Google Reader 另一代替品 Digg Reader

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文章分類 : Apps, Blog, Google

花了幾個小時試用了一下 Digg Reader 的 Web 版和 iOS 版,對這款僅用 3 個月打造出來的產品感到印象深刻。通過與 Digg 總經理 Jake Levine 的交談,我確信 Digg Reader 將會在 Betaworks 重塑在線新聞未來的使命中扮演重要角色。

Digg Reader3

花了幾個小時試用了一下 Digg Reader 的 Web 版和 iOS 版,對這款僅用 3 個月打造出來的產品感到印象深刻。通過與 Digg 總經理 Jake Levine 的交談,我確信 Digg Reader 將會在 Betaworks 重塑在線新聞未來的使命中扮演重要角色。

當然,這款產品並非 Google Reader 的純粹替代品。Google Reader 標準的搜索、標記及諸多定製化瀏覽方式目前尚未實現(但正在研發),而 Digg 團隊也還在摸索實現更大的服務網上新聞願景的辦法。但即便如此,Digg Reader 依然展現出了許多潛能。

目前這個版本只要用家用 Google 賬號登錄即可直接導入 Google Reader 數據,不需要也不能通過上傳 OPML 文件的方法。這是因為 Digg 團隊不能確定 7 月 1 日後 Google 會如何處理數據導出功能。跟 Feedly 類似,Digg Reader 目前也沒有導出功能。不過 Levine 說 OPML 導出功能會在不久後提供,因為他們希望成為一名良好的數據公民。

在導入數據後,Digg Reader 體驗目前聚焦在極簡和不介入用家使用方式上。所有 Google Reader 的關鍵綁定均原封不動。對於那些高級的 Google Reader 用家來說這應該是極好的。

用家可以列表或擴展視圖的方式瀏覽 feed。Google 的「趨勢」在 Digg Reader 這裡為「 Popular 」所代替。其算法由 Digg 自己的數據科學家設計,同時還利用了自己 app 和網站的反饋數據。文章按照訂閱源根據興趣進行排名。未來 Digg Reader 將會引入更多的社會化線索來通知算法和排名。

如預期那樣,媒體播放是內嵌在文章之中的,選錄的 feed 也可在新標籤頁打開。在 Digg Reader 中,用家通過 Facebook 或 Twitter 賬號共享文章,並將文章保存到 Instapaper(歸母公司 Betaworks 所有)、Pocket 或 Readability 上。Levine 稱 Digg 願意支持其他的稍後閱讀服務。

Digg Reader 和 Digg 主站也支持先存後讀。用家點擊某一書籤即可保存。保存的條目在 Digg Reader 和 Digg.com 中均可見。如果將 Pocket 或 Instapaper 賬號與 Digg 關聯,則在 Digg 保存的文章也會被保存到那些服務商。這一點是 Google Reader 本身沒有做到的。

用家還可以瀏覽「 Digg 」進來的 Google Reader 的文章。要想 Digg 正在閱讀的文章,可以點擊 Digg 按鈕或按下「 d 」。Digg 提供了用家 Digg 或保存的條目的公共或私有 RSS feed。對於希望發佈自己「喜歡」文章清單的高級用家來說這也是一個好功能。

當然,桌面只是用家閱讀和消費新聞的其中一個地方。任何新聞閱讀器要想贏得用家都必須有移動應用或支持第三方移動應用。本週二,帶 Digg Reader 支持的 iOS 版 Digg 就將推出,而 Android 升級版也會在 7 月底面世。

我在 iPhone 和 iPad 上都體驗了一下 Digg Reader,感覺設計不錯,很直觀。當然,這一點並不奇怪,因為其背後是跟出色的新聞發現應用 News.me 一樣的開發團隊。令人驚喜的是移動版也能導入 Google Reader 的設置。移動版允許瀏覽 feed,閱讀文章,Digg,也允許將文章保存或分享到別處,但是它不允許刪除 feed 或目錄。跟桌面版一樣,鏈接可發送到 Instapaper 或 Pocket。

