News app Nuzzel is giving users a more topic-based approach to reading the news, through a new feature called Custom Feeds.
Created by Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams, Nuzzel’s big selling point is simplicity — it shows you a feed of the most-shared stories among the people you follow on Twitter (or your friends on Facebook). There’s no complicated setup and no sophisticated attempt to understand your interests. There are just a straightforward rundown of the big stories that your friends are talking about.
Of course, that approach can also limit the news you see. For example, my Nuzzel feed skews pretty heavily towards tech news — and hey, I like tech news, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more politics and culture in the mix too, especially when I’m not working. And while Nuzzel has offered other options like looking at news shared by friends of friends, there was still no way to focus on a particular topic.
That’s what the company that is trying to address with Custom Feeds, by allowing users to create Nuzzel feeds based on Twitter lists (and eventually other sources). So if there’s a list of people from the wine world, Nuzzel can create a feed of the stories they’re tweeting about — and the result, presumably, will be largely wine-related.
In his blog post about the new feature, Abrams describes this as “a social aggregation approach,” contrasting it to other news aggregators that use “human editors or machine learning.”
Put another way, Nuzzel is assuming that if there’s a list that’s all tech reporters, you’ll end up with a lot of tech news. And judging from the feeds highlighted in Abrams’ post (including this one based on investor/tweetstormer Marc Andreessen’s list of tech industry figures, and this one based on Little Bird co-founder Tyler Gillies’ list of people who tweet about beer), this approach seems to work, though I still wonder if unrelated stories creep in there occasionally.
To be clear, these feeds weren’t necessarily created by Andreessen or Gillies — they’re just based on their public Twitter Lists. Which might seem kind of odd, but it also means you can take advantage of someone’s curatorial skills even if
they’re not a Nuzzel user themselves. they aren’t taking the time to create custom feeds themselves.
Update: In an answer to my emailed questions, Abrams clarified that every custom feed comes from someone who signed up for Nuzzel and authorized it to access their Twitter account — but the feeds themselves are automatically created from Twitter lists.
He also had this to say about whether off-topic news might creep into a feed:
The beauty of the Nuzzel algorithm used with a decent number of people as inputs is that the noise gets filtered out of the top of the feed. The first couple of pages of stories, which is what 99% of people would see, has the stuff that many people shared, so that stuff is usually on topic. And some times there is stuff that may appear unrelated but really is relevant when you read it.