8 September 2009 | Mark Stefik
Once music lovers could “Rip, Mix, and Burn” their own CDs they took control of their listening experiences. Music delivery became personalized as they included just the tunes they wanted. Consumer expectations grew, along with online services for:
The economics and consumer expectations have changed for all digital media (see “Shirky: Problem is filter failure, not info overload“). Digital media consumers now demand more flexibility in getting what they want, stretching beyond traditional broadcasting models which pre-package content into channels.
As personalization, discovery, and sharing come to the news, it needs to be different from “playlists”. People
5-20-60 Rule. I typically take time to read twenty articles a day and to scan sixty. When I’m in a hurry I only have time to read five articles according to my interests.
In exploring these ideas, I draw on the experiences of Kiffets users, who keep up on news in their personal interest areas several times day on their desktops and mobile phones. Kiffets is an online system for social indexing that we are developing at PARC and that recently started beta-release.
A social indexing system:
Kiffets serves up my information diet in terms of the indexes that I subscribe to. For example, the Information Media index covers articles from about 120 RSS feeds and sorts them into topics about technology, markets, and trends. The Jokes index gathers jokes from the web, organized into dozens of categories such as occupation jokes, animal jokes, and situation jokes.
Over time I can add and delete indexes as my interests shift. Each index in my information diet (the My Indexes list, below left) expresses my interest in following stories in particular subject areas.
Kiffets delivers stories similar to Pitkow’s 5-20-60 rule:
Articles are located in a conceptual map to the subject area to guide the curious reader. For example, several articles above are shown under the topic USA / Economy and Trade / Economic Indicators / Foreclosure. The topic hierarchy can be expanded to show additional economic indicators such as Bankruptcies, Consumer Prices, Durable Goods, and nine others. Other conceptual maps are provided by other indexes. In this case, Kiffets shows that there is a related topic in a competing index US News / Economy / Housing Crisis.
Kiffets currently has around 300 indexes in various subject areas. Some indexes are created quickly and have a simple topic structure. Other indexes are maintained by curators who are passionate about a subject area. The topic structure conveys the curator’s perspective and what they think is important.
Users are encouraged to become curators. They can create new indexes and share them with friends and colleagues. Sharing an index is like giving someone a magazine subscription that will continue to deliver articles every day.
My experience with Kiffets has made me more of a news hound than before, because it:
The ideas in this post grew from many years of interaction with the members of PARC’s Human Information Interaction and Augmented Social Cognition researchers. Special thanks to my colleagues Lance Good, Sanjay Mittal, Lawrence Lee, Barbara Stefik, Priti Mittal, and Ryan Viglizzo. Special thanks also to the patient beta-users of Kiffets.
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