Could a more eye-catching approach to syndication make RSS more accesible to mainstream users outside the geekosphere? Two new websites have just launched that rely on such a strategy gaining traction.
Spectives and Readfresh are the sites in question, and both offer thumbnail images and a limited amount of text. Readfresh monitors sites and brings the most recently updated sites to the top of a user's page, allowing users to see what's new at a glance. Spectives, on the other hand, gives users "one page, a lot of pictures, updating constantly" from RSS feeds and websites. Read on for a side-by-side comparison and our assessment.
These sites did remind us a bit of Guzzle.it or Lazyfeed. The major difference, however, is that users are content curators rather than being served pre-packaged feeds based on topics and keywords, which is something we'd wanted in the first place.
In other words, if you already know what sites you want to read, but Google Reader makes you cross-eyed and/or frustrated, either one of these sites might be great for you to try.
One thing we love about Spectives is that it takes the tech out of subscribing to RSS feeds. Users can add a feed or type in a web address and click a link for the feed or feeds for that page. The content then appears in a user's "collection" of feeds with no futher fuss.
Content consists of a post title as well as a thumbnail of an image pulled from the post.
Here's a quick, one-minute demo video:
And here's what our collection looks like:
But be warned: Only sites and feeds where Spectives can find images will be added to a user's collection. So it might not work for some types of feeds. And with this stipulation comes a couple bugs.
We were beyond disappointed and slightly confused that the site couldn't find images on Penny Arcade and for some reason, the site bugged out once when we tried to add Questionable Content to our collection and once again when we tried Awkward Family Photos.
One thing we love about Readfresh is that it doesn't rely on RSS feeds to serve updated content at all. Users simply enter the URL of the websites they want to track, and content is served, with a thumbnail of each website gliding to the top of the stack when the site shows new content.
According to the developer, Emil Schutte, Readfresh "uses a combination of text and image analysis to decide when a site has changed. That's where most of the interesting work happens. It attempts to zoom in on new content in the thumbnail image when a site updates. The results right now are usually pretty good, but it depends on the site.
"It also has some smarts to discover changes as quickly as possible without flooding sites with pings all the time."
Indeed, Readfresh seemed to do really well at serving timely content. However, users will see one thumbnail per website as opposed to one thumbnail per post, and each thumb links to the site itself, not to an individual post.
Also, we can't figure out a way to share our Readfresh collections, which is a disappointment, indeed.
Who Wins in a Sudden Death Round?
As of now, each site offers unique benefits. We like Readfresh's implementation of non-visual content and sites without RSS feeds. We also like Spectives' post-by-post updates, which will surely make content easier to keep track of. Both offerings need work, as newly launched products, and Spectives seems particularly buggy.
So which site wins you over, readers? Let us know what you think about these two products and visual RSS in general in the comments.