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Bloglovin: free RSS reader for the aesthetically-inclined

(Social Media) Bloglovin is marketed as a tool for women and fashionistas, but any manly man or business woman can use it to beautifully boost productivity.

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bloglovin

RSS readers are still popular

For news junkies, or information hounds, the best way to keep up with all of the updates on websites and blogs is through a RSS feed reader so that all updates are fed to one place. When Google killed Google Reader, the most popular option on the market, most people looked to Feedly as an alternative, which was more like a magazine and less like a list of links with a wall of text.

But Feedly isn’t the only option on the market, and competitors like Digg’s new feed reader are looking to appeal to the visual element that early feed readers lacked. With Feedly’s mobile app, you get beautiful transitions that make reading faster, and on Digg, you have tons of social sharing options built right into the free product.

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But there’s one feed reader that caught our attention, but we have long ignored for our own use, simply because it is branded as a fashion blog reader and looks a lot like Pinterest when you visit their landing page – Bloglovin.

Bloglovin launched many years ago, saw a $1 million cash infusion, and today has over 16 million unique monthly visitors. According to tech writer, Anthony Ha, has announced a $7 million Series A. The founders have expressed to Ha that they want to be the “ultimate platform” for expressing yourself by curating content that you like

But isn’t Bloglovin for women and Pinterest addicts?

“The [$7M] investment will be used primarily to recruit engineering talent,” CEO Joy Marcus told Ha. “Our focus remains on enhancing the user experience, particularly around discovery and curation, as well as growing our key women’s lifestyle verticals, including fashion, DIY, beauty, and food.”

According to Bloglovin’s CEO, yes, Bloglovin is kind of a place for the ladies, but when you get past the setup process, we see it as more of a feed reader for the aesthetically-inclined, regardless of gender or industry.

If you’re a financial analyst, look at the image above to see that I can skim the WSJ economy section (which I do), or AGBeat (hint, hint). The content contained in a feed reader is up to you.

Yes, suggested content will be fashion blogs and cook book stuff, and it looks like a feed reader for Pinterest addicts (and their marketing affirms my suspicion of this), but for your own use, it doesn’t have to be a feminine experience, rather a rich, visual experience, which for many (like me) lends to faster reading.

Below is the setup process – it took under a minute to get going, and immediately sped up my reading time, which can help anyone’s productivity.

1. Setting up

bloglovin setup
When you first visit the site, you’ll be asked to sign up – doing so through Facebook was extremely easy for me, and didn’t require that I allow Bloglovin to post on my wall (which I liked).

The blog suggestions may not appeal to you, but calm down, you can add your own feeds. It’s easy to grab a few to get started and you can delete feeds later. Try searching for “business” or “economy,” and see that normal options pop up.

2. Add friends

bloglovin
If you sign up through Facebook, it’ll show you which of your friends are already on Bloglovin, and you can see what they’re sharing. The company appears to also be a budding social network of sorts, but we suggest sticking to the quick in-and-out of the feed reader function if you’re using it as a productivity tool (but seeing what friends share can expand your horizons, so don’t ignore that portion, just do it when you aren’t in a time crunch).

And yes, I acknowledge that everyone on Bloglovin that is also my friend is a woman. They openly market to women, but guys, don’t let that dissuade you – it’s like if steak was marketed to women, would you really care? Nope, you’d eat steak. So go eat steak, gah!

3. Browser extensions and a huge complaint

bloglovin
Sure, Bloglovin comes with a handy browser extension to reinforce how behind you are on your reading by telling you how many new stories are in your reader, but this is where I got stuck and the technology deities couldn’t save me. I run a Chrome extension for HootSuite, and it wanted to interact with Bloglovin since they’re friends, but I got stuck in an infinite loop that I couldn’t get out of because of the conflict, and had to type “Bloglovin.com” in my browser to get out of the loop, which I did.

4. The Bloglovin feed

bloglovin
Here it is in all of its glory, the final product. You can quickly skim, mark as read, read in depth, or see what others have posted. It isn’t too foreign, and looks like a spruced up version of other feed readers you’ve used.

5. How a full story renders

bloglovin
When you click on a story, it takes you to the source, but leaves a Bloglovin toolbar at the top so you can not only share the story from there, but click to the next story, newer or older (which is kind of neat).

6. Features you’re used to

bloglovin
You can organize your feeds just like any other RSS reader, separating them out by topic or business and personal, so you only spend time where it’s required at the moment.

The takeaway

Bloglovin may be marketed to ladies, or filled to the brim with Pinterest addicts, but you can quietly sneak in and use the tool to speed up your reading time if you’re aesthetically-inclined, helping your work productivity immensely. Give it a try and tell us what you think.

Social Media

TikTok takes aim at Cameo while helping creators monetize content

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok has a new feature that takes a swipe at Cameo, but also helps content creators to monetize their efforts more meaningfully.

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Not too long ago, an app called Cameo launched with the sole intention of connecting “normal” people with celebrities via chats and personalized videos.

These days, TikTok is adopting Cameo’s philosophy with “Shoutouts,” a feature that will allow users to request content from their favorite creators.

The allure of Cameo lies in its simplicity: One need only fill out a request form and spend several hundred to several thousand dollars to receive a custom video from a celebrity of their choosing (should said celebrity accept the request) within a week.

