Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Vote for this article. What is this?

Ninemsn have added Flock to the footer of all of their news articles. Digg style article recommendation, they’re using the results to feed ‘The Flock’, a Med Rec sized visual display of their ‘most flocked’ articles. It looks pretty nifty as the news circles fly across the screen, but when you need a legend to explain how it works, you’re losing the users already. And it’s easy to skim over this movement in a ‘banner blindness’ state, given there’s no actual content until you mouse over. More importantly, to ‘Flock’ something isn’t an adjective 99.99% of ninemsn users are going to understand. Brands need to stop trying to invent their brand as an adjective and focus on user-centric terminology. To many are striving for ‘to Google it’ type brand recognition. But Google don’t need a ‘What is this?’ link beside their search box to make it dead clear what you’re there for.

I don’t think ‘voting’ for articles works on the publishers. The incentive isn’t there, where’s the reward? My thoughts are you measure the clicks driven from the index page hyperlinks and search-engine article specific traffic to derive your most-popular. It doesn’t measure the quality of the content, you leave that in the hands of the editors, but it does derive what users are deeming important.

So it drops another piece of realestate in the sandbox that is the baseline of your articles along with all those other icons that are breeding down there. To Digg, to Flock, to Share on Facebook, Messenger,, email. Some of these icons I can’t even decipher. I use frequently, and I have never used this icon, there’s a big fat button in my browser that serves me fine. has a smorgasboard of icons at the base of all articles, yet at the moment on IE 7 none of them are even clickable. I’m sure no-one has noticed. * emails to product team *

So who actually uses these icons? No-one. Those that do use these are probably the same type that don't visit portal sites to consume their news. It’s half-assed social media sharing with more return for the publishers than for the users. Replace that strip with a list of ‘like’ articles, breadcrumbs to related news and attempt to increase the session times on your site. Or just remove them all together.


Unknown said...

i think the flock is awesome! the only reason i found this blog post is because i was trying to find a way to add the flock system to my site. does anyone know if i can?? otherwise does anyone know of any other cool opensource recommendation widgets?

Glenn Rogers said...

Hey James,

I'd take a look through Flock's site-specific add-on's at - They have plenty of support on their forums, so worth asking there.