Newsvine and news as a social object

Thinking back to NMK, Dan Gillmor showed off Newsvine as an example of the transition from the Daily We to the Daily Me. Newsvine user Aine asked me what I thought about the site.

I’ve had an account on Newsvine for more than a year now and visit the site from time to time. I can’t say that I’m a frequent or heavy user. When I first opened the account last year, I found it difficult to understand its purpose. It didn’t have the clarity of sites such as Techmeme, Tailrank, Digg or Reddit, but I’ll be the first to cede that Newsvine was trying to do a lot more than simply recommend and vote on stories.

Thinking back to Jyri of Jaiku’s presentation at NMK, initially I thought the site wasn’t clear enough in giving users visual cues as to what to do. As Jyri said:

Define your verbs that your users perform on the objects.

However, the site has come a long way in the last year. The visual cues are stronger. The navigation and purpose seem clearer, and I’ve been impressed with the community building that the Newsvine team has done. There are few news organisations who really demonstrate the understanding of the outreach necessary to boot-strap a community site. News organisations usually focus on the content and not the community. Community doesn’t come free.

Newsvine isn’t like most news community sites, but it has features that more news sites should adopt. To encourage participation and community, news sites need to highlight the participation to encourage participation.

Another thing that has impressed me about Newsvine is how quickly the site iterates. They are constantly pushing forward new features, and for the most part, the features they have launched are focused on driving participation: The groups, the use of attention data showing what topics are hot and the live updates that make the site seem alive.

I still think that the site might be trying to do too much. I think they could do more with less. I still think that the visual cues might be stronger to guide users through the site. Maybe the site itself needs to clarify its focus a little more, but the site is a unique experiment in news as a social object.

As I said, I’m not a heavy Newsvine user. These are observations more as an observer of the Newsvine community than a member of it. I’d be interested in hearing the experience of others have had with the site.

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