Flipboard and I’m Just Not That Interesting

Jul 28 2010

Every time I hit the enter key when submitting a tweet, a blog post, a Gowalla update, or a facebook post, I’m taking into consideration the fact that what I’m about to publish is exactly what someone is looking for. It’s something that is going to do the world some good. To feed someone who is hungry. To help a colleague solve a problem. To give an important tip to a client.

Scratch that. I’m lying. Or I’m just absolutely kidding myself. In fact, if I had a nickel for every time I communicated the need for content awesomeness to a client, or someone communicated that to me, I’d be a rich man. Truth is, I’m frequently a terrible violator of this policy.

We have a design business that helps companies shape their online identities and activate their brands through social media. We’re great at helping others adhere to practices that accomplish these goals, and with a great degree of success. When it comes to “eating my own dog food” for RD2, I could do better (yeah, yeah, cobbler’s children).

Here’s where I’m gonna briefly talk about a new product called Flipboard. I’ve tried hard not to just follow the trends and talk about the hottest new things. For crying out loud, I did not make a peep when the iPhone 4 came out even. But here’s my quick take, so far, on Flipboard.

Firstly, I love the concept. Love the brave approach to data and content visualization they are presenting. I’m disappointed more apps are not pushing the envelope yet in the iPad space. True I have my favorite app list but very few are truly killer. Most are really just a waste of space, or a stain on my iPad that shouts, “look at me, I’m an iPhone app for a larger screen with smooth edges around the button corners.”

Flipboard to me however, is promising. I’m enjoying the social aspect of it, realizing it’s not for posting content but for conversing with my friends. Further, it really does feel like a personalized magazine. There is promise in how they currently integrate streams and it’s pretty obvious they see potential in RSS streams of many types. I’m looking for something that could take over the experience of my Google feed reader. Reeder comes close, but it’s not quite there yet.

So what’s different about my take on Flipboard? As I was alluding earlier in this post, it really got me thinking visually about what I’m posting. Seeing my posts as if they fill up pieces of real estate on pages of a magazine. Are my posts really that interesting? Do they really LOOK that cool on the page? The easiest way to communicate this might be showing a few examples of streamed content that looks cool and reads well on the Flipboard application.

Below is a screenshot of what one of my favorite blogs (bikeexif.com@bikeexif) looks like in their syndicated tweets. Note that you can see the tweet message easily across the top of the post (above the motorcycle images). There’s a link to the actual post that will enlarge in a window right in Flipboard. And finally, the page is very picture rich. This layout actually makes a Honda Rebel, of all things, look pretty good!

Flipboard BikeExif page

Next, here’s a page from the “Design You Trust” feed (ref twitter). This is one of my favorite feeds in the stream list from Flipboard. Notice the editorial feel of the page here. Notice the large photograph on the left side with three stories placed on the right. Each contains just enough eye candy to make the titles and excerpts a little more enticing.

Seems we are getting off to a pretty good start with the way the content is presented. For this post I’ve taken a number of screenshots but don’t want to litter the post with all of them. For more screenshots, I’ve placed them on my flickr account here.

Next, I’m going to show a screen that starts to make a point about the quality of my own content. In the Flipboard “edit” mode I performed a search for my own twitter stream, @cronan. My pals who read this post will likely make fun of me for searching my own stream… You got me, it’s my favorite thing to do, right after searching for myself on Google and looking at my own glamour shots…

Moving on, the point here is that my initial view of content I’m contributing made me think, “I’m really just not interesting or remarkable enough to have my own magazine page on Flipboard.” Below was one of the first pages that came up under my stream. The difference is obvious. Firstly, I know that it’s not likely that my streams will fill anyone’s page, but there’s nothing visually remarkable about these posts other than the typographic layout presented. Compared to the content that is served up on the previous examples, my impression is that I can do better in posting…especially considering that any of these posts might end up being viewed on more advanced visual readers such as Flipboard.

My Flipboard Feed
Then, after some tweaking and thinking a little more about how my posts might be viewed, I came across this page that had some more impressive content from a visual standpoint. Here you can see a few posts that convey a stronger editorial feel with images supporting the headers and excerpts. So far, this is a rare page when looking at how my posts are looking. But it’s definitely better in appearance and more visually stimulating than most of my others.
My Flipboard Feed

So, what’s the gist?
From the minute I received my access to my social media content through Flipboard (my twitter and facebook accounts), I began looking at posts through a more critical lens, identifying what’s interesting and dismissing what’s not. Regarding my own posts, it quickly became visually apparent how UN-interesting some of my stuff comes across. And, no offense to my friends, but Flipboard did not display their content in a visually compelling way either. It’s got me thinking about pruning some people that I’m not in touch with and getting to the content that I really want to give and get from my friends. Furthermore, it’s making me think very deliberately about how MY content might be viewed on the Flipboard pages of my pals.

To me this is a challenge that resonates all the way across the content spectrum. It’s about practicing what I preach surrounding content value and quality. It’s about preparing for those inevitable technologies that help us visualize more content, in less time, and with more enjoyment. These technologies are coming and we’re seeing a nice start in the past week with Flipboard. Additionally, there have recently been rumors on (Mashable Article) about twitter enabling photos and media within message streams. This will further enable us as users to consume content in more creative ways.

Overall, this tool has me thinking about how we can better enable ourselves and our clients to look at the content we/they are putting out there. These tools give us the power to see with our own eyes how interesting we are, or are not. It’s one simple and quick test we can perform before extending more broadly to an audience that will increasingly hold our content to a higher standard. I’m looking forward to seeing more products that push the envelope on how we can make visual sense of our otherwise cluttered online social lives. And, I’m looking forward to being part of that here at RD2.

One Comment to “Flipboard and I’m Just Not That Interesting”

  1. I’m a huge fan of Flipboard! The display makes you interpret and consume content in a whole new way. I like the idea of a magazine truly customized to my needs. Regular sites like BusinessWeek are a better read on Flipboard then their actual site. Plus, I can flip through the articles much faster.

    By Sheena T Abraham on August 30th, 2010 at 10:41 am