There are a few startups and projects I am really interested in. These lucky few are fortunate enough to have my advice, feedback and praise continually thrown at them, along with my best efforts to promote their work, which I appreciate all too much. One of the long-lasting members of this list is Flud, the social news reader. Flud is a San Diego-based startup which aims to give people the opportunity to have an influence amongst their friends, and colleagues, and the ability to discover new, interesting stories. This, aside from some other very interesting features, is what it at the heart of Flud.
The History of Flud
In late 2010, Flud launched its first product. It was essentially a simplified version of the classic RSS reader, designed for iPad. The main focus of this release, as I understand, was to create a way for people to enjoy news in a way that didn't involve messing around with XML URLs and RSS and Atom feeds and adding feeds manually. They were one of the first to realise the idea of making an easy catalog of sources that anyone could navigate - an idea which, today, is perfectly commonplace. It's easy to argue that this is what started the mass uptake in the simple news app concept.
The company, Rabbit Inc., proceeded to create many more iterations of the app, including iOS and Android 1.0 versions, followed by a massive update to 2.0 with a fantastic redesigned interface. These showed Flud's attitude towards fast development and iteration. They are a true Milk-style startup, innovating at a rate greater than many others.
In the nearly two years they have been operating, Flud has done a lot in the news provision industry to make things more relevant, more social and more tangible for the everyday user. This odyssey of creation continues today with the launch of the next version of Flud. This new version of the app takes yet more massive steps towards a more connected, up-to-date community. It takes the leap to support an entirely new group of people, in a very exciting, engaging way. I'd like to introduce you to Flud 3.0.
The New Flud
This is the new Flud. It has a few main pillars, distinguishing it from previous versions. One of these is the ability to adopt Flud within the environment of a business. The new Flud is marketed as being designed to fully accommodate teams and businesses. It not only allows you to share articles you like - 'to Flud' is their infinitive of choice - but gives much more granular options to select who you'd like to Flud articles to. This means that you have the option to share stories amongst specified groups of your friends, or even businesses and teams you are part of. This means you can share those inspiring photos with your friends, but keep the news of Facebook's ever-falling stock price to your colleagues. It's easiest to think of each business as a walled, private Flud network; one which is separate from the public Flud and is independent of public actions. The new Flud does so much more than every other news reader. Let's explore!
Clarifying the Changes
By now, you're probably really excited about the new Flud, if you are a modern business, but what if you're just a normal user? What if you already use Flud and don't want anything to change, as is inevitable with any large update to a service? For those using Flud in the public, with an account prior to the release of the new Flud, the experience will not change massively. You will not lose any features, only gain the best of what is coming to businesses. You will have access to features like customised Groups, and Messages. Keep reading for more information about those!
Your Flud Identity
One very interesting, defining feature of the new Flud makes up a part of a Fludder's profile. It is something that the creators of Flud call 'Flud iQ'. It is, essentially, a way to define yourself - a unique number that allows everyone to decipher your influence in your network on Flud. It is a way to quantify how awesome you are at sharing interesting content - nice idea. It works by using a unique formula which uses the interactions of the things you Flud, taking views and shares of the articles you like amongst friends and ranking you based on that activity. Much like a standard Intelligence Quotient, Flud iQ gives you a simple number to tell how intelligent you are in the space of news sharing. It gives you an easy way to decide whether or not someone is worth following.
Flud iQ is just one part of each Fludder's profile. The rest is built up of some basic information you provide, and a unique mix of 'smart data' that Flud can predict based on what you read and what you Flud. The topics you are an expert in and are interested in are highlighted on your profile so people can see you are the person they want to follow. As well as this, you name, job, employer, Flud iQ and bio are available, with your profile picture brightening up the screen. Also visible on your profile is your list of shared - Fludded - articles. This means people can quickly see examples of what inspires you and what you like.
Your Flud profile is your identity in either the public Flud community or your private business or team network. It is you, and you are very well presented in it.
Mission Control for Businesses
Of course, support for businesses also requires a huge, informative Mission Control dashboard for you to drool over. On this dashboard, the leader of each business or team has the opportunity to track how influential they are within their group. Flud Mission Control not only allows you to view graphs of views of the articles you've Fludded, but also lets you see more stats, such as top Fludders in your organisation, most popular articles, and more.
