How To Filter The Social Web On Your Mobile

In this fifth and final installment of our How To Filter The Social Web series, I'm looking at a mobile service called Prismatic. It's a slick looking website and iPhone app that filters social news for you. Filtering news on mobile has traditionally been a tough nut to crack - and there's no shortage of startups that have attempted it. Feedly, My6sense, Pulse and Reeder have been some of our favorites in recent times. Unlike three of those apps, Prismatic is not available as an Android app (although that is apparently coming). Despite this drawback, Prismatic offers fresh ideas for filtering news on mobile.

The premise behind Prismatic is that you connect to one or more of your social networks, then it will create a personal newsfeed based on your interests. It's not quite as simple as that though. You first need to add your social networks and then select news sources and topics from suggestions that Prismatic makes.

You can do the initial setup in the iPhone app, but there are more options on the website - for example adding a connection to your Google Reader account. I found this rather confusing, since it wasn't clear on the mobile version that there was actually a Google Reader connection. Also the navigation took some getting used to, on both platforms. For example, you access the home screen on mobile by swiping from the right of the screen to the left. But despite these minor problems, eventually I managed to select a bunch of news sources (such as ReadWriteWeb and Wired) and topics (such as "Innovation" and "Health Care").

Let's now look at the reading and browsing experience on the iPhone app. The app presents you with a home screen that looks like this:

One of the challenges of news browsing on mobile is how to present multiple topics or folders on such a small screen. Other mobile news apps, like Feedly and My6sense, take the approach of utilizing Google Reader's folders. To its credit, Prismatic is attempting to go beyond the folder metaphor. By listing your most recent topics first - and making a 'More' button available if you want to browse more topics - it does a good job of showing you your main interests.

When you click on a topic, this is the kind of screen you see:

To read a story, click on it. Another nice touch is that within each story, there are a few relevant tweets - which you can re-tweet, favorite or reply to.

Topic discovery is also nicely done. You can find new topics via tags on stories, or by browsing "Global News" and "Suggestions" (the latter comes from your social network connections).

The Verdict On Prismatic

In June of this year, I chose Feedly as ReadWriteWeb's recommended mobile RSS Reader. But in all honesty, I haven't used Feedly much since then. That's because I generally don't do targeted browsing on my iPhone. However I sometimes do serendipitous browsing, usually on Flipboard's iPhone app when I have a few minutes to spare. In other words, I tend to use my phone for very casual browsing and not so much for digging into topics of interest.

So where do I do most of my topic browsing? On the computer, using Google Reader and some of the services I've mentioned previously in this series (Webicina, Reddit, Engagio and Bottlenose). I then either read the story on my computer, or save it to Instapaper for reading later. So while I do a fair amount of reading on my phone - usually in Instapaper - I prefer the power of my computer for targeted browsing.

I like Prismatic, it has a nifty design for mobile and the navigation is better for topics than the likes of Feedly and my6sense. But I'm skeptical that I'll find much use for it. As with the other apps in this series, check back with me in a month's time to see if I'm still using it. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on Prismatic and how it compares to other mobile RSS readers.

Series Summary: 5 Social Media Filters To Check Out

  1. Webicina (niche content example; in this case health)
  2. Reddit (community topic filter)
  3. Engagio (Gmail integration)
  4. Bottlenose (automated topic filter)
  5. Prismatic (mobile filter)