One of the things that I love about the web is that everything is so instantaneous. It has literally changed the way that we get our news and information. I hardly ever watch the news anymore because I can pull up just about any major news site and get real time stories at my fingertips. There is no need to wait for the nightly newscast any more.
With this, developers have continually tried to come up with ways to develop apps for us to use so that we can get our daily news fix. We first had the RSS reader and now we are starting to move toward what is considered “social news.” Twitter, more so than Facebook, has opened this door for news to become more interactive for us, the reader.
Over the last week or so, I have been able to play around with a new web app called Hopflow that seems to take a page from both Twitter and Facebook in creating their own news consumption site. Can this possibly become a go-to news reader on the web? Let’s take a look at it more in depth.
When you first go to Hopflow, you have to log in with either a Twitter or Facebook account. By now, if you read my posts a lot on here, you know how much I hate that you have to do this, but they really have a good reason to do this. Once this is done, you can now pick your own vanity URL that starts with http://hopflow.com/yourvanityurl. From here Hopflow does the rest for you to get started, by analyzing your Facebook or Twitter, whichever one that you signed up with, to see what topics you would be interested in reading.
Once the app finds what topics you may be interested in you can now find other things that you will want to read on the site. There are a few ways that you can set up Hopflow to show stories that you want to read. You can search by typing in a specific topic that you are interested in reading about. Another way to search is by typing in a specific person’s name that you would like to follow.
As I searched, I found that the site is very tech heavy, which is somewhat understandable as most people that are using Hopflow at the moment are probably tech savy geeks. But the search in general didn’t work as well as I would have liked it to. I was hoping I could type in a specific name of a site and it would come up, but that was hardly the case. Even if the site was big and popular, like CNN for example, there wasn’t a whole lot of mainstream news that I could choose from. I would have also liked the option to be able to add any site I wanted to and hopefully that will come in the future.
Reading and Interacting
Once you got your Hopflow to where you want it with the topics and sites that you are interested in, you can start to read and interact. On the left hand side you will see all of your stories that match with what topics you chose. You can scroll through the recommended articles, and when you find a story you want to read, click on it and the full version will show up on the right hand side.
After you are done reading a story there are a variety of ways that you can interact with the site and other users. You can “like” a story and you can also rehop it, which is similar to retweeting. Stories can also be commented on and you can share your comments on either Facebook or Twitter if you choose to. You can also see who else has liked or rehopped the story as well and what other people have said about it.
You can also create your own hop, as it is called, by either adding a link, picture, video, file or just plain text. When entering a link, Hopflow is able to pull in the content of the link and display it for you on your timeline. The one thing I was a little confused about here is that you are given options to put up your own media or text, which is kind of Facebookesque. I thought this was supposed to be a site where you read about interesting links on the web, so that made it a little confusing for me.
Still Working Out the Kinks
I know that Hopflow is in beta and they are still working on making it better and functional. All that to say, the site did work fine for the most part, but what I realized was that it was somewhat lacking in features. I would love to see the ability to add any website I want to and use this more like an RSS reader, if that is at all possible. I am not sure if this is what they intended the app to be, but that is how I would like to use it.
Secondly, it would be nice to be able to follow other users and what they are hopping or commenting on. This gives a lot more opportunity to interact around stories and a great way to share news with other people. With that, I still have to say, after using this for a week, I am still confused as to what their purpose is for this app. Are they a social news reader app, or do they want to become a social network, or something else? I can’t really tell at the moment and hopefully they figure that out and either eliminate or add features based upon that.
Don’t get me wrong, although I may paint Hopflow in somewhat of a bad light, I really liked using it. It was a little different reading news based upon topics instead of specific sites I usually follow through my rss reader, and I kind of liked it because although I wasn’t getting every single tech story out there, I got a lot of the important ones and I was okay with that. I can definitely see the potential with Hopflow and it being a solid social news reader web app.
What I really appreciated about it was that it just worked and it was pretty intuitive to use. I didn’t feel like I was bogged down with too many features, which was nice. I think if through this beta process if they can refine things and communicate to the user exactly what they are trying to do, they are going to be fine. Go and check it out and see if you would use this as a way to read your news on the web.
Read and interact around topics that you find interesting using Hopflow7
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