When my mother gifted me a copy of Haruki Murakami’s IQ84 a few weeks ago, I felt weird holding reading material in my hands. I suddenly realized that most of the reading I did through 2012 was on screens, and consisted mainly of blog posts and articles online. While I’m not happy that my balance of reading literature and non-fiction is totally out of whack, I now understand that reading online is undeniably a big part of my life.
That said, it’s great to have tools to keep track of what you read on the web — I subscribe to RSS feeds aplenty using Google Reader, save stuff for later with Pocket, and have set up a recipe with IFTTT to push links from my favorited tweets to Pocket as well. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a community of fellow fans of longform content, to share new things to read with? Enter Readingly.
Readingly is a new social network where users can share and discuss articles they find worth reading. Built around the idea that the articles people find shouldn’t go unnoticed (as they’re known to do on other general-purpose networks), this one keeps things strictly reading-only (hence the name?). Sharing an article is as simple as clicking a bookmarklet, and membership is free and open as of now.
Signing up with Readingly only takes a few seconds, after which you can login and view the network’s feed of articles, posted by those you follow. You’ll instantly notice that Readingly looks clean with fewer buttons and labels than you’d expect, and let users focus on the content first and foremost. And in the spirit of MySpace, your account is configured to automatically follow Readingly founder Alex Kristofcak so you can see how posts look.
Each post has a title, source and tags — clicking the title takes you to the original article, while the source and tags link to their own pages, where you can follow them as you would another user. You can award prizes (equivalent to a Like on Facebook) to posts you enjoy, add comments to start or weigh in on discussions tied to each post, and even save posts to your Pocket reading list — a feature I adore!
Readingly makes it a cinch to post an article you want to share — simply paste a URL into the Post field, email a link (in the subject or body) to Readingly, or click the Readingly bookmarklet when you come across an article. You can then edit the URL, title and description, select and image from the article to display along with your post. You can also have your posts pushed to Facebook and Twitter, should you choose — though that somewhat defeats the point of this network.
You can also send articles to Readingly from Google Reader by setting it up like so.
A sense of community?
Readingly is designed to allow users to share articles they read with a captive audience consisting of people they believe will enjoy their finds — so, at its core, Readingly is a place for you to create your own reading network. You can invite friends to follow you via Twitter, Facebook or by entering email addresses into the invite tool. In some ways, it’s like creating a circle on Google+.
Content discovery is, unfortunately, not (yet?) a major part of the Readingly experience. To see content you’ll be interested in, you’ll have to manually go through the public feed, hunt for articles that catch your eye, and then follow the associated users and tags from those posts. There are several ways by which this could be made easier, without really diluting what the network stands for.
While it’s easy enough to use, there actually isn’t a lot to do on Readingly, unless you have a number of friends who actively share and discuss posts there. I’d also have loved to have been able to search for articles by keyword or topic, but sadly, the search function only works on user names and email addresses — not only inadequate, but confusing to boot.
The user experience here also could be tweaked to be a bit more engaging — as of now, posts take you away from the site and off to the original article, meaning that you’ll have to come back to Readingly if you want to keep your discussion strictly within your circle. A baked-in formatted reading experience — offered by such services as Instapaper and Pocket — could have integrated commenting, kept users on the site and made content easier to consume.
What else would I like see from Readingly? Mobile apps, a way to curate reading lists (so anyone could look up, say, gaming, and find a list that explores the history of games and game development), collaborative lists, fine-grained control over posts (privacy control, delete, archive, bulk tag), post analytics and a way to see what the rest of the community is reading.
Readingly is a social network that I want to love, but as things stand, the romance can barely be described as lukewarm. It does have a few things going for it, including a pleasant UI, a dead-simple flow for posting articles and the fact that it’s not riddled with apps, games and ads. If you’ve got a bunch of followers who you love sharing content with, this might be an alternative worth considering to keep your discussions private.
Readingly has plenty of potential to become a place for readers to hang out, and would do well to integrate some of the features described above. For now, you could enjoy a similar networking experience with Google+. If you do love your articles, sign up for free and take a look around Readingly — hopefully upcoming improvements will make it worth your time in the future.
Readingly is a social network for people to share articles they've enjoyed reading with others, without getting lost in the noise of general-purpose networks.7
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