Flipboard turns Twitter and Facebook into an iPad magazine
For someone who only upgraded from a 1997 Palm III PDA and a 2003 Nokia to an iPhone last year, I am now proud to be part of the in-crowd: I have an iPad.
The only reason why I have an iPad, is that I dreamt of having an iPad. I believe in my dreams. I also dreamt I had a Landrover. But after my Ugandan adventures with my previous Landrover, I put that dream on hold for a while. And continue to drive my Smart. But that is besides the point.
What was the point again? Ah, yes, iHave an iPad… iLove the iPad. iAdore the iPad. iDont know iWhy, but iDo… And the love became only stronger after iDiscovered Flipboard, an application which turns browsing through Twitter and Facebook updates as much fun as browsing through a glossy magazine. iFlipped at first glance!
An exciting way to browse social media streams
Going through a Facebook and Twitter stream using the standard web-based or desktop tools is not much fun really. They are merely a stream of text and links. Links to article, pictures, video, music, presentations, etc.. But you don’t see that. The only thing you see is something dull and cryptic like:
RT @MyTwitterFriend I love this http://bit.ly/91gWrM #FB
You want to see what is behind the shortened URL? Well, click on it and check it out in your browser. A booooring way to scan through tweets…!
Sure enough, there are are web-based applications which turn your tweets into a simple browse-able webpage, but they are not very appealing. It is like reading Playboy in Yellow Pages format.
Flipboard in the other hand, is sexy. I don’t get a Wow! effect easily, but this one surely hit me the moment I started the application: Flipboard imports the stream of my friends’ updates on Facebook and Twitter, it interprets the data, and presents the actual content in a nicely mashed format, coming close to that of a glossy magazine. A digital glossy magazine, that is… An iMagazine as it were!
Enough blabla, let’s have a look in more detail: Flipboard is a free iPad-only application. It consist of three parts. The cover page, a content page, and a series of individual pages with the “articles” based on individual “data streams”.
The cover page
…features an animated slide show with pictures taken from the information stream you have defined on your contents page:
The slide show zooms the pictures out, or pans them sideways, up or down. Nothing really useful here. But nice…
The content page
The real front page, the “Content page”, shows nine tiles, which are my nine data streams:
The defaults are my Twitter and Facebook stream, six predefined Flipboard streams and a spare tile. I can rearrange the position of the tiles with a simple “drag and drop”. Or I can ‘Edit’ the front page to erase tiles or inserting new ones:
I can fill up to nine tiles, each with one data stream. For each, I can choose from a large set of streams Flipboard has pre-defined. There are dozens of Flipboard streams, going from entertainment to news and fashion stuff.
Or I can choose to enter a Twitter username to fill a stream with all updates sent by that user:
In the example above, I defined the data stream to take one of my Twitter accounts @NonProfitBlogs…
And that is basically the only configuration I need to do. Each time I open Flipboard, it reads the nine data streams and prepares “the magazine” for me: the article pages.
The article pages
These articles are really the meat of the matter, the iMeat as it were. Tap on any of my tiles on the content page, or flip away from the magazine’s content page, and… Taraaaaa: I flipped onto my first data stream. Here is, for example, the stream from BoingBoing. iBoingBoing as if it were:
And sure I can turn it vertical. All articles and multimedia are automatically neatly remashed…
The real intriguing part is how it interprets a Twitter stream. That is the real sexy part. iSexy as if it were:
This the glossy and innovative part of Flipboard: how it mashes articles, pictures, video and text quotes all nicely together by interpreting the links the different users in my Twitter stream have tweeted.
Each article or entry can be expanded to a full page which then, for Twitter, shows the original Tweet and its retweets, plus the content of any link which was tweeted. This content might include text, pictures and video, all nicely formatted and mashed up in one neat page.
But it is not only reading…. No! This, ladies and gentlemen, this is an interactive magazine! On the tweet’s page, I can favour, retweet or email the tweet to my heart’s content:
A Facebook entry looks similar. For each entry it shows the text, video or pictures plus its Facebook comments. I can interact with the entry by commenting or marking it ‘I Like’. iLike as if it were.
I can flip through the pages of each data stream as if I’d flip the pages of a magazine. On each page, I can expand an article, zoom in, play the video, comment, retweet, post, “like”, “favour” and email the link,.. to my heart’s content… I can also open each link in a browser, to see the full original article.
Me like! iLike!
It is not all gold that glitters
There are several limitations. The maximum of nine tiles or data streams is one. I can only add new Twitter feeds, but would like to be able to use RSS feeds – or RSS feeds mashed with Yahoo Pipes for instance. I can only define one ‘home’ Twitter and one Facebook user account. A ‘refresh’ button to update my streams would be nice, but I can work around that by closing and reopening the application. And sure enough, I’d like to see them include other social media streams, such as Flickr, Friendfeed,… I’d like also an iPhone version, and while we are at it, an online web-based or desktop version. iLike, iLike, iLike, so much more…
There are some hiccups, too. Not all shortened links are properly expanded, but are shown as simple text quotes. A bug it seems. Most video does not load very well. I guess this is more a limitation of the iPad, which, as part of the iApple family, refuses to play ball with Flash. But even some YouTube videos don’t fly, even though iApple devices like YouTube.
I’d also wish for a short manual. On their website, I have found nothing but an introduction video, and a link to their support website.
All of which are signs of a young but a very promising product which makes browsing Twitter, Facebook and a number of online magazines and mashups a true joy and a pleasure for the eye. Potentially turning social media into iCandy as it were…