What is an RSS feed?
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Waterfall RSS

An RSS feed allows you to see when websites have added new content. They are a mechanism for you to get the latest headlines, articles and videos in one place, as soon as it’s published, without having to visit the websites you have taken the feed from.

It’s easy if you think about an RSS feed like a feed which a computer reads, which shows the updates of your favourite news and blog sites as they happen. The idea is that you can then use a news-reader to read a lot of different RSS feeds in one place, and this keeps track of the news for you.

[quoter color=rowan]Cronycle can act as that news-reader, but unlike other news readers, it offers you much more control over the articles within those RSS feeds that you read. [/quoter]

Although RSS feeds are a great idea in theory, in practice news websites publish so many stories a day that they turn into a fire-hose of information, and it becomes unmanageable to read them all. As a result, many people think that RSS feeds are going out of fashion in technology.

Typically a large news website has multiple RSS feeds – they could be one for their technology stories and one for their environmental stories, as well as all the other topics that they cover. As a result, one news source could have multiple feeds – it’s worth bearing that in mind when you are sorting your filters, and managing your collections of articles.

Cronycle uses RSS feeds as one of their content sources – for more information check out the ‘sources’ post on the Cronycle Manual

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Content Curation & Tools – Summary of a Twitter Chat Hosted by Buffer
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Image from Buffer

Image from Buffer

 

On 26th August, Buffer hosted an excellent Twitter Chat on ‘Content Curation’. Given this is a topic close to Cronycle’s heart this discussion gave us a great opportunity to talk about curation and how content marketers can do this best.

So here is a recap of the questions Buffer asked it’s audience, as well as a quick summary of the answers given. We’d also like to offer Cronycle’s own perspective – giving ourselves the luxury of more than 140 characters(!)

 

Q1: How do you learn what kind of content your audience wants to read?

Black and White Reading

Three themes were repeated here; 1) ‘Listen to your audience 2) Use Analytics to see what works best and 3) Understand what your audience already reads

Cronycle Answer:

This is a tricky question because all too often people don’t know what they want to read until they’ve read it.

You can listen to what your audience needs to create content which answers a specific question, like ‘how do I embed images in my social media’? For these types of content pieces, it’s really helpful to listen to your audience and use analytics to see what kind of material works.

However, it can’t be overlooked that readers like to be challenged. This material will need to be unique and go beyond what they think they want to hear. Articles that express new ideas are often infinitely more successful than standard topics, but they’re hard to predict.

There may be a way of finding ideas for ‘new topics’. If you look beyond the publications and influencers that your audience typically reads you can find new ideas. Most people are stuck inside their own echo-chamber, and so perhaps you can see what people are saying in a different geography, or a slightly different bias. You can repurpose and research that information to fit your audience.

Click this link to see the original Buffer post

 

Q2: Where does content curation fit into your workflow?

Workflow

There was a consensus that curation should regularly feature in your workflow; some people spent a couple of hours a day researching and working on curation, others once a month. It was clear that it could be a time-consuming aspect of their work.

Cronycle response:

The interesting thing about this question is to understand what you mean by content curation. If content curation is researching for a new topic, and understanding more about your industry, then this is likely to feature in your every day workflow. If it’s something a bit more proactive – finding specific articles to feature on your website or in your social media then curation takes a bit more work.

We think that content curation should be a continuous process and should almost work seamlessly with what you are doing in your day to day work. Ideally you should be able to feed off the ideas of your colleagues and community as well when you are looking for new ideas. This kind of philosophy is part of the Cronycle product development and ethos.

Click this link to see the original Buffer post for Q2

 

Q3: What are your favourite tools/resources for discovering new content?

Tools

The following tools were applauded by the Buffer chatters: twitter lists, feedly, newsletters, podcasts, medium, Google alerts and good old fashioned ‘digging around’.

Cronycle answer:

We’re not even going to try and be unbiased here. Cronycle is built for content discovery. What’s more – it’s focused on making it easy for our users to find relevant content quickly. This is how we do it:

  • Give our users complete control over sources and keywords
  • Account for stumbling across content – and encompassed within this highlight sources which may be influencing you too much
  • Listen to your network – given the tool integrates with twitter you can follow a public network. It also accounts for teams so you can quickly see what your private colleagues recommend you read, which isn’t shown on public social media channels.