不過 Digg 並不希望只有自己玩轉移動解決方案。在被問到 Digg 團隊是否仍會為開發者提供 API 來支持同步時,Levine 明確回答是的。

而因為 Google Reader 宣佈關閉而獲得數百萬用家的 Feedly 也宣佈將會與第三方開發者合作。

Levine 估計,Digg 目前大約一半的流量來自移動,但是他期望桌面能貢獻略多一點的流量,尤其是來自高級用家的。不過團隊很清楚移動在新聞體驗中的位置,也在致力於不讓該體驗淪為二等公民。

在這一方方面,Digg Reader 有望超越需要靠第三方利用未公開 API 輔佐實現移動體驗的 Google Reader。

在 Digg Reader 團隊看來,速度、跨設備支持、同步都是 RSS 體驗的基礎要素。Google Reader 的兩個特點就是速度和穩定性。這兩點有賴 Google 非常出色的基礎設施的支持。而 Digg Reader 要想複製這兩點則存在非常大的挑戰,因為這款產品建構在 AWS 上。

在被問到對系統的支撐容量有多大信心時,Levine 說他們打算按組來加載用家而不是一次一個,這樣就能知道需要增加多少 AWS 實例來滿足用家需求,同時也能找出 bug。向公眾開放的好處是可以更好理解任務的執行情況,從而更好地優化代碼。

但是,讓用家記住 Digg Reader 仍處於 beta 也是很重要的。使用可能會出問題,必須對初期的困難做好思想準備。

儘管 Levine 強調 Digg Reader 的核心功能會保持免費,但是公司打算提供免費增值版的產品也不是什麼秘密。付錢功能將集中在重度 Reader 用家的需求上。這麼做有兩層意義。首先,有一款付費產品可資助研發和持續的產品支持。其次,這有助於用家的穩定感。Levine 說許多用家都有被 Google Reader 拋棄的感覺。

在 Digg 的母公司 Betaworks 對數字新聞描繪的藍圖裡,新聞發現和管理佔據了重要位置。

而閱讀器是建設數據庫將人和算法推薦的力量帶給新聞的一個很好的方式。現在,Digg Reader 和 Digg 基本上是各自為政的,但是也許有一天 Digg.com 的故事會直接出自 Digg Reader 上眾人喜歡的、讀過的或分享過的文章。這樣一來,閱讀器就不僅是是新聞的消費者,而且也成為新聞的編排方式了。這是個不錯的創意。

當然,Digg 並非唯一一家希望接管 Google Reader 的公司。除了 Feedly 這樣的初創企業以外,AOL、Facebook 這些大玩家也有意進入這個市場。

Google Reader 在世時統治了 RSS 的市場。後來,Flipboard 通過一種完全不同的呈現為另一代用家再造了新聞閱讀市場。但是,在後 Google Reader 時代裡,Digg 等玩家面臨的挑戰並非做出不同於 Flipboard 模式的東西,而是要為未來 10 年,而非過去 10 年的新聞設計格局。

Source : Mashable

WITH THE IMPENDING DEMISE OF GOOGLE READER, DOZENS OF COMPANIES ARE HOPING TO FILL THE VOID OF THE NEAR-UBIQUITOUS RSS READER AND SYNCING SERVICE. ONE OF THE MOST PROMISING ALTERNATIVES — AT LEAST FOR POWER USERS — IS THE NEW DIGG READER, WHICH IS OPENING UP IN BETA TO ALL USERS ON JUNE 26.

I’ve spent a few hours using Digg Reader beta on the web and on iOS and I’m extremely impressed with what the Digg team at Betaworks has managed to build in just three months. After speaking with Digg’s general manager Jake Levine, it’s clear that Digg Reader has the potential to play a big role in the way Betaworks as a company reshapes the future of online news.

