I’m constantly amazed at my ability to be completely ignored in the middle of a conversation. I mean I get it, it’s the information age. Who am I to contend with the sum of all human knowledge? And as a knowledge-based society, information is all around us. Literally. As you read this it is flowing through wires under your feet, above your head, beaming through the atmosphere where it is deposited onto screens all across the globe.
The sheer volume of it can be daunting. There is so much content available on so many subjects within all possible genres, settling on a topic that really grabs you can amount to a real challenge. A predicament I like to call, paralysis by analysis. Flipboard, a popular news aggregate app, has unveiled some interesting changes in its latest update that aim to tackle that very problem.
Unlike the old days of slow-moving information heinously limited in volume and scope, nowadays, virtually anything that happens anywhere in the world is broadcast to the masses almost instantly. With so much content so readily available, consumers are afforded the luxury of cherry picking articles and snippets based on their own interests. Great, right? Sort of. The problem is that this requires wading through a significant quantity of completely irrelevant content with zero personal value.
Enter Flipboard 4.0.
Flipboard was designed to take current and trending news and entertainment articles from other publications and bring them to a singular digital space where users could read and interact with them. Seems legit. But with the brand new “Smart Magazine” update, magazines will be generated for the user based on ultra-specific personal tastes and interests, like scubadiving or cross country skiing.
“The goal is to give people a highly personalized magazine around the thing that they are incredibly passionate about,” says Flipboard CEO Mike McCue.
Don’t worry, Flipboard isn’t going to curl up on the sofa with a cup of oolong and attempt to navigate the labyrinth of your soul, there are algorithms for that.
The power of algorithms
As you may recall, Facebook ran into some trouble recently over their use of algorithms designed to build content around its users’ interests. This, some have said, resulted in skewed real world perceptions and a false sense of consensus among users that may or may not have had an effect on the recent election. But this is not that.
Flipboard CEO Mike McCue says that not all the curated content will be selected using algorithms. “When people look at technology news, they want to know what the whole industry thinks are top stories,” McCue says, “It’s not what’s trending.” The top stories in six of the most popular categories (news, business, politics, sports, entertainment and tech) will be hand-picked by Flipboard’s editors. “There’s no real good algorithm for ‘insightful’,” McCue says. I couldn’t agree more.