Click this link to see the original Buffer post for Q3

 

Q4: When curating content, how often do you include your own content?

typewriter

Responses to this post varied – some believed it was important to make sure content is personal, and as a result you should always include your own content.

Cronycle answer:

The variety in answers to this question came because there could be many different interpretations of ‘curating content’. Does this mean curating content on your own website? In which case, yes, you should definitely include your own content! In newsletters? It’s probably best to use other content for credibility reasons as well. What about on social media? It depends on the relationship you have with your audience. We wrote a post about different types of content curation which you can see here.

Click this link to see the original Buffer post for Q4

 

Q5: How do you sift through and sort content?

Working with pad

Some people mentioned apps like feedly and pocket which aggregate different publishers content (through RSS feeds) and display the articles on one interface. Other people said that sorting had to start with keywords and preferred Google alerts.

Cronycle Answer:

We’ve got to be biased again – Cronycle is built to filter out the noise! It also incorporates features to help sort through your content with your teams. How do we do this?

  • We give you the tools to use the sources you choose – like a news reader or RSS aggregator
  • All the articles from your chosen sources can then be refined again by keywords
  • To sort content we provide boards
    • You can add specific articles to boards
    • As well as comment on articles and create specific notes
    • Soon you’ll be able to upload images and pdfs to your boards too to make them a comprehensive view of your content ideas

Click this link to see the original Buffer post for Q5

 

Q6: How do you curate content when you have a very specific niche?

Man working in coffee shop

Finding relevant bloggers was key here and using twitter lists. It was clear that when you have a specific niche, individuals are just as important to follow as publications.

Cronycle answer:

This is interesting because so often publications are created for general purposes, and when you have a specific niche it’s even harder to find exactly what you are looking for. It’s also an interesting question because everyone has a specific niche. There is no person who is always looking for exactly the same content. As a result, everyone should be thinking about how they filter out the noise effectively and make sure they don’t miss out on the content relevant for them!

Click here to see the original Buffer post for Q6

 

Q7: Let’s share! What are your three favourite blogs?

Check out responses to this question here

 

We hope you find this summary helpful and you can think about content curation with a bit more clarity. Thanks to Buffer for hosting such an amazing twitter chat.

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4 Types of Content Curation
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Office Things

A hot topic at the moment for content marketers is ‘content curation’. This is interesting because curation is an important but previously overlooked part of content creation.

However, content curation is a wider term for lots of different curation methods. It is helpful to explore what the different facets of ‘curation’ can mean so you can think about how best to curate.

Here is a list of the different ways that you can curate content:

1. Identify stories and information gaps

Like a commissioning editor, in order to create the best content for your audience, you must discover what is interesting for your audience. What hasn’t been published via the channels that your audience normally reads? What will challenge your audience? What information do like they like to see and be informed about?

2. Make your content impactful and accessible

Imagine you have 20 pieces of content, in many different varieties. There is a real skill in presenting these pieces of content in a way that gives your audience the most value. This is what a museum curator does – he adds descriptions and takes his audience on a journey. Each piece is part of a wider collective. You should aim to do this as part of your content as well, whether online or offline.

3. Give validity to your own content pieces

The best articles are informed articles. Article’s that give evidence to back up the argument in your content. Like a journalist, you must curate other articles and statistics to reference in your own content pieces. Then link to them either in the article body or as a reading list at the end.

4. Syndicate other content pieces on your platform

A DJ curates the best music that they know and presents these music pieces in a show or event. Equally, the best content creators syndicate and curate other content pieces to sit alongside their own articles and complement the mix.

Each of these things are hard and time consuming – nevertheless, by thinking through what the word means, you should give some clarity to your content processes.

Cronycle makes content curation infinitely easier.

Sign up for Cronycle here

 

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I’m biased?! No, you’re biased!
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Conversation

Maybe we’ve been listening out for it, or maybe this is a trend, but more and more people seem to be talking about bias.

