Voting down innovation

One of the most innovative things that I’ve seen come along in a long time is a service called paper.li.  It breaks the mould in terms of reading content on Twitter.  Rather than providing content as a stream of messages that you latch on to as you connect, it takes a look at the best things from the past 24 hours that your friends have contributed and makes a daily newspaper from them.

Personally, I latched onto this and really liked what I saw.  I haven’t been this impressed with a service for quite some time.  Unless you’re glued to your Twitter reading device, there are lots of things that you miss.  However, paper.li manages to pull the best together  to its newspaper format and it serves as a digest of the things that you may have missed.

You have a couple of options with the finished product – one to read it privately or secondly to share it with your followers on Twitter.  If you elect the latter, paper.li sends a message like this:

image

Follow the link to read the paper.  In the notification, some of the people whose contributions are included appear in the notice.  It’s a way of letting them know that their content has been attributed.  In this case, I’ve created a paper based upon the content of people who are in my Ontario Educators list.  I think it’s a great digest that reflects what’s happening in the past 24 hours from these folks.

But, it’s this attribution that has caused the concern.  The message above sends notification to those Twitter accounts that their content has been used.  Apparently, this has caused some concern among some.  As noted in this article, they felt that they were being spammed.  It was here that I actually felt compelled to comment and had a little conversation with the @paper.li account and one of the co-founders last night.

After all, aren’t you using this service to communicate with others?  Isn’t the whole point to do something that others value?  Don’t you feel valued when someone acknowledges your content?  What’s the difference between this and a notification that you get when someone retweets your message?  Don’t we value the “reach” that sharing and thoughts offer?

Apparently not in some camps.  I think it’s a real shame.  As you’ll notice if you read the article above, the format of the notifications has changed.  The content of the newspaper will remain the same but the acknowledgement to some of the contributors will go away.  So sad!

The programmer in me is so impressed with the format and I’m really impressed with whatever algorithms that are put into place to make this happen.  As noted above, this is truly innovative programming.

I’m sad to see SmallRiver may have caved to pressure from people who didn’t like the format.  While it would have been nice to see the original format maintained, there could have been alternatives.

  1. An opt-out feature – if you are offended that you were being notified, a check box that would indicate that you don’t want to be included in other’s papers could have worked;
  2. Remove the @ sign and just go with the rest of the Twitter name so that acknowledgement is given but notification not;
  3. If it bothers you so much, just block anything from the paper.li account.

It really is disappointing to see the innovative product having to modify its practice so soon after its launch. 

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