Home Semantic Feed Reading With FeedzZ

Semantic Feed Reading With FeedzZ

At first glance, the social news aggregation site called FeedzZ appears to nothing more that an Alltop clone with fewer categories. But look again – FeedzZ is actually doing something quite different than Alltop, OriginalSignal, Shyftr, or any other news aggregation web site – it’s using the Calais API to offer a semantic component to the feed reading experience. This semantic technology is combined with Digg-like voting buttons and an online feed reader which you can use with your own OPML file, all of which lays the groundwork for a unique feed-reading experience.

From the FeedzZ homepage, you have access to main category pages: Science, Technology, Celebrity, Film, Health, Business, Sports, Music, and Politics. Click on any of these headers to see the feeds listed. Only a handful of popular feeds are listed on each category page, but to the left is a list of feeds under the heading “Incoming,” meaning feeds that are gaining in popularity.

When you’re reading any item from a particular feed, you’ll notice thumbs up/thumbs down buttons at the top for voting and a button that keeps track of how many votes a particular post has received. There’s also an option to email the article to a friend or bookmark it for yourself.

Viewing a Post on FeedzZ

However, what’s really interesting are the tags at the bottom of the post. These tags aren’t generated by people, but by the underlying semantic technologies. For example, our recent post “Watch Out Silicon Valley: Here Comes NYC” was tagged: new yorkmichael bloomberginternet weekweb-oriented technologiesseed-stage technology fund. There’s also a “related entries” link which displays a list of posts with at least one of the same tags. In this example, thanks to the tag “New York,” there were several unrelated entries listed here, but there was also a link to an article about the NYC Seed Fund. So in this case, the more accurate results came from just viewing the “internet week” tag.

In addition to the tags on each post, every page of FeedzZ has an automatically generated, semantically created tag cloud on the left which you can use to see all the posts about a particular subject (Example: Bill Gates).

Issues With FeedzZ

Of course, these related entries and tags could become infinitely more useful if you were to upload your own OPML file. Unfortunately, for true feed junkies that’s probably something that will have to wait, since FeedzZ currently imposes a limit on OPML file sizes, restricting them 100 KB or less. (At 142 KB for my subscription list, I was out of luck).

FeedzZ is certainly an interesting experiment in semantics, but that being said, the site still needs a lot more finesse to really be successful. The OPML restriction is only one of the issues. Even if you manage to get your OPML uploaded, it’s difficult to determine how to proceed with the data you’ve imported. You have to find your way into your profile section (no link is provided) and then you have to create a folder structure and classify your feeds. Shouldn’t a semantic system know where the feeds belong? When I tried this, I couldn’t even classify my feeds manually. Although I clicked the “Classify” button, there was never a feed in the drop-down list to select (see below), so I couldn’t proceed. It’s as if that piece of the web site was not even built yet.

Attempting to Classify a Feed

These types of issues are major problems in terms of usability, so it’s hard to truly recommend the site at this time. However, if these problems were resolved, FeedzZ could then have a shot at being a useful online feed aggregator or even a great research tool for finding related news items on the topics that interest you. It’s great that FeedzZ has managed to get the semantic RSS technologies working, but now they need to turn their attention to the user experience and UI design so we all can appreciate their efforts.

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