The Northside Festival is known for music, but its Innovation Conference and Expo is shaping up on a SXSW model. Thursday’s launch party for the Kite social news feed app was packed, and Kite founder Trond Werner Hansen was on hand to give twi-ny an interview and insight into what Kite is all about. An app for Mac devices (downloadable on the App Store), Kite lets users read and share articles from any website. They can also follow other users to see what sites they read and share so each person’s news feed is socially curated. Users can follow other users who share content they like, just as they do on Instagram, but they’ll see news articles rather than photos. Kite is also a browser that can go to any website, so users can build whatever kind of feed they like — it’s not limited by who’s signed on to Kite — or who’s paid to be there. On the hot summer street corner of Berry and North Eleventh, twi-ny asked Trond — a tall, amiable Norwegian who lives in Bushwick and is well known for his work developing browser software for Mozilla and others: “Why Kite?” He gave three reasons:
1) The Open Web. As a content platform, until now we have taken that for granted, but in the fall Apple is launching Apple News, and then you don’t have an open free platform anymore. Now they don’t have that control, but we don’t even want to go in that direction.
2) Convenience. You know people are starting to be pushed to individual apps — the CNN app, the New York Times app — and that’s just not the best way for the user. [News sites] should focus on making great content, not on making apps. Kite brings all sources into one container, but when you go to each of them, you go to their direct website, so they control their own thing, but they’re contained within one user experience, so that’s better for the user.
3) The social aspect. We’ve seen now that social curation of content works. I want to read what you read. So there’s two ways of curation: There’s the old-fashioned way — you go to CNN to see what kind of information they have curated for you, that works, and now we have the social curation that works, and Kite brings those two things together, kind of like the yin to the yang. And we also believe while Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or these other social networks cater to sharing, they were not specifically made for content sharing. For example, on Kite I can go on your profile and see what kind of curation comes to you. You can’t do that on Facebook.
“I’ve learned through doing the web browser for so many years that algorithmic curation of things generally doesn’t work over scale over time,” Trond added. “Social curation works; brand curation works. But not algorithmic curation. I like food, so then I’m gonna get food articles. It’s unpredictable. . . . Engineers love to do algorithmic things, because that’s what they can do with their machines. ‘Look, you enter cheese, you can get a lot of articles about cheese!’ But it’s not really valuable or interesting. You can see on the Kite app, when you click another person, you can see his feed and his sites, what he reads. It’s useful, it’s predictable, it’s not algorithmic.”
We clicked on Trond’s feed and it’s fascinating. Try Kite and save some screen space — no need to clutter your iPhone with separate apps from CNN, WSJ, NYT, BBC, Guardian, Economist, etc. ThisWeekInNewYork is starting a Kite feed now, and curious readers can download the app for free on the App Store; during the festival, which continues through June 14 and has a terrific app of its own, you can use the invite code: northside.
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