If you follow my twitter stream you may have noticed that everyday about 9am, you’ll see a tweet with a link to my daily paper and a number of @mentions of people featured in it. You may even have been one of those @ mentions.
I’ve actually had a paper.li account since last year, but it’s only recently that I’ve actually set the “automagic” tweet button live. Partly this was because I’ve found it quite interesting following links to other paper.li sites where I’ve been mentioned, and also partly as a bit of a social experiment to see (a) if anyone noticed and (b) what reactions, if any, it would solicit. In fact this post is a direct response to Tore Hoel’s tweet at the weekend asking if I was going to reflect on use.
Well, here goes. So being one of those people who likes to play (and follows every link Stephen Fry tweeets) I was intrigued when I came across paper.li at first and signed up. For those of you unfamiliar with the service it basically pulls in links from your twitter feed, categorizes them and produces an online paper. Something, and I’m not sure what it was prevented me from making the links public from the outset. On reflection I think it was that I wanted to see how the system works, and if it actually did provide something useful.
There’s no editorial control with the system. It selects and classifies articles, links and randomly generates your online paper, and (if you choose) sends a daily tweet message from your twitter account with a url and @mentions for selected contributions. Sometimes these are slightly odd – you might get mentioned because you tweeted a link to an article in “proper” paper, a blog entry or a link to a flickr stream. It’s not like getting a by-line in a proper paper by any stretch of the imagination. The website itself has an archive of your paper and there’s also the ability to embed a widget into other sites such as blogs. Other services I’ve used which utilise twitter (such as storify) generate more relevant @mention tweets i.e. only for those you actually quote in your story. You also have the option not to send an auto tweet. Something I missed the first time I used it and so tweeted myself about my story:-).
So, without editorial control is this service useful? Well like most things in life, it depends. Some people seem to find it irritating as it doesn’t always link to things they have actually written, rather links they have shared. So for the active self promoter it can detract from getting traffic to their own blog/website. Actually that’s one of the things I like- it collates links that often I haven’t seen and I can do a quick skim and scan and decide what I want to read more about. Sometimes they’re useful – sometimes not. But on the whole that’s the thing with twitter too – some days really useful, others a load of footballing nonsense. I don’t mind being quoted by other people using the service too. It doesn’t happen that often and I don’t follow too many people, and guess what -sometimes I don’t actually read everything in my twitter stream, and I don’t follow all the links people post – shocking confession I know! However when you post on to twitter it’s all publicly available so why collate it? If it’s a bit random, then so be it. But some others see it differently.
If you don’t like being included in these things then, like James Clay get yourself removed from the system.
There have been another couple of instances where I have found the service useful too. For the week after the CETIS10 conference last year, we published the CETIS10 daily via the JISC CETIS twitter account. As there was quite a lot of post conference activity on blogs etc it was another quite useful collation tool – but only for a short period of time where there was enough related activity to the conference hashtag for the content to be nearly always related to the conference. Due to the lack of editorial control, I don’t think a daily JISC CETIS paper.li would be appropriate. The randomness that I like in my personal paper isn’t really appropriate at an organisational communication level.
I recently took part in the LAAK11 course, and one of the other participants (Tony Searle, set up a paper.li using the course hashtag. I found this useful as it quickly linked me other students, articles etc which I might not have seen/connected with and vice versa. Again the key here was having enough relevant activity Tore asked if it would be useful for projects? I’m in two minds about that – on the one hand it might – in terms of marketing, getting followers. But again the lack of editorial control might lead to promotion of something that wasn’t as closely related to the project as you would like. If however you have an active project community then it might work.
For the moment the Sheila MacNeill daily will continue but I’d be interested to hear other thoughts and experiences.