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Spectra – awfully pretty but has control issues 21 May, 2008

Posted by Jay Ball in Uncategorized.

Picture 1.pngThe world of the RSS reader has become a hotbed of competing products. Whether you opt for readers built into your browser, AJAX desktops or a standalone program, the options are almost bewildering.

Into the fray steps Spectra, msnbc’s very pretty effort that allows you to select from a range of colour-coded channels. These then build into a slow-moving tornado of news (or a tornado-speed tornado if you set it in the prefs). You can then flick through your selections to get an overview of what’s happening and click to get a pop-up with the full story. So far, so pretty.

There are two things that kill Spectra as a newsreader for me:

1. Despite the swirling eye-candy of stories, actually navigating them means using a slider at the bottom of the screen and going through them one at a time in order. As a user, I’d expect to be able to hover over the tornado items and pick a story I want to read without trawling through the rest.

2. Spectra is restricted to msnbc’s content (and syndicated feeds). While this makes perfect sense for msnbc, there’s no way I would want to be limited to a single news source. Add to this that, as mentioned above, the number of unrestricted newsreading options is huge and I can’t see people flocking to Spectra.

Personaly, I opted for the standalone freeware Vienna which allows me to categorise any feed I want to create my own channels, run perpetual searches on us, our clients, even myself (although the pumpkin carving guy with the same name always wins out on that one), plus it has a built in browser. And for full on eye candy, I still like Jonathan Harris’s 10 x 10.

Shame, Spectra is awfully pretty.



1. Andreas Duess - 22 May, 2008

msnbc still don’t ‘get’ the net. They’re still trying to build walled gardens at a time when the walls have been well and truly demolished and the remnant used to build crypts for all the proprietary systems that came before it.

People nned to understand that the web isn’t a selling medium – it’s a buying medium and as such control rests with the end user. Trying to wrestle it away from them is like trying to teach a pig to sing – it’s a waste of your time and it annoys the pig.

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