If This Then That

If this then that

Between Flipboard and Zite on the iPad my primary means of consuming news and social media is a settled thing. But the workflow to act upon an information item is not consistent. A new startup IFTTT, aka ‘if this then that‘, takes an excellent crack at the problem.

To add more context, on Flipboard my way of marking an item for acting upon it later differs. I ‘favorite‘ tweets, ‘star‘ RSS entries from Google Reader and ‘like‘ Facebook entries. On Zite, for items I wish to act upon, I end up ‘bookmarking‘ them on delicious. Ideally I would have all favorite tweets, star RSS entries end up at delicious.

Think of IFTTT as a way to act on content from any of your social media streams, based on specific conditions being true within the content. Simple example is to bookmark a tweet in delicious if I favorite it in Twitter. IFTTT does this automatically now.

To be clear Yahoo Pipes does do this and more but the user interface is suited for those with programming experience or at least the ability to understand and build flow-charts. IFTTT excels because of its UX simplicity. The means for setting up a task are like reading a simple sentence and filling in the blanks. GUI has given way to a simple textual interface. Beautiful is an understatement!

Head over to IFTTT and have a play. They are in beta though. I have 5 invites to give away, drop me a mail(check my ‘About’ page) and I can send you one. And my first recipe to save favorite tweets to delicious is here.

(Thanks to Robin Sloan at Snarkmarket for pointing out!)

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Idea – Flipboard for Financial Research

FlipboardForiPad

Flipboard is a personalized, social magazine for online content. Currently an iPad app, it has completely revolutionized media consumption for me.

Media consumption workflow

Almost 90% of my online time is spent on iPad/Fliboard at home. My twitter, facebook and rss feeds all are rendered in beautiful magazine layout. Add the ability to share the content again via Twitter or store for later via Instapaper and I have the right workflow for media discovery and consumption on the iPad.

Rich media aggregators like Flipboard on the iPad are the harbingers of how online media should be presented and consumed.

Online News and Financial Research

This has been interesting to me since my day job is running a product business that helps research analysts produce financial research. There are many similarities between online news and social media feeds and financial research. There should be no reason why the same experience available for news via iPad should not be possible for financial research.

Antiquated Tools

Of course reality is a little more complicated than that. Financial services firms are typically behind on the technology adoption curve. Research is produced using antiquated tools, stored in proprietary file formats and distributed in PDF.

What about RIXML?

RIXML, an XML standard, has been around as a structured way to publish and distribute research and the data elements surrounding it. But its adoption has been hampered due to complexity of specification, clunky authoring tools or reluctant businesses who don’t see sufficient ROI via this approach.

Whilst I have my own views on the utility of RIXML, I firmly believe a structured form of data exchange will benefit all parties concerned. Some of these capabilities, or consequences of using a structured data format in popular tools for research authoring from my firm and others.

Sellability

But it is always a tough sell when talking about the benefits of serialization formats, metadata in general and adhering to a standard taxonomy and making the output available in a standardized format.

With Flipboard it becomes easier to sell the benefits of publishing content in standardized formats. Because without RSS feeds and standard ways of marking up and publishing content Flipboard-like experiences would be an impossibility.

Last thoughts

Of course I do get that financial research is mixture of structured and unstructured data and there are a ton of cool things that can be done here to make the job of communicating and consuming insights a vastly superior experience to what it is now.

Drop a note/comment if you are interested to hear more or wish to discuss.

For iPad, To Go Native or With Web Standards? See Flipboard

Flipboard is a hot new startup that offers a social magazine on the iPad. Basically it takes your Twitter, Facebook feeds, scrapes out the links in them, does some more smart crawling and provides a magazine like experience. Everything from choosing pictures to display from the links, the dimensions, layout etc. is dealt with dynamically.

Today they announced a feature called Flipboard Pages, which I came across via ReadWriteWeb. The feature itself is said to be a framework that..

..automatically converts traditional Web content into an iPad-friendly format, featuring full-screen, paginated, magazine-like pages.

It seems content publishers have to publish information in a certain way to make the magazine like reading experience possible, instead of a staid old web-page.

Now to the key point that caught my eye

All publishers worked with Flipboard to create their own HTML5-based framework, so they each have their own look and feel.

Wow. I am excited by a few things here.

  • Ability of HTML 5.0 to act as an informal contract between content publishers and aggregators
  • The rise of aggregators that can morph a bunch of links fished out of content streams and construct a magazine like experience. On the fly. Dynamically. Personalized for every user.
  • Publishers produce content in one format HTML 5.0, which by default would be handled by most modern browser. And there is the differentiated experience via special apps.
  • All of them driven by web standards and not a proprietary technology in sight!

On a plain HTML 5.0 page it would not be possible to do all that can be done within iOS, at least in my understanding. But this news reduces the need to go native iOS for one more class of apps.

Publishers, aggregators and consumers win with this approach. For those who still on the Flash, Silverlight bandwagon for dynamic rich experiences its time to rethink your approaches.