SEE ALSO: Check Out These Google Reader Alternatives

Make no mistake, Digg Reader is not a drop-in replacement for Google Reader. Standard Google Reader features such-as search, tagging and more customized ways to view items are not available right now (all of those features are in the works) and the Digg team is still figuring out and finessing its larger vision for the world of news. Still, even in this early state, Digg Reader shows lots of potential.

Right now, when you sign into Digg Reader, users are able to import their Google Reader data directly from their Google account. There isn’t a way to upload an OPML file, in part because the Digg team isn’t sure how Google will handle data exports after July 1. It’s also worth noting that like Feedly — there isn’t a way to get your data out of Digg Reader. Levine says that an OPML export option will be added soon because “Digg wants to be a good data citizen and offer users access to their information.

Built For Power Users

After importing your data, the Digg Reader experience is for now, focused on being minimal and staying out of the user’s way. A nice touch is that all Google Reader keybindings work exactly as you expect. This is a great touch for power Google Reader users who have those commands ingrained in their muscle memory.

Users can browse feeds through a list or expanded view — which is exactly like it sounds. In place of Google’s “Trends” section, Digg Reader has an area called “Popular.” Using algorithms from Digg’s own data scientists and feedback from its apps and website, the popular section ranks articles from your subscribed sources in order of interest. It’s kind of a lower level version of the “temperature” ranking that Shaun Inman built-into his fantastic self-hosted RSS reader, Fever, back in 2009. Levine says that in the future, even more social cues will inform this algorithm and its ranking.

Media plays back inline within posts exactly as one would expect. Excerpted feeds can open in a new tab, also as expected. From within Digg Reader, users can share to Facebook or Twitter and save articles to Instapaper (now owned by Digg’s parent company Betaworks), Pocket or Readability. Levine told me that the Digg wants to work with all services and just because Instapaper is under its auspices doesn’t mean it doesn’t want to support or work with other read-later services.

Digg Reader — and the main Digg site — also have an easy way to save items for reading later. Users can click on a bookmark icon and that will designate an item as “saved.” Saved items are visible within Digg Reader and on Digg.com. If you hook up your Pocket or Instapaper accounts to Digg, saving an article on Digg will also save the article on those services. That’s a really nice feature and one that required special hacks or IFTTT plugins for Google Reader.

Users can also view items they have dug in the “Digg” section of Google Reader. If you want to Digg a story you’re reading, you can do that by pressing the Digg button or pressing “d.” Digg offers up a public or private RSS feed of items a users Diggs or saves. This is a nice option for power users who like to publish their “like” lists.

Mobile View

Of course, the desktop is only one place users read and consume news. An integral part of any newsreader is a mobile app or the ability to support third-party mobile apps. An update of Digg for iOS with Digg Reader support will be out on Wednesday and an Android update is due by the end of July.

I used Digg Reader on the iPhone and iPad and found the experience to be well-designed and intuitive. This isn’t a surprise because the Digg team is the same team that built the excellent news discovery app News.me. A nice touch is that even on the mobile version, users can import their Google Reader settings. The mobile version doesn’t allow for deleting feeds or folders (at least, not yet), but it lets user browse feeds, read articles, Digg, save or share them elsewhere. And like the desktop site, links can be sent to Instapaper or Pocket.

The Digg team doesn’t want to be the only mobile solution in town, however. I asked Levine if the team was still focused on offering an API for developers to support its syncing solution. The answer was an unequivocal yes. “We think that products get better and more possibilities are unleashed when you invite others to join in,” he told me.

Feedly — a company that has gained millions of users in the wake of the Google Reader shutdown — announced that it is working with third-party app developers too. Still, having multiple potential endpoints for a syncing solution is not a bad thing. Not at all.

Levine estimates that about half of Digg’s current traffic comes from mobile, but he expects Digg Reader traffic to skew slightly more towards the desktop — especially with power users. Still, understanding the role of mobile in the newsreading experience, the team is committed to not making the experience a second-class citizen.

