I’ve been using the http://paper.li/ service for several months, but a few days ago I decided to cancel it. What is it, and why did I cancel?
What paper.li does is take information from your Twitter account and format it in the form of a newspaper. It sounds great, but I started to have misgivings about it. Furthermore, I’ve just noticed that Doug Woods, from whom I first heard about the service, came to similar conclusions to myself – except that he got there two and a half months ago. In fact, it’s quite uncanny that I tried similar things to Doug, or vice versa, but without any exchange of views or information between us. Well, great minds and all that!
The potential benefits of the service
- When you follow lots of people, it’s impossible to keep up with all their news, so there is something very attractive about having it done for you automatically.
- On the subject of attractiveness, the newspapers look like real newspapers, ie nice layout that makes you want to read it.
- It seems like a good way of disseminating information which may be useful to others, without having to put in any time or effort.
I tried it out using three different approaches.
- Because I was worried that one or two or my followers or people I follow might decide to populate a tweet with expletives (which has never happened, as far as I know), I tried creating a paper just from my own tweets, notwithstanding my reservations about displaying comments and tweets out of context. I discovered that my paper consisted only of one tweet, which was hardly useful.
- I also tried using a hashtag, deciding on the group #edtechuk (again, just like Doug, although I wasn’t aware he had done so). To my surprise, much of the time this produced nothing at all. Doug has surmised that only tweets containing links get included.
- The one I settled on in the end was just @terryfreedman, plain and simple. This was, in terms of volume of content at least, successful.
- You have no control over what is included in your daily paper, or where it’s placed. That mean that you can easily end up broadcasting something you fundamentally disagree with, but without the option of adding your own thoughts about it. Also, although the random nature of the content is interesting on one level, on another it means that you cannot decide, for instance, on a theme of the week. It’s true that I could simply have turned off the automatic announcement, and informed people about it when the content was to my liking, but that would just have added an extra layer of work to an already busy schedule.
- I set the service to announce itself automatically every day on Twitter. After a while, and especially when lots of people were using the service, this began to look very much like spam. I could have set it to update less frequently, but it would still have looked like spam when it did get announced.
- A few times, a retweet or comment about something was included, but not the original thing being alluded to. Consequently, I received a few messages from people embarrassed by apparently taking credit for something which was not theirs to take credit for.
So, whilst I love the idea of this kind of automatically-generated newspaper, as far as I am concerned the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.
Have you tried this or another, similar, service? What are your views on the matter?