It started when Tinder accused Vanity Fair of bias after their article attacking the dating app took over the media for a day. Then we noticed the NY Times were promoting their platform stating ‘Curiosity is Unbiased’. What with the media furore about the future of the BBC, who famously promotes themselves as a ‘neutral’ body – this is developing into the most misunderstood word of the summer.

Every person and every organisation has a particular bias – a leaning towards a particular way of thinking. Even an organisation which tries to be as objective as possible will only have access to a finite amount of information which will depend on previous relationships. Needless to say the attitude of ‘objectivity is good’ is a bias in and of itself.

[quoter color=stone] Nothing is immune to bias. [/quoter]

Nothing is immune to bias; statistics are biased – they were collated by a particular person or organisation for a particular need. Photography is biased – why did the photographer choose to point their camera in that direction in the first place? Science is biased – it is based on funding from biased individuals. Curiosity is biased – there is a reason why you are more curious in some interests as opposed to others.

The important thing when analysing information is to know exactly what the bias is – what is the purpose of the content, who is the audience for the content, what need is the content filling in the eyes of the writer. That way you can be privy to as much information as possible when making decisions.

But those ‘objective’ decisions will still be bias – but they will be shaped to a bias which has your best needs at heart, and not those of anyone else.

Claiming your are objective is like claiming you have a neutral accent. Everyone believes that their accent is the neutral one and everyone believes they are being objective.

[quoter color=rowan]Cronycle can help you navigate content’s biases. [/quoter]

Sign up for Cronycle here

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Marketeers: Learn from Publishers
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Blog Reading

Many B2B companies are fairly new to content marketing; only in the last few years has the practice become mainstream. As a result, the profession is fighting to reach a level of maturity – there is currently no standard practice to produce and distribute content.

But there is another industry which has been producing and distributing content for hundreds of years – professional journalists and publishers! So content marketers can look to publisher’s techniques to find best practices to create their own content. And when it comes to B2B content, surely the best people to go to are B2B trade press and national press writers.

B2B publishers typically break their content production into the following categories. Each are useful and offer value to their readership.

News Stories

Breaking news

Typically shorter articles with short sentences and monosyllabic words

Limited number of sources to verify the news story – and comes from people who the reporter has spoken to personally

Photographs

Features – Analysis and Commentary

Analyse the causes and effects of major stories

Take longer to be written as they aren’t a knee-jerk reaction to an issue

The feature writer interviews experts and take reference from a wide number of sources; news articles, other commentaries, literature and wider ranging socio-political events

Typically longer in length and attempt to take a balanced point of view

Step-by-step guidelines

Practical information on how to apply wider trends to your business

For an example; this is a step-by-step guideline (admittedly with opinion fleshing out the wider points)

Opinion Editorials

Simply an opinion written by someone

Tends to lack that many references

Places the writer in the middle of the action

Have the highest impact when the writer is an authority on the subject

Now, the majority of the articles that we read by B2B brands fall into the opinion category, even though they are trying to be analysis and commentary. And why do they fall shy of the mark? Simply because there is not enough substantiated evidence for their point of view.

Are you communicating too much opinion and not enough analysis?

This article was written by a former publisher who produced B2B special reports for UK national newspapers.

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What is Cronycle?
Reading Time: 2 minutes

London

[quoter color=”honey”]What is Cronycle? [/quoter]

Cronycle marks a new era for content creators.

Cronycle marks a new era for you. Everyone is a content creator – everyone produces quality insight that is relevant for them and their teams. Everyone forms opinions using available evidence to satisfy their own curiosity.

The digital age marked a new world where information was freely publishable and freely available. Our world changed with the speed of communication; by our ability to collaborate and understand what is happening globally. The universe felt smaller, and barriers to entry felt lower. Opportunity permeated through the developed world.

With the advent of this new age, power lay in the hands of those who could access and filter through the web. Search engines and social sites rose and fell through the ranks of influence, with the most successful creating vast and huge empires.

Today, more and more information is available and access to the best analysis is harder and harder to do. Search engines and social networks use algorithms which leaves the user helpless and out of control. Workers share information using private messaging applications which are tricky to manage.

