Spectives Visual RSS Reader

By ranfanranfan (1256528847|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Spectives is the world's first visual RSS browser.

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Spectives launched on October 6, 2009. To get a one minute tutorial, go watch this Vimeo Video.

Overview

Spectives is a new Dutch start-up that aims to offer a new way to look at RSS feeds. It provides a visual RSS reader that displays only images and titles. Using the idea that a picture is a lot easier to analyze and browse than a few sentences, this is meant to be a convenient way to quickly check your feeds.

The idea of browsing more visually is attractive and the service has a clean look and easy user interface. I don’t see it becoming a serious competitor to Google Reader or any of the other feature loaded RSS readers out there but it might appeal to the less techy crowd that just wants to get a quick entertainment fix. To help people put together a personal channel, or ‘collection’, Spectives offers a whole range of pre-selected feeds. I can see a lot of people putting together a few collection quickly and using the service not as an alternative to a ‘normal’ reader but as a nice extra.

Features

It basically allows you to pull just the images from RSS collections, for instance, this technology collection is a subscription to pages like TechCrunch, LifeHacker etc. It shows the images from articles related to the word and if you put mouse over it, you can see the first few lines of the articles.

To the right, it shows tags related to the pages and on the bottom, suggests other collections I may like such as music news and mac.

The site offers some collections "gossip", "news", "funny" and on the home page shows "most popular collections" and "featured collections". For instance, a featured collection is Nature, which is a collection of two sites. I can add this collection as a tab to my account.

Below is a screenshot of the "funny" collection. I really get no sense of "fun" from random pictures like these. For a visual search, I would at least expect some truly "funny" pictures. Not just random pictures pulled from random sites that may or may not be funny. I'm getting little to no information about the content of the site from the image. I can only somewhat judge whether i want to visit the site or not from the title and brief summary when I put my mouse over the image.

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I can also "Make a Collection", but it has to be an "unique" name, so NO ONE else can make a collection called "Nature" because it's taken. So I made a collection called BIT330. Once formed, it offers me a list of suggested feeds in the categories of "news, gossip, business, funny, photography, cool" or the option to add my own website.

I can also save my searches as tabs. For instance, I searched "coffee industry" and the option to save this search as another tab.

It appears that some special syntaxes like "-" can be applied to weed out strange results. Though, due to the general setup of the site, it's very inefficient overall. There also appears to be no option for me to import RSS feeds from my current RSS reader.

New Features Coming

Thy are planning for two important new features; two features that they claim will make sharing and recommending articles easier:

1. We are now designing widgets that make it easier to share collections on your site / blog / Facebook / etc. We really want to hear from you what you would like to see! What should it do? How should it look?

2. Recommending is social these days. That’s why we are planning a way to make every post (every picture) a favorite. Then it will be possible to share favorites automatically (via Facebook / Twitter) and subscribe to a person’s favorites (in a tab) and make a widget from your favorites!

I guess it is still a new site, but I was disappointed with its functions.

Evaluation of Usefulness

I do not find this site useful. Unless you're subscribed to some fashion, photography websites where the image is more important than the actual results, it's pretty much uselessness for everything else. Not all the pictures are relevant to the article, so they're not a good indication of how useful the article would be to you. And it seems that they display any random results as long as the word you're searching for is in it. There are no additional filtering possibilities.

Further, the formation of a "collection" is annoying because of the "unique name" naming rule. What if I also want a collection named "cool"? I don't want to have to make a tab cool01 just because someone else got to it before I did. If there is only a limit of one "cool" collection, then at least other users should get to add the feeds they want to subscribe to onto it. So perhaps have a public "cool" collection and then private ones for individuals.

Conclusions

Above are other tools that use images to make search easier.. but they are more functional. The idea of a visual RSS feed reader is interesting, but it needs to be refined such that the images actually accurately capture or at least point to the general idea of the page someone's subscribed to.

It is definitely a work in progress. Don't really see the usefulness at this point, but will keep an eye out on future developments.

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