However, Cameo – a relatively new, relatively untested app–possesses a bit of a disadvantage that TikTok doesn’t have: It didn’t have a built-in, pre-existing audience prior to launching its core premise.

TikTok’s Shoutouts feature looks to capitalize on existing users as well as in-app currency, making it much more convenient than its spiritual predecessor.

As with Cameo, the way Shoutouts works is fairly straightforward. Users will be able to select a creator, request a certain style of video from them–the devil is very much in the details here–and then wait for “up to 3 days” to see if the creator accepts the request. Payment will be submitted at this time.

Should the request be accepted, the creator will create the video and pass it off to TikTok for review, a process that–according to the feature’s page–should take around a week to complete. The user who requested the video will then be able to view it in their DMs.

If the creator decides to reject the video, the user will receive a refund. This is a feature that Cameo uses as well, so–in theory–TikTok should be able to leverage the same ideology.

There are a couple of minor benefits to TikTok’s implementation of this feature. Firstly, while some TikTok stars may have celebrity status, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of creators will be able to use the Shoutouts feature; this means that the aforementioned “normal” people will be able to monetize their platform, something that wasn’t possible on Cameo.

Secondly, the use of in-app currency–something that has traditionally been used for gifting livestreamers–makes the process of hiring a creator a bit more convenient. That convenience will most likely translate directly to the success of Shoutouts as it develops.

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Twitter experiments with “dislike” button in the lamest way possible

(MEDIA) Not that we would expect innovation from the halls of Twitter, but their dislike button is even less interesting than we could have predicted.

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For as long as there have been “Like” buttons on social media, the idea of a “Dislike” button has existed – if only as a concept. Recently, however, Twitter is toying with bringing the fabled “Dislike” button out of the metaphysical realm and into reality, though not for the reasons one might expect.

Twitter will be adding an “I don’t like” button to content in the coming months – but the number of dislikes something receives won’t be publicized as likes are.

In fact, Twitter maintains that the presence of this button is less of a social experience and more of a way to tailor your experience on the app to see what you want to see. This will feasibly help Twitter “??understand the type of responses that you consider relevant in a conversation, in order to work on showing you more of those types of responses.”

The button will reportedly take one of two forms: either a thumbs-down icon (next to a thumbs-up icon for likes) or a downward-facing arrow a la Reddit.

The “I don’t like” feature is currently limited to iOS users, and certainly not all of them–as an avid Twitter user, I have yet to receive the option to voice my dissent outside of the usual reporting channels. As with experiments like Fleets, voice tweets, and increased character limits, Twitter seems to be rolling out this option in small increments.

Interestingly, Twitter already has a similar feature that is available to all users, though it requires a small amount of menu digging. The “Not interested in this Tweet/Ad” option can be used to prevent tweets either from certain creators or on certain topics from appearing as frequently in your feed.

The option to block users or report tweets also still exists in case anyone needed to be reminded of that.

As long as the option to dislike tweets remains private and for optimization only, many of the concerns commonly associated with a dislike button – cyberbullying, declination of mental health, all-out civil war – are relatively moot; but, so it seems is the feature itself, given that the “Not interested” option also exists.

It wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see this feature eventually become public after its successful implementation.

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India’s government still pushing social media platforms to nix COVID posts

(EDITORIAL) Whomsoever controls the information controls the people, and India is proving that censorship is a dangerous path.

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Let’s take a walk through recent history, shall we? The timing is late April and the world is still attempting to control the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Certain countries have succeeded in administering vaccines and keeping down the spread. Other’s have not. People are dying. Families are being stripped of their securities. What’s the saving grace for the majority of these people? Social media.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have turned into the news distributors and social lifelines. Our generation has gotten used to things like cable news outlets being entirely one sided with their distributed factoids. It’s easier to trust people than a news monolith, even though they are typically just as biased.

Personally, I believe that we are more accepting of a person being biased because they are supposed to be, whereas companies that report news, we feel should be unbiased and when they aren’t, it’s less forgivable. However, I digress.

Social media has become the new source of news for the younger generations. We go out and take in information either from real life or from other sources and send it out into our own little virtual worlds. Every piece of this information should be taken with a grain of salt and double checked, of course. At least if the person actually wants to spread real news. They then interact and disperse news through instant communication online.

Which leads us to India, 2021.

From the standpoint of this generation, what’s been happening there is deplorable. The Government of India demanded that both Twitter and Facebook begin removing COVID-related posts. Their reasoning? These posts are “deemed posed potential to incite panic among the public.” They are restricting the freest form of communication that has ever existed in to the human race.

Now this could be something that’s innocuous, or a genuine care for the country’s people. I’m sure there are posts out there that may have incited panic. However, some of the previous actions taken by the Indian government tend to make me think otherwise. Pointedly, requests for the blocking of Twitter accounts which criticized the countries policies have gone out. They’ve even threatened jail time for employees and users in this case.

They keep claiming the country’s good but if they are only silencing dissenting voices, they’re actually just protecting their right to govern. Leading to a darker place in mind for any future actions. There are certain facts which stand however.

The Indian government has failed in a number of ways this year. The culmination of which is their unprecedented collapse of their nation’s health infrastructure. One of the only ways that some people are getting their health supplies is through social media as people communicate locations that have supplies available so they can save their lives.

The restrictions that the government is putting forth isn’t helping people. It has the potential to kill them.

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