Cronycle marks a new era for accessible knowledge.

We believe in transparent choice. You should find what is relevant for you. You choose your sources. You control your feed.

We believe in collaboration. You should work with the people in your team and create intelligent analysis and aggregate understanding.

We believe in serendipity. You should stumble upon articles and information which lie outside your existing network. You should escape the echo-chamber and open your mind to new opinions.

What is Cronycle?

It puts meaning back into content.

It is for the content creators.

[quoter color=”sand”]It turns information into knowledge. [/quoter]

Sign up for Cronycle here

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You Are What You Read
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Martin Sorrell

‘I read a lot’ – claimed Bill Emmott, editor of The Economist in the 90s, when asked how he managed to create original and stimulating content on such a regular basis.

Such advice makes sense. The more you read, the more information you expose yourself to and the better you can create an accurate picture of the world around you.

But does this piece of advice stand true for the content creators today?

The short answer is ‘yes’, but with a new caveat. ‘Reading a lot’ today does not guarantee a greater understanding of the world in the same way it did in the 90s. It is now very easy to read a lot of rubbish. The cost of publishing content to a potential worldwide audience has fallen dramatically and, as a result, the information available to you to ‘read’ has increased exponentially.

Traditional news sources are not necessarily the best bet to ‘read’. Specialist blogs are often a better authority on niche subjects which you want to be knowledgeable about. Conversely, everyone has noticed the spiralling quality of newspaper content. It is not enough to believe that picking up your favourite newspaper means you always digest the best information anymore.

This problem has not gone unnoticed. For example; in ‘To Big to Know’, David Weinberger looks at a new theory of knowledge in a world with an abundance of information. JP Rangaswami blogs about information and the best way to filter through content.

However, when it comes to mainstream thought, I have infrequently heard professionals talk about whether they take responsibility for the information they read, in order to make sure it is always relevant for them.

[quoter color=”flamingo”]I (have not) heard professionals… take responsibility for the information they read [/quoter]

This is despite the fact many professionals attribute their success and knowledge to processing large amounts of information. One of the most intelligent speakers I’ve ever seen, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, is reported to rarely look up from his mobile, not even if he is sat watching the Wimbledon final in centre court. His knowledge on all markets is astounding, possibly because he is always so switched on.

There are some resources available to help professionals manage content streams and take charge; search engines, news readers, RSS amalgamators, and social filters (like friend’s recommendations) – however, none really seems adequate for professionals who need consistent information on niche subjects.

The CMI strongly advise that brands produce quality content and provides some excellent arguments as to how it will help achieve marketing objectives. This thought-leadership echoes similar advice by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and many other bloggers, thought leaders and agencies.

Which is true, content producers do need to focus on creating quality content. But equally, individuals need to take responsibility for reading quality content. And to close the loop, v?

So, how do you ‘read a lot’ in 2015, so you can produce content which parallels Bill Emmott in the 90s?

Sign up for Cronycle here

 

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What is content?
Reading Time: 2 minutes

ContentThe meaning of the word content has changed a lot in the past 5 years. Previously when someone spoke about the word ‘content’ it seemed to be the meaning behind the platform. You probably heard the word ‘content’ used in the following contexts:

“There was no content to the article” – i.e. the article was full of waffle and didn’t really express any new idea in a coherent way

“The play lacked content”, “the painting lacked content” – saying something lacks content is like saying there is “style without substance”

Content used to be the information or the experience which is irrespective of the medium it was delivered on. Content was an extremely human entity because although a computer could interpret the language the content was delivered on, only a human would truly understand what the point to be made was.

However, that definition of the word seems to be changing. Content seems to simply mean ‘stuff’. An organisations content is simply all the ‘stuff’ that it has at it’s disposal to communicate it’s message. It is no longer a term which refers to the quality of a message, or the emotional connection you have to a medium, or whether it generates any sort of understanding.

Given the rise of content marketing, both of B2B content marketing and B2C content marketing, it seems that this new definition is going to stick. Marketers like to call their marketing ‘content’, irrespective if their content does lack content.

