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August 25, 2009

Parse.ly Spices Up the News Based On Your Interest Filters

I am enjoying seeing the growth in Web services tailored to finding the very best news just for me. From My6Sense's attempt to only show me the best news, and hiding the less-important items, to Lazyfeed's topics-based blog search engine, we've recently seen two interesting approaches to cutting through information overload and finding the best data. A new invite-only beta service, called Parse.ly, claims to offer "fresh content" with "minimal garnish", and, leveraging my interests, gives me the highest-ranked stories, derived not just from my leanings, but how strongly I find myself aligned with specific topics. The result is another news source with an outstanding signal to noise ratio.

If you are among the lucky few who has thus far obtained access to Philadelphia-based Parse.ly (I am betting the best way is to follow their Twitter account), you start by entering terms you want to find news on, and dragging them to boxes that signify your intensity of interest. The five boxes range from "Most" to "Extremely", "Very", "Moderately" and "Somewhat", in descending order.


Prioritizing My News In Parse.ly

Per my usual approach, I filled the boxes with tech terms, and deigned to see if Parse.ly could find me new, interesting stories about the topics I am most interested in. And it came through - no question.

Each of the buckets ("Somewhat" to "Most") gained a numerical score, from 2 to 10. As a result if a blog post had two of my "10 point words" in its title or excerpt, it would have 20 points, and be pushed to the top of the results queue. Higher yet would be a story on Google around Pubsubhubbub and RSS, which weighed in at 28 points, sporting two 10 point words and an 8 pointer. Like traditional feed readers, Parse.ly shows the title of the story and the date, but it also includes a short summary and, yes, the post's numerical score. Sorting by score shows the highest ranking results.


My Starred Items In A Parse.ly Reading Pane


How Stories Got Scored Based On My Preferences

If you click on a story in the standard view, an excerpt is displayed in the reading pane, which also features a "Score Explanation". And if you click on the story itself, a new window will open with a Parse.ly share bar, prompting you to either save the story for later viewing, or share it to a myriad of other social networks.


The Parse.ly Sharebar In Action on eWeek

Parse.ly clearly states that its focus is all about the content and minimal when it comes to garnish (or design). That's absolutely the case. The product is reminiscent of GMail and Google Reader with its simple interface and the ability to star items, or show only read and unread items. You can also archive old items or delete them, just like you would for old e-mails and RSS feeds.

I am eager to see Parse.ly open up and let people get into the product, for while I have plenty of places to get news, Parse.ly has among the best I've ever seen in terms of quality. The company even says it could be a solid alternative to Google Alerts. Not a single spam blog was found, a testament to Parse.ly's selection from 50,000 different sources. The option to share out to other networks will also make it an interesting part of the social ecosystem.