I first mentioned Paper.li in an earlier post http://dougwoods.co.uk/blog/four-twitter-services-you-may-not-have-seen/
where it was one of a few new twitter services I was trying out. Since that time, Paper.li has grown and developed further. However, as from today I have decided to stop tweeting about new editions of my paper.li newspaper.
Essentially, paper.li is an online newspaper created from twitter tweets. You can select to create a daily paper from tweets by the people you follow, by a twitter list or by a hashtag. Each day a ‘newspaper’ will be created based upon the criteria you have chosen. Please note, though, that you do not have any control of the content other than initially choosing the criteria nor can you select the time or frequency of publication. These are two factors which I felt were a limitation on the service.
The tweets selected will appear in a daily website ‘newspaper’ which looks very good. Indeed it is the look of the resulting page that first attracts users. In appearance it appears much more interesting than similar services such as twitter times. The newspaper will contain articles, adverts, videos and images, the amount and content of which will depend upon the number of your followers or twitters using a given hashtag.
It is important to note, though, that the articles are not written by the people who tweet them, they are often written by someone else but are associated with the people who tweeted about them or linked to them in a tweet. This has caused some confusion with people emailing or messaging me to say that they did not write the article that was associated with them.
Initially I created just one newspaper based upon the tweets of the people I follow. This was very useful and created a very interesting newspaper, mainly because I follow quite a number of people and so the content changed regularly. I also created a newspaper based upon one of my created lists, this too was interesting but as the list had fewer people it had less content each day. More recently I created a few newspapers based upon hashtags, generally these have been less successful and the amount of content has varied depending upon the popularity of the various hashtags.
What, you might ask, were the reasons for creating these ‘newspapers’? Firstly, I wanted to see if they were of any use and, yes, I was seduced by the look of them. Secondly, I felt that they would be useful to catch up on tweets I may have missed during the day. Thirdly, I wanted to see if there could be any educational use for them.
My reason for creating newspapers based upon hashtags is that, initially, I thought these could be the most interesting and the more useful in education. My first hashtag newspaper was created to follow the #ukedchat discussions on a Thursday evening. I felt that this would be a useful way to present all the tweets that happen in what is often a very rushed hour of discussion and exchange of tweets. I realised that the paper would come out each day but that only the Thursday or Friday editions would reflect the week’s discussion hour. However, it was not as good as I had hoped. Although many people were taking part in the ukedchat discussions, they were only picked up by paper.li if they had links to websites, videos or photos; general tweets using the #ukedchat hashtag were usually overlooked.
I wanted to try to create a paper.li newspaper which might be of use in a classroom, for this I created a ‘newspaper’ based on the #flood hashtag. This was at the time of the Pakistan floods, though it would also pick up other floods if the #flood hashtag was used. I felt that this was a worldwide event which would be worthy of use in a classroom on geography or current affairs and might be a way of introducing twitter into lessons.
Fairly recently, Paper.li introduced the facility to automatically tweet when new editions of your newspapers were made available. I took advantage of this and used it to tweet whenever a new edition of each newspaper became available. The effect of this was in part to publicise further the tool being offered by paper.li and I am aware that many people signed up for the service as a result of my autotweets. It also led to an increase in the number of people following me. However, it also meant that my twitter stream became populated with more autotweets; something which annoys many people.
I am still using the paper.li service but I have decided to switch off, for now, the autotweets. There are a number of limitations in the service which make me question its current usefulness, though I do accept that it is still in alpha stage so may address these issues later on its development. Firstly, I became frustrated that some newspapers contained far more content than others, I guess this is understandable but regrettable, it might be overcome, though, if the user could select the frequency of each publication; say, daily, weekly or monthly so that only those with a lot of regular content could be published daily but others could accumulate content for weekly or monthly publication.
I have already mentioned that, apart from selecting the criteria for the content, the user has no control over what appears in their ‘newspaper’. This was a concern for me, especially on the very few occasions when I found disagreeable content being presented or adverts for something I don’t like being displayed. It would be nice if the user had the option to remove any content they did not like before publication.
However, this really raises the question, who is each newspaper for? Who is/are the target audience? is it the creator, is it the followers of the creator or is it someone else? I think you can make a case for each but without the creator having some control over content and publication schedule, it is difficult to use it effectively with users other than the creator themselves.
Another feature I would very much like to see is the ability to archive issues. At the present each new issue replaces previous issues, so links only direct the user to the current issue and previous issues are lost. This is a shame as I feel that an archive of past issues could be of great use, particularly in an educational setting.
So in conclusion I would say that the paper.li service is a very interesting one and one which has lots of potential. It is still in alpha stage of development and really needs to add new features to increase its usefulness. I know that part of the idea is that it is an automated service but I really would like to see greater control of content by the users. I’d also like to be able to determine the frequency of publication and have the ability to archive issues. If these features could be introduced, I’d recommend anyone to have a look at the service and explore its potential further.
My newspapers are still online, changed daily and available for anyone to see, even though I have turned off the autotweet function.