I’m a heavy Pocket user, and a big fan of the service and their apps. However, lately I’d been feeling that Pocket had become more a never-again-opened archive of ‘articles I found interesting’ rather than ‘articles to read later’. My Pocket was bulging with loads of articles from years past by, many outdated, others irrelevant, a few real gems hidden under the tons of hay. It was time to act to save my beloved Pocket1.
After a bit of further study, and borrowing from the maxim – you improve what you measure – I decided that I needed two extra features:
Count of unread articles in my Pocket, and
Estimated reading time for each article.
Not finding anything on Chrome Webstore, or Android Play Store, that covered both these points in a single app, I decided to get my own hands dirty.
Last December I started work on Accele-reader for Chrome (formerly Pocket Plus). The target was to add to Pocket the few features that I’d been wanting for a long time (but were too trivial/off-focus for the product team at Pocket to develop):
Read a random article (from my then \*huge\* Pocket list)
Accele-reader was, for my own use, a big success. Article counts, offline adds, and random articles were a bonus, but colour-coded reading time estimates were a big, big win!
However, with the good came the bad – the reading time feature was so good, that I desperately started missing it on the phone app2. A number of users also wrote in asking if I could somehow provide the article reading times on the mobile apps as well. I wasn’t alone.
Last week, another user – Konstantin – wrote in with the suggestion of a clever work-around. And here it is – reading time estimates for articles, now in your Pocket phone and tablet apps!
For consumers of content tags, or #tags, serve two primary functions:
The Follow function: To follow news of interest (e.g. a column with #lbl tweets showing latest updates from the race without me having to follow it live on TV), and
The Filter function: To filter out specific content from the stream for various reasons, such as
to either avoid listening news before we want to (match scores, movie spoilers), or
to avoid getting drowned in updates during big events (SXSW, Google IO, WWDC, IPL, SuperBowl tweets taking over the timeline for brief periods), or
to remove news from the timeline that we’re not at all uninterested in.
Content & platform companies all love the follow function, and have tried to make it as easy as possible for users to access it.
It’s understandable. Apart from allowing easy search, this also presents a straightforward way of targeting advertising to users based on interests. This ability to show relevant advertising – Specialized Shivs to users following IronMan world championships, and the latestBAAS to developers following Google IO – is extremely valuable to these companies.
The filter function, on the other hand, is almost universally neglected. None of the content consumption platforms that I use – Twitter, Google+, WordPress and Pocket – offer any easy built-in way of filtering out content. All of them make it trivially easy to follow specifically-tagged content using tags or #tags.
A large number of popular 3rd party Twitter clients have the feature to filter out specific content, indicating the strength of user demand for the filter function. That 3rd party clients have this feature, also indicates that technical complexity isn’t the reason holding back content platforms themselves from providing this function.
Users want to cut out noise & irrelevant info from their content streams, yet none of the content serving companies make it easy for them.
Are there any technical, UX, business, or legal reasons for most content companies not providing filtering functions, or is it just a conscious, unfortunate, neglect of end user needs?