News-aggregation is a pretty busy space as things stand, with the likes of Flipboard and Pulse leading the way, and other emerging social platforms such as Njuice showing promise. There’s always room for one more though, right? Right.
Fireplug for iOS has been quietly plugging away in the background for several months already, but in light of a handful of recent tweaks and updates, we thought we’d take a quick look under the hood. We’ve heard good things.
How it works
“The most awesome stage”
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When you first launch the app, you’ll be invited to create a new account – you can do so via Facebook or email.
Before you’ve lifted a finger, the app already serves up a slew of stories in your personal stream – this covers business, technology, sport and everything in between. But given this isn’t tailored, there’s a fair chance it won’t be to your liking – for my stream it had a slew of American sports for example. This is why you set about building your own streams.
It’s also worth adding here, if you choose to connect your Facebook account you’ll see an additional ‘Social Stream’ menu option which reels in articles shared by your Facebook Friends. But that may not be for you.
For each publication within each category, you simply hit the ‘Plus’ button and select which Stream you wish to add it to – you can choose to create a new stream at this point too.
If you don’t see a publication of your choice, you can hit ‘Search’ instead and chances are, if it has a website, it will show up.
You can share or bookmark any article simply by long-pressing it and selecting your desired action.
It’s very easy to delete publications from a specific stream too, by pulling down the little tab in the top-right – this also lets you delete an entire stream if you wish.
Things start to get really interesting in the ‘My Profile’ section, however. Fireplug essentially tracks every article you read, and serves up stats based on your history. This includes articles you’ve read and shared, as well as the number of different sources you’ve used.
Fireplug also draws on a gamification aspect, letting you become a subject-matter master – the more you read on a particular subject, the more credit you get. Your credit score is then categorized based on the contents of the articles you’re reading.
This is a great idea, but isn’t without its flaws – just because you’ve accessed a Web page, this doesn’t mean you’ve read it properly and retained all the information. But I guess the idea here is more of a signifier – if you’ve read 1,000 articles on Apple’s upcoming court case, for example, chances are you’re not blagging it.
This competitive element does have a slightly gimmicky air to it, but the stats page and the overall ‘become an expert’ concept is sound. It would genuinely be interesting to know over the course of a year what I’ve read about most and which publications I always keep coming back to.
While Fireplug may not be quite as slick or ‘visual’ to browse as Flipboard, it is still a very well constructed app. In many ways, it’s actually easier to personalize than its peers and it’s incredibly intuitive to use – if you’re looking for an alternative news-aggregrator, Fireplug is worth your time.
Fireplug for iPhone/iPod touch is available to download for free now.
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