App.news: Perfect Fix for News Junkies

Information overload is a major headache. With a huge surge in the amount of user generated and professionally created content, it’s getting tougher to find the right type of content that aligns with our interests. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter try to bring some sanity by providing content from the people you know (or want to know).

Relying on a circle of friends and peers isn’t going to solve the problem of content discovery altogether, though. There got to be a better way to curtail the inflow of news from sources that are irrelevant, but at the same time helping us identify new and hidden gems in the rough. App.news tries valiantly to solve the content discovery problem over at the Twitter competitor App.net.

Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

A Global Stream

Two cheers to the developers for not forcing a sign up or login form at launch. You’ll understand the meaning of a real-time firehose by watching the the app’s Global Stream. Links start pouring in by the second and is an absolute delight if you are an information junkie. Better yet, if you are a news blogger, there is a better chance that you’ll break news faster than ever.

The unabated stream of content is amazing. At the same time, it’s something that many of among us need to get used to. When the content refreshes this fast, it gets difficult to keep up and a pause button of sorts will make our lives a lot more easier. I do have to note that unlike other Twitter/App.net centric apps, App.news does a great job at helping you distinguish between read and unread content.

The Global News stream and a steady inflow of torrent links

The Global News stream and a steady inflow of torrent links

A tiny indicator to the right of each link changes color whenever there is change in it’s state. And thankfully, the links from the duration you have missed or not opened the app can be accessed by tapping the plus button in the timeline. Couple of brownie points for smart thinking from developers even in a version 1.1 app!

Quality of News Sources

The variety of content type and the originating sources are maddening. One minute you see links from outlets such as Forbes, Techcrunch, BBC and the like, and suddenly there is a bizarre link from a tumblog on a random topic. That said, the source of news is a matter of concern as well. When I was using the app, I found a bunch of torrent file download links for popular movie and TV shows in the timeline. I get it, the core idea behind the app is to bring all the inks shared at App.net in front of you in real time. And you can’t really blame the developers for implementing the idea without any compromise.

Managing accounts and filtering articles by language.

Managing accounts and filtering articles by language.

Besides, I didn’t come across any links to adult content and that could be because folks using App.net aren’t into that kind of stuff. However, to avoid issues related to copyright and age appropriate content down the line, a filter to blacklist the source that’s spreading inappropriate links should be added at the top of the development roadmap. Right now you have the option to filter content only by language.

Another problem which totally isn’t the app’s problem per se is duplicate content. When there is something interesting happening, a handful of links related to the topic show up at the same time. That could be an indicator that it’s a trending topic, but is a nuisance nonetheless.

Accessing Content

Reading content from the Global Stream works like any other Twitter client. Tap on an item to see the details view with the name of the source, the handle that shared it, timestamp and a brief description of the article. The article can be read in full either by tapping the dedicated web view button in its full glory or a stripped down mobile friendly version.

Accessing news from the stream and sharing with others.

Accessing news from the stream and sharing with others.

A quick visit to the Settings screen will help you create streams based on topics that you’re interested in. For example, if you add the hashtags for ios and Android, App.news will filter results based on these hashtags. If you login with your App.net account, links shared by the ones who you follow can be accessed in a single click.

Personalised news streams based on hashtags.

Personalised news streams based on hashtags.

The content sharing options were decent. There is an option to add Pocket account to the app to read articles later, but I couldn’t find the icon or button to achieve that from inside the app.

Final Thoughts

App.news is a simple, yet powerful idea to make content discovery efficient at App.net. The app is definitely usable, but a poor user interface brings down the overall experience by many notches. The choice of color theme and the design elements like icons, buttons etc. are questionable at best. Besides, the ads that show up at the bottom add to agony. And, $2.99 to remove ads (via in-app purchase) is definitely costly.

Frankly speaking, normally apps with such below par user interface design won’t get a review here at iPhone.AppStorm. Still, App.news has qualified based only on its merits and the degree to which it makes content discovery fun. Now, my only advice (and request) for the developers is to rework the interface to give it a better chance at making it big in the content discovery space.


Summary

A news reader for the links shared on App.net. It turns the stream of posts into a stream of articles.

8