After eight weeks of testing in private beta, Newsvine is now live to the world. It’s been an extremely productive couple of months, with countless enhancements and feature additions making their way onto the site almost every day.
The decision when to release to the world was a tough one for us. The site has come so far in its short existence, and yet, we feel we still have so far to go. Things are never finished around here, but that’s a good thing. By continuing to listen and react to the needs of the community, the Newsvine team is determined to make this site what it has always promised to be: a perfectly different, perfectly efficient way to read, write, and discuss the news.
We’d like to send out a huge thank you to all members of the alpha and the beta for taking the time to put Newsvine through its motions. When you build a large-scale news media site and an accompanying content management system from scratch, there’s simply no way to forecast what issues and circumstances will come up until a diverse group of people put it to everyday use. So for all 30,000+ people who made their way into the beta during the last several weeks, THANK YOU! A huge thanks also goes to Mike Slade, Nick Hanauer, and the rest of the crew at Second Avenue Partners who have not only provided us with the financial support to build Newsvine but also the industry expertise to help us build the best service we can possibly build.
So where are we with regards to features at launch? Let’s a quick look at the some of the features that made it in for launch, as well as the things the five of us will be working on for the next few months:
The Fastest Wire News on the Web
Because there is no editor sitting between our newswires and the live site, news makes its way onto Newsvine faster than any site on the web. In some cases, we’ve beaten major news sites by hours on very important stories. The news mix is continuously being adjusted over here so we’re still working out some kinks, but one thing we know is we’re extremely fast.
500+ Regions Around the World
Newsvine now covers over 500 regions around the world… including Antarctica! While we’re just beginning to scratch the surface with international coverage, it’s now fully possible to submit content from all around the world and have it appear in its appropriate location. Not only that, but all news on the site is displayed in your local time zone, whether it be Pacific, Eastern, or Ulaanbaatar time. We have big plans for both expanding the breadth of our regional coverage as well as drilling down to the “micro-location” level… or neighborhoods. Stay tuned.
Easy Writing and Seeding
Over the last several weeks, we’ve added features like spellchecking, autosave, and inline previewing to our authoring tools while making them simpler at the same time. The goal at Newsvine is for people who’ve never published on the web before to easily hop right on and start writing. Additionally, we’ve made it possible for people to maintain their own columns simply by saving interesting news stories (seeding). The goal is to get people involved in any way they wish.
The Newsvine Doppelganger™ is a handsome beast capable of determining the similarity of articles hosted anywhere in the world. For instance, if someone were to write an original Newsvine article on a particular incident in Iraq, Newsvine would instantly know if similar Associated Press stories were available anywhere on the site, or even external stories seeded from other sites like CNN or the BBC. The goal here is the automated clustered of similar information and the ability to point readers in the direction of the most lively and informative conversations.
Flexible, Usable Navigation
Searching on Newsvine is as easy as typing a term into the URL bar. “newsvine.com/sports” gives you all sports stories on the site. “strubel.newsvine.com/sports” gives you all sports stories by John Strubel. “seattle.newsvine.com” gives you all stories from the Seattle region.
Powerful moderation tools
We now have the ability to endorse and report every piece of content on the site. Whether article, seed, or comment, all users are now directly accountable for what they submit. We’re happy to say that during the private beta, system abuse was squashed quickly and, in most cases, automatically. The reputation and reporting system at Newsvine will continue to evolve every day as we react to new circumstances around the site. As in the case with any community, abuse will occur, but via a combination of automated tools and responsible community oversight, we expect these incidents to remain under control.
Things on the Radar
Depth of Content, Especially in Sports
Within a short period of time, you’ll see certain sections on the site receive their own special treatment depending on what sort of information needs to be displayed. For instance, in the sports section, we’ll have team navigation, live scoreboards, and all of the other things you’d expect to see on a sports site. In the business section, you’ll see stocks. We’ve built the system very wide, and now it’s time to go deep.
One of the founding philosophies of Newsvine is that where users put value into the site, they should receive value in return. For this reason, we offer the most generous advertising split in the business to those who contribute in good faith. We are in the midst of settling the details of our ad agreement, from a sales and technology side, so expect ads to go live within several weeks. Until the system is ready and tested, however, the site will remain ad-free.
One of the most heavily requested features has been group functionality, and through a series of articles written by the prolific Mykola Bilokonsky, we have begun to address this opportunity. There is nothing to show publicly at this stage, but rest assured, guilds are high on the radar.
Chat Lobby and Enhancements
Chat itself actually works pretty well, but right now initiating chats is a bit counterintuitive. If you hop in an empty room, others will usually enter within 3 or 4 minutes, but most people don’t think to do this. For this reason, we’ll be working on a dedicated chat lobby for people to get together with as little guesswork as possible.
Better Diversification of Topics on the Front Page
As many users have noticed, the front page of Newsvine can be tech-heavy and sports-heavy at times. Expect to see a concerted effort to keep the news mix as even as possible in the future.
Writer Discovery and Cultivation
During the private beta, we’ve just let writers discover Newsvine on their own. We haven’t advertised or made any other concerted efforts to get people on board. It is our hope that once the site is available for public viewing more and more people with interesting things to say will come on board and start writing. We do, however, need to step up our efforts in helping fill niche subjects and finding the best independent voices. The best way you can help is to invite friends and help spread the word.
Right now, a column is simply a list of articles you’ve written and links you’ve seeded. This is nice and simple, but users have indicated they’d like the ability to add all sorts of modules to further personalize their pages. Now, we’re not talking MySpace-style auto-play music, tiled backgrounds, anything goes, stuff… obviously… but there are a wealth of additions we plan on making which will allow users to express themselves in other, creative ways.
And off we go…
So there you have it. We’re live. It’s been a great few months so far, and we look forward to a lasting relationship with the people who really make this site work… the Newsvine community.