So when we at Cronycle refer to content, we’re referring to digital ‘stuff’ that is attempting to convey meaning. Articles, photographs, videos and audio all fall into this mix – and it is getting to the stage where finding exactly what you need is getting harder and harder.

However, we’re also assuming that as a user of Cronycle, you care about the best content. And you want to make sure the content you create is as insightful and informative as it possible can be. Which is why we hope when people talk about content created using Cronycle, it comes back to the original meaning of the word content – the information that is relevant and meaningful and your readers will thank you for saying it.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

We know that quite a few of you have put a lot of work into your feedly and Inoreader accounts – you’ve made sure your collections are populated with the right feeds so you can read relevant content every day.

We also know that many of you would like to use the features on Cronycle which aren’t available on feedly and Inoreader like;

  • Filter your custom feeds for keywords to get the most relevant content right away
  • See the articles the accounts you follow on twitter are sharing
  • Analytics on sources – track which sources shout the loudest about niche topics to monitor your biases
  • Work from boards with your teams to create new content ideas

Luckily, there is an easy way for you to transfer all those feeds on your Feedly account across to Cronycle. It’s by creating an OPML file, and here we’ll walk you through the steps for transferring your Feedly sources into Cronycle.

What is an OPML file?

An OPML file is simply a large group of RSS feeds.

How do I find my OPML file?

Feedly

Click on this link to download your OPML file. Head to the sources page and click on the OPML file link which will show you how to upload your folder to Cronycle.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 14.28.05

When you refresh the page, you will have your all sources neatly arranged into folders.

Inoreader

To download your OPML file from Inoreader go to:

Preferences > Import/Export.

Under ‘Export’ click on the link “Click this link to export your data”. Finally, click on the link “Download OPML subscriptions file only”.

Then go to the sources page of Cronycle and Import your OPML file.

Using Cronycle to filter

We can imagine you’d like to take all the sources in one folder and filter the articles in them.

  • Click on the label you’d like to filter
  • Make sure all the sources in the folder are checked in the tick box
  • Click Bulk Action to use all the checked sources in a collection
  • Name your custom feed, set up your filters and you’re ready to go!

Equally, you can add your twitter account and start to include these twitter handles in various different folders to keep your sources organised.

Let us know how you get on!

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A small step for RSS…
Reading Time: 2 minutes

travelled path

When RSS was first developed, it was envisioned as a way for internet users to emalgamate all their news feeds into one and track news as it developed, without having to constantly look at individual sites. Through an RSS feed and a tool which could track the RSS Signal – like a reader, you could see the events of the world develop in real-time.

Many people who are curious about the world and interested in information get very excited when they hear about the concept of RSS – what could be better than a tool which can give you immediate insight?

However, in practice, the RSS reader and RSS feed concept is little discussed. Most internet users don’t know what an RSS feed is, yet alone understand the concept of being able to place one news website in the same channel as their favourite blog.

RSS and the Fire Hose

This is mainly because in practice RSS feeds create way too much noise without encouraging you to look beyond your own favourite sources. There is a reason why social media took off as a content sharing tool as opposed to individuals looking at their own bubble. People like recommendations, they like to work as a team, they like to stumble across ideas which are new and revelatory. Which a stream of the same sources doesn’t necessarily expose yourself to.

However, with social networks reaching a state of maturity – facebook is now used by half the world’s online population – the limits of this model are being reached again. When you put a social network completely in control of your newsfeed, you are bound to miss content which you know that you like, mainly because you don’t have control over the algorithm which is feeding your news.

So, it could be RSS’s time to shine again. Many have combined the RSS reader to create a nicer looking newsreader on the front end, and some have thought about how to combine social interaction with these things.

But what we suggest is to use RSS feeds, but filter them in a more complicated way to ensure that you get what you really want, and filters out as much of the noise as possible.

And to take it a step further, Cronycle allows you to create content using the information which is at your disposal. It is rare that a person wants information for information’s sake, they often get something else out of that knowledge. And often it’s the opportunity to craft their own ideas.

Welcome to the next step in the RSS story….

