Findings

A community manager from Findings, one of my favorite social reading services, recently sent an email to see how the service was working for me. What great community management! I took the opportunity to give some feedback from a user perspective. Here’s my reply.

I’m glad Findings exists. From supporting Instapaper to the recent development of manual clips from paper sources, you’re doing so many things right.

As a brief review, I jotted down this feedback that you might want to consider:

Functionality:

Attribution could be improved to include author name. A post includes title and website as a default, but not author, and it seems like it should. (Not sure how you’d do this, since you’re pulling from the site information.) Maybe you could have a default space to enter the author name(s) manually, which would then display with each post.

When improving the bookmarket, note that some nested formatting, such as bullet points, is lost in a clip.

Improve thumbnail image support. Many clips have a generic (non)image.

Improve iPad functionality. Manually adding a clip with an ISBN gives and endless hourglass and can only be done through the web.

Promoting Discovery:

I’d like to be able to scroll through more “Latest Sources,” or set defaults so that only certain categories of sources will come up for me: by genre, location, etc.

Are you doing any work with publishers that you can share? This could be a great way for publishers and authors to promote discovery.

I’d like to see Findings connect with the Goodreads API to find books/reviews on Goodreads.

Community:

Keep publishing on the Findings blog (for example, with your new series about reading). I (and presumably others) want to hear about how the project is going and what developments are in store.

Warmly,

Michael

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4 thoughts on “Findings

  1. Corey Menscher

    Hi, Michael! I was going to write you an email response, but I may as well respond to your comments!

    Metadata – We actually do attempt to capture a piece’s author information on web pages. Mostly, we look for this data to be included by the site in a variety of fairly standard formats (meta tags, OpenGraph tags, etc.) If those are not present, we don’t currently attempt to analyze the text to determine the author because this is a Really Hard Problem with a high likelihood of errors. Most large publishers provide this information in metadata, and when we find the authors we can match them with their other publications on Findigns. As an example, see our Paul Krugman findings: https://findings.com/author/340.

    This is also true for images embedded in the article. There are metadata standards that allow content creators to select a representative image, and we look for that data to use. If we don’t find it, we generate our own (admittedly generic) image. We do attempt to composite the site’s favicon if it’s available, though. Like author information, selecting a representative image for an article is quite hard if it’s not specified for us…we’d hate to select an advertisement, for example! We would have to provide a UI for the user to pick an image, which is doable but requires more work for the user. We wanted clip capturing to be as fast and light as possible.

    Tablets and Mobile – Yesterday we quietly released a major overhaul to our backend and the markup & CSS we use. There should be little discernible difference for our users, other than a performance improvement. But, this update also enables us to focus on creating an adaptive layout for smaller screens. In fact, the site already works much better on an iPad, although it’s not 100%. We still have work to do to improve its usability with a touchscreen. This is a very high priority, so look for it soon!

    Discovery – I can’t comment on the work we may be doing with publishers and authors, but rest assured that a major goal is to improve discoverability. From the product side we’re in the process of adding some useful discovery tools, both for new reads as well as other readers with common interests. One of our biggest challenges is making discovery seamless across books and web content. We don’t want to have to segregate Findings into a “Web” section and a “Book” section. As I mentioned above, the metadata from the web can be spotty…and this is also somewhat true for books! But there are many short term and relatively easy improvements we can make on this front, like increasing the browsability of latest sources or filtering by type, and we hope to have those out soon.

    Community – The “How We Will Read” series is just the start for our blog! We’ll be keeping that going for several more weeks, and we have plenty of other things to discuss with the community. But most importantly we want to hear from our users, and are always interested in feedback. So thanks, Michael, for writing this up.

    Reply
  2. mvagnetti Post author

    Thank you, Corey, for spending the time to reply so thoughtfully. I realize the whole project is iterative. All the best moving forward — MV

    Reply
  3. henry copeland (@hc)

    I love Findings.

    My feature request: hashtags.

    Hashtags would help me create and mine my own idea-veins and discover what other people are saving in the same vein.

    Wouldn’t you love to be able to quickly review all #publishing entries? All #innovation entries? Or #economics?

    Or am I missing some convenient way to handle this type of query right now now?

    Reply

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