Newsmelt: Rss+twitter+gorgeous

Newsmelt: Rss+twitter+gorgeous
We’re bored of how news works right now in the university, but we’re too broke to fix that worldwide.

Here’s our vision:

An interactive twistori that gets its nuggets of news from twitter (via a list of known users and hash tags) and from a list of known feeds that are local media, local bloggers and national/international media that enable searches to become RSS feeds.

We love twistori (google it, and google twistori-tech to find out what’s under the hood). And we want that same sense of a dynamic conversation.

All ‘interactive’ means is that when people click a nugget (which is a tweet or the RSS item title) they go to a page that puts the nugget into context and allows them to contribute their own tweets if they’re logged in to twitter.

What ‘into context’ means is that if a nugget is an RSS item title, we’ll give it a unique tag and the page you’ll see will boost the title to the top, give it its description and the link so people can go off and see the original, and deliver a stream of all connected tweets, i.e. all using the hashtag, plus a box to add your own tweet (you’ll need a twitter account) – and like it or not that tweet will get the hashtag popped in at the end so everyone can find it). And if the nugget is a tweet with one of our hashtags, the context is the RSS item it’s relating.

[But we can’t control the hashtags… That’s fine, we’ll structure the hashtags to make it less likely we accidentally pick up unrelated tweets, but we’re not sweating the small stuff. By default we’ll go #{nmchar}{r1}{r2}{r3}{r4} – nmchar is maybe %, don’t much mind, the rN characters are the usual suspects a-z,A-Z,0-9.]

I’ve saved a little complexity for now.

One thing I didn’t mention is the idea of category. We’ll have up to 8 categories – they’ll have a function a bit like the ‘love,’ ‘hate’ etc. One of the categories is a default – we don’t know what this is/it’s general. An item will always have one (which may be the default) and it may have more than one category.

And like twistori, when you load the site it will cycle through categories and you can select them directly. Remember, though, these categories are filters, but they’re not searches like twistori uses.

So there’s a tiny bit of complexity here.

Each RSS channel can have a default category. And each category has one or more tag text variants – if we find one of those tags relating to an item, it overrides the default category for the feed. If we find multiple matching tags, the item is in multiple categories.

But a lot of content won’t know about us, so we need also to be able to assign content to categories manually.

So the main site can look a lot like twistori. We clearly need a limited admin site:

1. To maintain the twitter user list (add users, delete users, block users=never feature tweets from this ID)
2. To maintain the RSS feed list (add feeds, delete feeds, assign default category to feeds)
3. For system level choices, such as our hash tag prefix
4. For maintaining our categories and their associated tags

Delivery means back-end and front-end. But design work is minimal – something very like twistori without infringing on them would be just great. If this lifts off we’d love to work with a designer, but we don’t have the cash right now!

Technically we’re not too fussed, though we really like the idea of Ruby + JSON + HTML + Javascript. Because we know that’s workable.

Just one extra detail that’s important to mention. The process of assigning one of our tags to a new RSS item we’ve found needs to go through an API. We think at some future time we’ll want to be able to trigger some actions when a new tag is requested, or maybe to structure a bit of extra human-readable information into the tag. (For instance we’re debating whether the tag should one day somehow reflect whether something is from inside the University.)

If this takes off in the University, I’m sure we’ll want to tweak and adapt or extend. So we hope our chosen provider will be able to take on later mini-projects.

Here’s a ‘nice to have’ – if you can deliver it you have a stronger bid, if you can’t (or can’t in the budget) you’re not ruled out.

It would be great, for items that we can spot have an associated image (in the feed or, if it’s a tweet, from links to consistent add-ons such as twitpic), to get a thumbnail of the image that, if clicked directly, would expand to view, close when done.

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