nearly 4 years since news aggregation site Techmeme (or tech.memeorandum, as it was called back then) launched to the world. Since then it's grown to be the leading aggregator of tech news in the blogosphere. There have been no shortage of pretenders to the throne over the years, particularly from startups hoping to crack the elusive "personalization" nut. What could be better than a personalized, automatically filtered page of news for you to peruse over your coffee each day? However Techmeme founder, Gabe Rivera, has been consistently skeptical of personalized news over the years, claiming that it's too hard a problem.It's been
DailyPerfect. This app has been built on the company's "predictive personalization technology" and claims to predict what news a user will want to see simply by analyzing the person's name.Well, let's welcome the latest startup to try for a personalized news service:
DailyPerfect hails from Estonia and is an incubator project of investment company Ambient Sound Investments (ASI), who we interviewed earlier this week on ReadWriteStart. DailyPerfect uses behavioral targeting to try and predict a user's interests, through what the company says is "an automated semantic analysis of publicly available information on the web." The company is also releasing an API.
Does it Work?
When you first enter the site, you're asked to enter your name into a textbox. Then you sit back and wait for the personalized news to come rolling in, based on your 'digital footprint.'
The topics that DailyPerfect thought I would like initially were a motley bunch. Some were correct, like 'web 2.0' and 'alternative music.' Some were broad enough to have little chance of not being correct, such as 'History' and 'Fiction.' But there were also some perplexing topics presented to me: for example 'Mining' and 'Benelux countries' (Belgium, Luxembourg or The Netherlands). However the site offers the familiar thumbs up or down beside each option, so you can train the system. The thumbs also apply to individual stories.
There are also options to follow people and websites, which is useful in this age of Twitter and blogging. With websites, you can import your OPML file of websites you subscribe to in your RSS Reader of choice. I entered my Google Reader OPML file, however it only seemed to include a random selection of my feeds.
The site is well designed and the stories were fairly relevant to me. However we can safely say that it's no Techmeme challenger. For one thing it doesn't bind the same story from different sources together, which may be Techmeme's enduring killer feature. Anyone can scan Techmeme and quickly find out what the trending stories are, and what sources either originated it or are the most popular links.
DailyPerfect, on the other hand, appears to select just one source for each story - and it's a mystery how that is done. I saw a few links each to Telegraph, Reuters, and Macworld; along with links to a smattering of blogs, including one ReadWriteWeb story. There was even a Techmeme link in there.
Conclusion: Not Perfect, Maybe Useful
I'm unconvinced by the claims of personalization, semantic analysis and other technical fandangery that DailyPerfect made in its PR. Many new web apps make these same claims, but the proof is in the pudding - and as of now I don't see anything particularly special about the content served up by DailyPerfect.
I can't honestly see myself continuing to use DailyPerfect. It's likely to join the long list of web apps I've tried once and then never came back to. Admittedly, that's probably because I'm an information hound that looks for (and needs, for my work) context in my daily news fix. DailyPerfect may well suit casual news readers who don't require a wide choice of news, but simply a well-picked selection of stories. The question is whether those types of readers want an automated solution like DailyPerfect (other options include the well-established Topix, or a site like PopURLs), or whether they want the human curation touch that aggregator news sites like Huffington Post and CNET offer.
News aggregation and filtering is a crowded field, and DailyPerfect is going to need to do more than throw around words like "personalization," "semantic," and "predictive" if they're to survive and thrive.