Streaming, Personalized News Radio on Your Mobile? That’s Swell

 

 

 

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Everyone knows Pandora, right? I remember one of my very early posts on Advocate’s Studio was about the streaming music service based on the Music Genome Project that compared  your interests to other cool music you might like based on matching some 40 something-odd characteristics. I remember being totally blown away by the concept of Pandora when I first happened on it: it was one of those A-HA moments that hooked me deeply to web apps and the power of the Internet back in the day.

News radio, however, hasn’t had the benefit of personalized, algorithmic preference-based treatment like music has enjoyed. Until now.

Swell is a new free mobile app (currently iOS and soon Android) that promises a somewhat similar experience for news and podcast junkies. At first, you will get served a wide variety of podcasts and, as you skip or like shows, Swell will get better at guessing what you want to hear. This could include TED talks, NPR programs, ABC media, BBC media and other sources. Hopefully the sources will expand as the service gets more popular.

Starting with your Twitter login, Swell will base initial guesses on your network. Like Pandora, Swell will simply deliver up the content in a continuous stream, one after the other. Sort of like “set it and forget it”, but preserving the ability to skip or like to tailor the experience to your tastes. You can also bookmark content to return to later. Swell calls this a “lean back” format. So, I guess you just turn it on and lean back while the goods are delivered. The algorithm measures (from the site):

Expert rating: Rating and metadata assigned to the program by an expert human curator

User rating: Your judgment of the program inferred from how long you spend listening to episodes of the program

Content rating: A measure of how closely the content and topic matches your interests

Community rating: The Swell user community’s overall judgment of the content

Peer rating: Judgment of the content by other users similar to the you

You also can choose topics, on which Swell will then provide three articles before returning you to the regular playlist. Use of wi-fi or cellular data for downloads is selectable in settings. And, you can share content with friends on Twitter or Facebook.

Pandora remains a go-to app for me because I really like the “set it and forget it” or “lean back” approach to content discovery. So Swell seems like a pretty decent idea to me. If you prefer news to jams, then check out Swell. And let me know what you think.

State – A Roll-Your-Own Streaming App

There is a new kid on the block in the game of stream-management and that kid is State. Similar tools  have come before, with Friendfeed the most notable – apps that allow you to take your content from other applications and combine it into a single application much like braiding strands of hair into a single coil. The benefit to the user is a one-stop location at which the user’s own content can be managed and viewed, as well as a single vantage point for that user to view and interact with the streams of his or her follows. This was the point behind the popular Friendfeed, which has lost its luster in the wake of a talent sale to Facebook, and appears to be the driving force behind State.

It is not a clone, however. For example, your content isn’t just passively pushed into the service. You connect your services (five at the moment for bringing in content – Twitter, App.net, Instagram and, very interestingly, Dropbox, as well as Instapaper for sending out content), and build out your stream manually. When you add content using the icons on a “workspace” page, which you can rename with a better description of your page, you can select the incoming stream, then the resource – in other words the filter of content by filters that are meaningful to the service, including home timeline, mentions, user, place, tag, search, list, location, favorite, etc. Then fiddle with the content box dimensions containing the stream content and create a boxy-magazine like look. You can have several workspaces accessible by dropdown arrow.

You will also be able to follow others streams if users choose to make them public, and you can choose to make yours public or keep them private. Thus, when State really gets going (and hopefully hooks up more services), you will be able to use it as a content discovery tool and a personal content curation tool. The interface is unique and interesting. I can see the benefit as more services are added – and can definitely see the utility from both sides (managing your own and viewing others content) of the content coin.

You can ask for access to the private beta at the link above, and check out a demo of how State works. Can’t wait to see how this tool develops.

Microsoft Office On Your iPad? You Bet, With OnLive

 

Have you seen this very VERY cool app for your iOS or Android device? OnLive, the streaming service for PC games, has developed a desktop client and companion mobile app that allows you to stream your favorite Microsoft desktop apps to your tablet. The iOS app has been out for about a month, and the Android app was just released this past week.


Want to try it out? Navigate to OnLive’s web page, create a free account, and download the client. Then, launch the app and sign into the account you created. You then will see a simplified Windows 7 desktop screen on your tablet. When you need to type, a proprietary keyboard pops up. Don’t get frustrated – the Windows interface is definitely stripped down when compared to its desktop counterpart. But, when you open up the applications, you will see the full Windows versions of PowerPoint, Word and Excel, as well as Adobe Reader. Easily move files between the desktop and the tablet. And they work pretty freaking well, with very little lag.

 

Free gets you 2GB of online storage and use of the core Office applications. $10 / month gets a Pro account, 50GB of storage, web browsing within the app and additional features promised, including collaboration and chat features. The Pro account also offers a faster experience and the ability to add a few more programs to the tablet-top.

 

Oh, and guess what? You can even run Flash in the browser on your iPad using the OnLive app, when you up-purchase your account. And, just to make it fun, they added a couple of games. For those times that you feel you have been too productive on your tablet with your new-found virtualization abilities.

 

It’s internet based, so the app won’t work without a connection and, when you have a lousy connection, it will show when you try to use the app. And if you have lots of typing to do, consider a bluetooth keyboard rather than the propriety Windows screen-based keyboard. Another downside to the free version is that you will be pushed to the end of the line for server access, making it difficult to use it when there is heavy traffic.

 

But, there is little doubt that OnLive is on to something and that this type of tech, along with apps like Dropbox, are definitely the wave of our productive, working future. If you would like to see the magic in action, check out Walt Mossberg’s video review for the Wall Street Journal YouTube channel – there is no question that this app can perform some magic.