchup, is changing its look. Instead of a Google Reader-style interface with a menu of different feeds in the left-hand pane and the actual feed taking up most of the screen, it is taking more of a tile approach. Your screen fills up with tiles as you add interests you want to keep track of (such as “Web,” “iPhone,” “Google,” “movies,” “wine,”) and each of those tiles keeps constantly updating in realtime as new stories about those topics appear on blogs and news sites across the Web.

Lazyfeed is trying to solve the problem of how to present realtime information in the most digestible way. It goes out, scours more than one million blogs and does a pretty good job of matching stories to your stated interests, so it helps you discover new stories you might not have otherwise found. But with the new interface, which should be live later today, you quickly descend into information overload.

With just a dozen topics, you end up with a dozen tiles constantly updating (founder Ethan Gahng calls it “Lazyfeed Squared”). You are supposed to watch the news as it unfolds. There is something pure about this approach which reminds me of how you can watch a topic unfold on realtime search engine Collecta, which also presents information in a realtime stream. But one realtime stream is hard enough to keep up with at one time. Twelve or more just starts to hurt your brain.

Lazyfeed makes it easy to add topics and tries to guess what topics you are interested in based on your current feeds. If you want to dive into a topic, you click on one of the tiles, and then you get a more traditional feed view in lightbox window. It then shows the most recent stories about that topic. You can click again to read the full post or excerpt and can share any post via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

By using the most recent stories as its filter, Lazyfeed does a good job at capturing news as it breaks, but that is not all that it captures.
And here is where Lazyfeed runs into another potential problem. The blogosphere is by its nature a conversational media. People are writing blog posts right now about yesterday’s news, and that tends to overcrowd the actual new information. So you get a third-day story on Google personalizing search results because some random blogger in Lazyfeed’s index decided to write about it three minutes ago. Lazyfeed doesn’t seem to rank stories by authority, so you get a lot of garbage.

I don’t want to harsh too much on Lazyfeed because at least it is experimenting with ways to make feed reading relevant again by injecting more of a realtime flow into the experience. It should be applauded for that and for trying to come up with new visual metaphors for consuming information. But it’s only solved half the problem. The harder part is coming up with a filter for realtime information that goes beyond most-recent-first. I want my feeds to be comprehensive, authoritative, and garbage-free. It’s a tall order that nobody’s yet delivered, but I’m hopeful that startups like Lazyfeed will help us find our way.

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