Twitter’s Discover tab is a dream that never quite came true. Designed to help tweets break free from the tyranny of chronology, the Discover tab promises to bring you news of the day from the people you follow, the people those people follow, and other major events from the day. But Discover suffers from the same chaos that the main timeline has — it’s one more stream with no discernible order or organization. If you were away from Twitter for a day, browsing it could give you an impressionistic view of what you missed. But it seems like there should be a better way.
For more than a year now, Jonathan Abrams has been trying to build one. Abrams, who is best known as the creator of the early hit social network Friendster, is the developer behind Nuzzel, a daily recap of your social media feeds that brings an element of the RSS reader to Twitter and Facebook. The service, which comes out of beta today, is an easy way to see what your friends are talking about. I’ve used the service for more than a year, and it’s a surprisingly effective tool for staying on top of the news.
A surprisingly effective tool for staying on top of the news
Nuzzel is powered by simple arithmetic. Log in with Twitter and Facebook, and it will count up the number of times a link is shared among your friends over a 24-hour period. Visit Nuzzel.com or wait for its daily email each morning (as I do), and you get a list of the top five or so stories of the past day. Where apps like Prismatic and Zite have focused on finding hidden gems you would never discover otherwise, Nuzzel highlights the stories everyone is talking about.
Nuzzel also goes a step further, highlighting stories popular among friends of your friends and from prominent Nuzzel users. These stories serve as an interesting way of helping people take a step beyond their traditional bubbles to learn something new. You can also browse the feeds of any Nuzzel user to see what stories mattered to them enough to be shared; reading through investor Mark Cuban’s feed might give you some insight into startups, for example, or browsing California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s could keep you up to speed on Democratic party politics.
Nuzzel has one key drawback: while it shows you the top stories of the day, it doesn’t do a great job of showing you the conversation around those stories. After a big breaking story — Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp for $16 billion say — I want more than just news links. I want the commentary, criticism, and wisecracks about the news. Abrams say he is open to the idea of bringing commentary into Nuzzel, but it would require more human intervention than the four-person company can provide at this point.
Soon Nuzzel will release an iPhone app that will let users browse their feeds on the go, and will also send push notifications whenever a critical mass of your friends share the same link simultaneously. (The principle is similar to Twitter’s MagicRecs experiment.) Until then, Nuzzel is a fun, free tool that can help you enjoy social media more — by letting you step away from it without worrying you’ll miss something.