Blog Pile

Spectra: Not Your Grandfather’s RSS Reader

I just took a quick spin through MSNBC’s Spectra which is sort of like, no not really, like a visual news/feed reader. You pick news “channels” (chosen by MSNBC not you) they are color coded (by MSNBC not you), and the headlines spin by you in a cyclical spiral. I guess it might be hypnotizing.

The description is a little bit full of grandeur and fluff:

Spectra merges the news spectrum and the color spectrum into an expansive news viewing experience. With comprehensive live news coverage, striking design, complete customization, dynamic browsing, human body interaction and many other unique features, Spectra brings A Fuller Spectrum of News to life in our most immersive extension yet.

So the headlines swirl by in a colorful display. I keep clicking the little cards in the spiral, but that does nothing, I have to either wait til they spill out on the bottom, or grab a slider to move through them.

The “human body interaction” is quite a stretch. You activate your web cam, and if you wave more move a colored object in front of the camera, you see those stories. So maybe if I want US headlines I have to remember to wear my pink t-shirt or have a green card handy to wave to get tech news.

The most lacking feature… it does not seem to remember the channels you pick. So if I return tomorrow, I have to pick the channels all over again. I can save stories to my “aggregator” but they vanish when I close the window. What’s the use?

Okay, I have barely a cup of coffee in me and am critical. The visualization effort is interesting, but I fail to see a reason beyond news eye candy to use this.


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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Seriously? Sounds like Spectra is a huge bucket full of failure from your description. Lack of customization from other sources, lack of color customization, and you can’t save?

    Sounds even less helpful than getting my news from the evening paper :)

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