Alltop - Innovation or Waste of Space?

Every once in a while I reply to people on Twitter when they ask a question. The other day Jeremiah tweeted:

What do you think of RSSMEME? It appears to aggregate stories I see elsewhere, time saver or redundant?

I had taken a look at the site and while it could serve a purpose for some people, for myself I saw the site as being redundant and not a time saver so I replied back.

@jowyang RSSMeme for me is redundant. Maybe not for others. I also don’t care for sites like that and AllTop. Waste of space IMHO.

Well my little mention of AllTop in my reply caught the attention of Mr. Kawasaki, who must monitor Twitter for mention of AllTop, replied back to me.

@lgr “waste of space,” huh?

140 characters is just not enough space to reply to Mr. Kawasaki about why I don’t care for AllTop, why I think it is a waste of space and some ideas about how AllTop could be improved to make it more interesting.

First off AllTop seems to be gaining some interest from bloggers lately. Most notably Darren Rowse and Jeremy Schoemaker. I first heard about Alltop back in March when TechCrunch did a story on the new site. TechCrunch was less than glowing about AllTop when it first wrote about it. Darren Rowse does not say much about it, merely suggests people look at it as a source of information about how to blog. Jeremy Schoemaker on the other hand does make some good points about AllTop in his post and he might be right. The target audience for Alltop are people that are not familiar with RSS and just want the information without going through all of the trouble of learning how to use an RSS reader. There certainly is enough people out there that don’t use RSS, and probably never will, but is AllTop the answer for them? I don’t think so, not because they would not get the overview of the information they are looking for, but simply because the web interface for AllTop is better suited for a technology crowd and the people Jeremy Schoemaker is talking about already have their sources of information. They go to their local news websites, the newspaper websites, maybe Google News. These people go to the websites that they already trust. They are not seeking out information from dozens of blogs.

The nicest way to describe Alltop is to call it a news aggregator that offers a list of topics and each topic has RSS feeds from various sources, blogs, news sources etc. Depending on the topic you choose will depend on where the sources of information come from. For example the SEO topic mostly lists blogs on the topic, while the Personal Finance topic has more traditional news sources. AllTop is not a new idea, it expands on the number of topics that are covered, but the idea itself can be seen elsewhere, most notably the Web 2.0 Workgroup, and popurls. AllTop even clearly states it was inspired by popurls.

There are some things I like about AllTop. It does have a pleasant design and it has a growing list of categories that it aggregates information from. It also makes it easy to remove the feeds you don’t want see be simply clicking the little x to the right of the title for each news feed. It does not offer much more for personalization other than hiding news feed I don’t want to see.

If Jeremy Schoemaker is right AllTop is great for that group of people that don’t use RSS yet. If AllTop wants to appeal to a wider audience it needs to add more features. They could start by offering accounts with more personalization options. Allow people to add other RSS feeds to their own accounts and become a news reader application for those that want it. Offer the ability to add friends, share news items between them and let people to comment on news items something like Friendfeed. Add something that makes AllTop stand out from the rest.

Adding more categories does not make AllTop better, it makes it nothing more than a waste of space. Will AllTop be a success? Probably, but would it be a success if it was not backed by Mr. Kawasaki? Perhaps I just expect more from Mr. Kawasaki, after seeing this video called “The Art of the Start”. How does AllTop stack up against some of the points that Mr. Kawasaki says in the video?

What do you think of AllTop? Do you use it to keep up with the latest news?

Categories: web-20