Sign up for Cronycle here

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Start a team on Cronycle
Reading Time: 3 minutes

PR Collaboration

This is a guide to creating a team on Cronycle. Some of our users will only be using Cronycle as an individual. Given Cronycle is ultimately a collaboration platform for sharing ideas and making decisions with your team, then it makes sense to show you how to start a team.

Why start a Cronycle team?

If you have a job that relies on processing and making decisions from information, the chances are you have colleagues and friends who you bounce ideas off. You want to make sure that other people are contributing to your decision, so that you make the best possible choices.

Cronycle is a platform where everyone can comment and share ideas on a board which is set around a specific project. It means you don’t have arrange another meeting, and you have an enriched platform online specifically for content.

How to create a Cronycle team

First click on your profile then click edit profile. In your profile page choose either a collaborator team or a follower team. Collaborator team can edit, comment, upload content to boards. Follower team are for read-only teams. When you have chosen, click start a new team.

starting a new team

A box similar to the below will pop up. Your team name is what you will often see and should be named after your desired team. The second box allows you to invite new members to this team. Simply type in their emails if they have not yet joined Cronycle or type in their username if they have a Cronycle account.

start a new team on Cronycle

Now you have created a team it is important to share boards or custom feeds with the team, so that everyone has a shared collaboration space.

To do this on boards click on the setting cog on the top right of the board. A pop-down menu will appear, in this menu under collaboration you can add your newly created team by clicking add. You could be part of multiple teams in the future, and you need to make sure you are sharing with the right one:

pop down menu to add new teams

Now everyone in your team will have access to the things you’ve assigned them. And what’s more, they will have the ability to create their own feeds and boards and share them with the team too.

To get started, go to app.cronycle.com and log on!

If you’ve got any questions about using this software then please reach out to us via the in-app software, or email Alice.

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How do I add my Google Alerts to Cronycle?
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Google Alerts

The way many people keep track of relevant content is via Google Alerts. Google alerts are a service provided by Google, which alerts the recipient when new articles (or blog posts / video etc) are scraped by their search engine.

These typically are sent to your inbox once a day, and are filled with all manner of press releases and articles from the web. They are a great resource for content marketers and public relations professionals who want to make sure they know everything about a specific topic.

In order to get started on Cronycle quickly, you may want to start by having your Google Alerts as feeds in Cronycle. So, here’s how you do it.

Set up your Google Alerts as RSS feeds rather than emails

Go to www.google.com/alerts

Most people will be logged into their Google account already, but in case you’re not then sign in.

You will see a list of the google alerts which you subscribe to. It may look a bit like this:

Google Alert Screenshot

You can see my ‘content curation’ and ‘relevant content’ alerts are already RSS feeds. This is signified by the RSS icon.

However, my Periscope Google Alert is currently an email update. To change this click on the edit icon (currently highlighted in blue).

Google Alert Menu

You will then see the above menu. On “Deliver to” select “RSS feed”. Click “Update Alert” to save your changes.

You will return to the original list. To access the RSS feed then click on the RSS icon. Then copy and paste this link into your Cronycle using the box below in the sources tab.

Create Alert - Past RSS Link zoomed

And you’re done!

 

 

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Reading Time: 1 minute

We want to make it easy to use and update your sources on Cronycle and as a result we’ve created the Content Clipper. This is an add-on for Chrome and makes it easy to add sources to your Cronycle whilst you’re browsing the web.

It looks like the below:

Content Clipper by Cronycle

 

When you are browsing the web, and you come across a interesting blog or news site, the Content Clipper is designed to easily clip the feed or the article to a collection or a board. It assesses which feeds are associated with that page and you can hit ‘Save to Cronycle’ or ‘Clip to board’.

To download the Content Clipper please contact Alice so you can have access to the private beta.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your source library is at the heart of your Cronycle. Your sources should be from the publishers and people that you want to listen to, or perhaps the people who hold contradictory points of view to you, so you can become a specialist on your topics.

Cronycle is built from the idea that you should be in control of your news. As a result, you need to consent to the sources which are presented in your collections.

At the moment, Cronycle has two types of sources: 1) RSS feeds and 2) accounts on Twitter

We will look to add other types of sources in the future like video and private files.

