TimesPeople is the beginning of a social network from the New York Times.
It’s a pleasant interface and a clever application, living in the browser as a Firefox add-on that doesn’t get in the way of my NYT browsing.
It’s simple: Hit the recommend button on any story or blog post and a link shows up in your activity stream and your friends can see that you recommended a story. The app is supposed to notice when I rate a restaurant or add a comment to a story, too, although I don’t see that happening after a quick test this morning.
And that’s all it does.
Which isn’t much.
Here’s a short list of features I’d like to see — After this list, I’ll get to the point of this post by pointing out where you can find all these features in different social applications, some of which are already running at the NYT site.
- The ability to recommend links from anywhere on the Web, perhaps via a bookmarklet.
- The ability to comment on recommendations, a la Friendfeed.
- Show us the Most Recommended links (today, all-time, this week, etc.)
- Show us blog posts that reference our recommended links.
OK, now the reveal: NYTimes.com already does most of this, if not all of it.
TimesFile is a social bookmarking tool that allows you to “Save” stories from NYTimes.com, tag them, view a list of most recommended links, and — wait for it — bookmark links from anywhere on the Web using a bookmarklet.
If TimesFile and TimesPeople were integrated, that would take care of #1 and #3 on my list.
(Judging by the .JSP extension on the TimesFile pages, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that integration to happen, although it should be easy enough to export the XML feed of a user’s saved bookmarks to the People activity feed, right?)
The second item on my list doesn’t seem to be hiding anywhere, although the TimesPeople FAQ mentions it as a possibility down the road.
But the data behind #4 exists at the Annotated New York Times, a product of BlogRunner, a company the NYT bought a couple years back. I’ve mentioned it before, usually in the context of being puzzled over why they don’t link back to the blogs that reference their stories.
I’m still puzzled about that, but perhaps the TimesPeople app might be a nice place to allow users to opt in. If I’m interested enough in a story to recommend it to my friends, odds are I would read a blog post or two that continues the discussion.
So what’s the verdict?
Hey, this is fun, and here I am spending more time at the NYT site than I usually would, but these disparate threads of development really need to be tied together to be useful enough to keep me coming back.
I’m glad to see developers working in their labs and turning out applications, trying new things, but if any of these are going to last, long-term, it might make sense to choose a platform and stick with it, making it marginally easier to put the puzzle together when they find the features that stick with users.
Ryan Sholin is thinking hard about iterative Web development and choosing the right platform for a social network while he builds ReportingOn, his Knight News Challenge project.