By Jason Snell
October 23, 2014 9:14 AM PT
Nuzzel uses your social network to find news
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
I launched this site less than a week after leaving my job of 17 years. I figured it would be a major life change in numerous ways, but in terms of the actual job of writing about technology there was one change that concerned me the most: being more aggressive about finding interesting links.
Link posts are part of the currency of sites like this. Not only do they serve a good purpose—pointing you at stories that are worth reading—but they afford me the opportunity to add a brief comment on them without just rewriting the story. Stories about other people’s stories are the worst.
Generally I’ve assumed that the best way to be a link miner was to subscribe to a bunch of obscure (but good) RSS feeds. I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading RSS. In truth, I was never very good at it. Twitter became my RSS reader, because I follow a bunch of interesting people who follow a bunch of interesting people, and using those people as my own personal filtering service seemed to make sense.
When I went out on my own I tried to get my own RSS-reading habits cranked back up, and I’m still working on that, on Mac and iPad and iPhone alike. But those efforts have slowed a bit due to my discovery of a fantastic service that uses those same links on my social network: Nuzzel.
I was pointed to Nuzzel by listener Shep G., who heard me complaining about my lack of good RSS habits on episode 2 of Upgrade. Nuzzel is a free web site and iOS app that mines your Twitter and Facebook networks and shows you the newest or most popular links.
While I enjoy reading Twitter, I follow too many people (and have become too busy) to be a Twitter completist. This means I miss links. And though Safari’s Shared Link feature can filter out every tweet that doesn’t contain a link, it’s still just providing a chronological list of Tweets.
What Nuzzel does well is sort and filter and group the links in interesting ways, and present them as nicely formatted news-story items—not as tweets. The filtering makes a big difference. I can, for instance, see all links from the past four hours that have been recommended by two or more friends. This has a tendency to float the most interesting stuff to the very top.
I’ve found that Nuzzel has also displayed worthwhile stuff from my Facebook network, which surprised me. I don’t visit Facebook very often (sorry, Facebook friends), but I don’t mind seeing links that are going viral in that crowd. Since I’m not checking Facebook every day, I would miss them otherwise.
Another clever thing about Nuzzel is its ability to expose links from the friends of your friends. Today on Twitter, I take advantage of this secondary network by reading tweets that my friends have decided to retweet. That’s good, because they’re (usually) endorsing that information as being worth my time by passing it on in that way. Nuzzel lets you dive into everything your friends see, whether they recommended it or not. There’s a lot more noise in this approach—I see some pretty weird stuff when I flip to this view—but sometimes the pretty weird stuff is also pretty awesome.
I’m not sure Nuzzel is good enough to be my only news source—it does a bad job of highlighting obscure stuff that hasn’t yet hit it big. Part of my job is to find that stuff, so I’m trying to use RSS as a secondary source, one that provides me with items from blogs that are less likely to float up on Nuzzel, such as personal sites from interesting people.
Chances are good that most of you don’t need to feed a website audience with interesting links. But if you want to read interesting links, personalized for you via your own social networks, I recommend giving Nuzzel a look. There’s a new version of the Nuzzel app out today, which adds a Today Widget for iOS 8 and (at long last!) iPad support.
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