There’s no shortage of startups looking to solve the problem of ‘news overload’ on Twitter – from Flipboard’s magazine-style approach to services like News.me that apply a more algorithmic approach to working out what stories are the most important for you to read. Nine Connections is a new service that puts simplicity above everything else.

The principle behind Nine Connections is that you don’t need to look to a wide network of Twitter users to find the most relevant news stories for you – instead, just nine well-chosen users can be enough.

You start off by adding nine Twitter users to a grid. For each user you add, news shared by their network of Twitter contacts will be added to your feed within Nine Connections. You can adjust the timespan that your feed covers, so that it only covers the latest stories, or popular stories from a longer time period if you want to catch up on things you’ve missed.

Each article can be read directly inside NineConnections, saved for later, or shared via Twitter. For each story, you also get details of who shared it, helping you find new, useful connections.

You can set up multiple grids, so if you want one for stories shared by tech influencers, one for political news and one for news from your home town, that’s fine – just set up grids with relevant Twitter accounts in them.

nc1 Nine Connections: A smart new way of discovering news that matters to you [Invites]

Screen Shot 2012 01 04 at 13.27.47 Nine Connections: A smart new way of discovering news that matters to you [Invites]

How it works

The stories Nine Connections brings up are satisfyingly interesting, but you may wonder why you wouldn’t just set up a Twitter List to produce a similar effect? Nine Connections turns out to be based on quite complex sociological theories on the transmission of information around groups.

As CEO, Lucien Burm explains: “With a Twitter List you would only notice articles shared by the people in that List. With Nine Connections, news that is trending towards you in those people’s networks is being retrieved for you without social delay. So it is also about what friends, friends of friends and further away are sharing.”

Burm says that one way to look at it is like a radar. “Items moving towards you from a distance are earlier retrieved. This might give you an edge on Twitter itself. But mostly this is about what those nine people represent to you, in what kind of world they operate and what news there is. It is an easy, low maintenance way to get that level of news. Only a pro with very large lists might come close and even then he or she would miss out, or be at least slower.

“With us it is about intelligent connections. News autonomously travels through those connections making decision where to go. So, without the need to be shared, the news can reach you. This is why we call it viral network. It influences without personal activity. It is sort of creating a collective intelligence just by being part of network. For us, this is the next generation of networks.”

nc2 Nine Connections: A smart new way of discovering news that matters to you [Invites]

A work in progress, but definitely worth trying

Amsterdam-based Nine Connections is still in semi-closed beta, growing steadily via an invites system. There are still areas in need of improvement. For example, choosing the right nine people to add to a grid to achieve the best result is a matter of personal taste and trial-and-error. While there’s nothing wrong with this, and commonly added users are suggested by the app, a little more guidance in suggesting the right users for the right kinds of news would be useful in the future.

Meanwhile, although the app has become a lot faster in the month or so we’ve been testing it, there are still some occasional speed issues in times in terms of responsiveness as you arrange your grids and search for users to add. These will no doubt be improved over time.

Still, Nine Connections is well worth trying if you’re a news junkie in search of the best news, filtered from the links your social contacts share every day. The startup has given us 2000 invites for The Next Web readers. To sign up, follow this link.

➤ Nine Connections