To add a source you can do one of the following things –

Use the Cronycle Database:

On the sources tab you have 3 field boxes.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 15.10.04

The first is a search box where you can search our global library of 19,000 feeds

The second is a URL box where you can input the address of a specific RSS feed

The third is a twitter box where you can type in a twitter username or twitter URL you would like to use as a source.

Import an OPML file:

It may be that you currently use another RSS aggregator as a news reader. You can upload this file easily to the software.

Content Clipper by Cronycle:

We are developing a Content Clipper to sit in your Chrome or Safari browser. Whilst you’re browsing the web you can easily clip articles to your boards, or even search to see which RSS feeds that article belongs to and add feeds to your sources.

Go to our page on filtering to see how you can use your sources to get intelligence from the internet.

Tips and Tricks

Keep your sources under control – using the right sources in the right collections is key to filtering through the noise.

Use the search bar to find the right sources – if a source is associated with a topic, then quite frequently it will be labelled as such. You can also use folders to segment your twitter contacts and RSS feeds.

 

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Problems with Robotic Algorithms
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Code

How spoiled we humans are.  How expectant. We assume that content filtering programs – social media algorithms, for example – will deliver us not only the information we like, but the information we need.  Recently, however, even the most optimistic among us have begun to question whether we can truly rely on machine-based curation.  The notable lack of coverage of the traumatic events unfolding in Ferguson in users’ Facebook feeds was alarming.  Twitter, however, was chock-full of updates, illuminating the difference between the two platforms.  On the one hand, nothing.  On the other hand, everything—a hashtag (#Ferguson) with legs so long it was nearly impossible to keep up with its pace.

As Yael Grauel, a contributing writer to Contently’s Content Strategist put it in her recent article, the dearth of Ferguson coverage on Facebook was “the social media equivalent of somebody grabbing a copy of the morning paper, deciding the serious front page headlines wouldn’t be interesting, and ‘curating’ the content by providing clips of cartoons and celebrity gossip instead.”

If we were honest with ourselves, we probably already knew that Facebook’s algorithm was flawed, but recent events have shone a spotlight on these shortcomings.  Here’s what’s wrong.

The Symmetrical Follow Method

On Facebook, it takes two to tango.  Two individuals need to agree to become friends in order to share content, unlike on Twitter, where users can follow whomever they like, making it easier to track the development of a trending news story.  This set-up is great for forging connections but not ideal for surfacing important content.  (Gigaom further explores this here.)

Intention

Wired’s Mat Honan liked everything on Facebook for 48 hours and was struck by how quickly the people in his feed were replaced with brands and “content mills” (Mat’s words) like Huffington Post and Upworthy, and how his behavior affected the feeds of his Facebook friends– an experience worth reading about here.  Facebook’s algorithm is based on a complex formula that’s not well understood by we laypeople.  Facebook says it considers who and what you’re liking and commenting on, who you interact with frequently and what types of updates you hide.  As Facebook puts it, “The goal of News Feed is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them. Ideally, we want News Feed to show all the posts people want to see in the order they want to read them.”

Facebook smartly focuses on the reader in this mission statement, but understandably, the success of the algorithm is very much tied to the success of its advertising program.  Facebook wants you to click.  Clicking means engaging – a marketing holy grail.  Clicking keeps you on the platform, another plus.  Honan’s endless liking didn’t result in more photos from his cousins—it resulted in more marketing messages from brands.  Don’t get me wrong.  I use Facebook to connect with my friends and I use Facebook as an effective business tool.  It’s pretty cool that it can be both, but at the end of the day, the platform’s priority is ensuring it has delivered for its advertisers.

It ain’t human

Let’s pretend Facebook’s number one priority was serving you the most relevant content, and that it had no obligation to advertisers.  As our own Marina Cheal explains in her recent post about content filtration, and as I tackled in a Q&A with a data scientist, even the “smartest” of machines just can’t compete with the human touch.

That’s a pretty nice segue to Cronycle – a content aggregation tool that allows you to circumvent the “Facebook” problem.  There’s no machine deciding what you should and should not read.  That’s up to you.  Check out www.croyncle.com to see what we mean.

Published on 27.10.2014 by Jacqueline Lisk

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