News360: Getting to Know You at a Snail’s Pace

News360 is available for free at Google Play.news360

News360, a learning news aggregator for Android, has recently been updated. I decided to take a look.

Uniquely, this app uses a thumbs-up button style of interaction in combination with collected statistics to provide stories that are supposed to be customized for you.

Unlike aggregators such as Google’s Currents, Pulse News, Flipboard or Feedly, News360 claims to learn what kind of stories you like and don’t like as you read.

Good luck. I’m not sure that my taste in news can be learned — but if it can, News360 sure is a slow learner.

About the App

News360 is a free app available in the Android Play store. There’s also a Google TV version available for the big screen. It’s available for straightforward Web page delivery as well, along with desktop browser add-ons.

I used my Google ID — the same one I use for Gmail and Google Reader — but you can log on via Twitter, Facebook and so forth. Connecting accounts allows the app to learn from content in them too.

Setting It Up

On launch, you’re prompted to choose from News360-provided categories of stories that you might be interested in. This provides News360 with leads. I chose a bunch, including Programming, Graphic Design and Business.

To be fair to News360, I also imported my Google Reader RSS feeds, which I recommend you do too if you have a collection. Give News360 a head start. I have esoteric interests, as I’m sure you do.

I’m glad that I did this, because News360 takes forever to learn your interests. If you don’t give it a kick-start, you’ll be reading about regional central banking crises for days, when you want to read about regional Net neutrality, say.

In other words, the more of your usual news sources you can pump in, the less boring the learning curve will be for you. News360 takes days to gather stats, and you can’t fool it by speeding up your reading — I tried.

I’m on Day Four, and the app is still collecting stats about my interests. This means I’ve been plowing through article headers for the last four days that I had little interest in.

According to the app, I’m about three-quarters of the way through the stat collection — which means potentially another few days of this unproductive tedium. I would rather rapidly scan my Google Reader feed for the news sources I trust and that interest me. That’s been a tried-and-true method for me.

Like us all, I have a limited amount of time to read, and I have gotten used to picking and choosing my sources, then capturing the RSS feed and perusing articles chronologically and efficiently.

However, “no gain without pain” as they say, and News360’s promised 10,000 news sources, its promised learning algorithm, plus the feeds that I’ve integrated should, theoretically provide results — eventually.

Meanwhile, I have been frenetically touching the thumbs-up button whenever I can find a header I like, in the hope this will speed things up. Insert “watching paint dry” analogy here.

Offline Reading

Unlike Google’s excellent Currents news aggregation product, News360 has no offline functionality. It captures the title and header text from the feed, and it will not parse the body offline.

This limited functionality is common to most news aggregation products, and Google’s Currents is an exception. So be aware that News360 won’t work aloft — and that’s a place many will want to use it.

You’re better off setting up a Google Currents app if that’s your reading environment.

Bottom Line

This has been one the hardest reviews I’ve written recently, because however I try to rewrite it, the copy is coming out overwhelmingly negative. I wish that weren’t the case. I want to like this app. It’s a great idea, and if it works, it promises to provide articles that I’d otherwise miss.

However, after multiple days of the app eating up my reading time — plus my general, admittedly obnoxious impatience; plus the fact that I have existing tools that work; plus the app’s drab look and feel — I need a break.

For now, sorry News360, it’s over and out from me. Readers, give it a go if you think you have the patience. Please let me know how you get on if you do.

Want to Suggest an Android App for Review?

Is there an Android app you’d like to suggest for review? Something you think other Android users would love to know about? Something you find intriguing but aren’t sure it’s worth your time or money?

Please send your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Android app review.

And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments!

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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