In this way, Digg Reader has a chance at actually usurping Google Reader, who never had a great mobile experience and relied on third-parties to use an undocumented API to make the best out of the experience.

Building Digg Reader

Two of the hallmark features of Google Reader were its speed and its stability. “The best parts of Google Reader are things that users took for granted because they were reliant on Google’s fantastic infrastructure,” Levine explained. The biggest challenge with building Digg Reader was replicating that sense of speed and reliability but on AWS (Amazon Web Services), rather than Google’ far more advanced infrastructure.

It turns out, keeping things fast and working well across devices is not trivial. Sync is a major challenge as Brent Simmons (original creator of NetNewsWire, one of the first as Brent Simmons (original creator of NetNewsWire, one of the first good RSS readers for Mac and a former employee of NewsGator, a company that did sync really well until Google Reader ruined the market for paid services) explains, yet as Alex Kessinger reiterates, its also an essential part of the RSS experience. It’s equally essential that the service is fast. No one wants to wait around for feeds to load or to update. It should “just work.”

I asked Levine how confident he felt about Digg Reader’s ability to support the influx of new users that are about to hit the system. “It’s a good question, actually,” he replied. “We’re going to start on-boarding users in groups, not one at a time, so that we can know how many more AWS instances we need to spin up to support user demand and to find bugs.” The good thing about opening up to the public is that the team can have a much better understanding of how certain tasks will be used, which can help with optimizing the code.

Still, its important for users to remember that Digg Reader is still in beta. Bugs will happen and there are bound to be some teething problems.

A Business Model

Although Levine stressed that the core features of Digg Reader will always remain free, the company has made no secret of its intention to offer a freemium version of the product. Pay features will be focused on the needs of the heaviest Reader users. The rationale here is twofold. First, having a premium product helps fund development and ongoing support. Second, it helps offer users a feeling of stability. “Lots of users are feeling abandoned by Google Reader,” Levine notes.

He’s right. One of the most common refrains I’ve heard from the heaviest of Google Reader users is that they would be willing to pay for the product to still exist as it does today. The idea of paying for a service as a way to ensure its continued existence is something that begins to make sense after a major tool you rely on disappears. Google Reader was the most recent — and perhaps one of the larger — product shutdowns, but it’s not a unique case.

The Future of News?

Last month, Mashable’s Seth Fiegerman profiled Digg’s parent company Betaworks and its long term focus on digital news. A big part of that future will rely on news discovery and curation.

It occurs to me that a reader is a great way to build out a database that can help power some of the human and algorithmic recommendations for news. For now, Digg Reader and Digg are mostly separate, but I can see a time when stories that appear on Digg.com come directly from stories that are liked, read or shared using Digg Reader. In that way, the reader becomes not just a way to consume news, but also a way to program news. It’s an interesting idea, that’s for sure.

Of course, Digg isn’t the only company hoping to take over the market left by Google Reader. In addition to startups such as Feedly, larger companies are getting into the game too. AOL launched its reader project earlier this week. Facebook is also rumored to be entering the market.

I asked Levine why he thought so many companies were so eager to fill the void left by Google Reader, especially after years of stasis in the overall market. ” I think Google came in and sucked up all the air in the space with Google Reader,” he said. “We’re all bashing Google Reader now, but the truth is, it was a great product and it did stuff nothing else did, plus it was free.” In effect, by so completely winning the battle over RSS, Google Reader inadvertently shutdown the ability for competitors to innovate.

It would take Flipboard — a wholly different take on RSS — to remake the news reading market for a different generation of users. For Digg, and for others, the challenge of the post-Google Reader era will be to make something that is different from the Flipboard model, but designed for the next ten years of news, not the last ten years.

What do you think of Digg Reader? Let us know in the comments.

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Digg Reader

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