From the desktop interface of Flud, as well as monitoring activity, you can participate. The desktop UI is split into several tabs: Analytics, Users, Feeds and Groups. Users is a way for each business or team leader to manage the people who can take part in their Flud network. This makes it easy to add new people to a team, or remove them. It is also possible to see additional statistics from here about each user's activity on Flud - obviously, only information shared within the business or group is visible to the leader.
The third tab down is Feeds. This allows you to manages the sources that you pull news from, and the feeds that are recommended to members of the team. It is a simple way to create a baseline for news sources, which can be added to by each individual member if they so wish. The Feeds tab uses a method much like the catalogues that defined earlier versions of Flud. It let's you pin down specific sources or categories that you'd like to follow.There are a wide variety of sources available, from Aerospace to Creative to Manufacturing. Each source is curated by the Flud team to include only the best content. So, now you can manage what people share, see who is sharing and see how much each person is sharing, but what if you want to share an article?
This is where the fourth Groups tab comes in. This lets you set up lists of people who you might want to share specific articles with. It makes it easy to perfectly select the people who would be interested in an article, rather than those who wouldn't, and get that article straight to them, in a very easy way. One example, in the launch video for Flud for Teams and Businesses, is that the boss wants to share an article, about innovation in the financial services industry, with only a few people. He selects only to share with his Global Group, leaving other Groups (Product News, Training Videos, etc.) unaffected by the story. It allows members of each team to filter their feed by Group so they can see exactly the stories relevant to them. This method of frictionless sharing is much like the model adopted by Google+. It makes sharing whatever you want with whomever you want, easier than ever.
Mobile and Tablet Apps for All
Flud's foundations are firmly built into the phone and tablet space. Their first app was, as I mentioned, designed for the iPad when it was first released. These mobile-orientated origins really show in the Flud team's understanding of how to create an amazing experience on different form factors. The Flud apps are at the heart of how it allows people to connect and share.
The Flud apps are divided into a few main sections. The first of these is the stream - seen in the above photo. This is where content from the feeds you follow flows into. You can filter your stream by group which is perfect for those using Flud within a team, and personally.
To the left, you can open the sidebar menu which provides options to see News, Messages, People and Settings, much like the consistently visible sidebar of the iPad app: Messages lets you see what people have shared directly with you; People allows you to see who you follow; Settings lets you set things...
The design of the Flud apps is incredible. They look very nice and are perfectly easy to use.
I should probably go into how Flud works. Basically, you have a stream of news, taken from the feeds you follow, which you can read and share. Sharing, or Fludding, makes that article show up in the stream of those who follow you. It is a very simple base concept, but it works perfectly. The team seems to have managed to break down the fundamentals of sharing news and have applied them to an app and service, flawlessly - something which is, in my opinion, most noticeable in the Flud app.
Pros of the Cons
Now, this sounds amazing; doesn't it? But there must be a catch. The problem with new social startups is usually that they require you and your friends to take up a new service, create a new account and dedicate hours of time to staying active on this new network. This is normally what kills such services. But, I don't think this can kill Flud. One reason for my thinking this is that Flud is more than a social network - if you would call it one at all. It is a unique source of information that stands independently of the social features it has. It's possible to follow people you trust to share news and, simply, entertain you without sharing articles yourself. What's more, you don't need your current friends to join - though they really should! - as it's no hard task to find people to follow. The Most Fludded stream is one place to find good people to follow. In addition to this, when you join Flud, you will find yourself following the founder, Bobby, and a few others. This gets you right into the action from the get-go. Flud knows how to make news interesting.
Over the next few weeks, Flud will be in beta with several businesses and teams, including some big names, pushing it to its limits and giving feedback. This feedback, provided by those who managed to get in on the coming soon offer, is what will shape the future of this side of the service.
But, as for the public, the new, beautiful Flud is available for you to use right now! The app has been updated in the App Store, so you can go grab it there.
Aside from being really excited about the current app, I've also seen a few things coming from the Flud team that I'm excited about for the future. One, which I can share, is the possibility of App.net integration in a coming version. I am certainly excited to hear more about what will be coming soon from the friendly Flud office in San Diego.
What is coming soon for you is my review of Flud. In that, I will outline in detail everything you could possibly need to know about what it's like to use the app day-to-day, and whether or not it is worth investing time in. In the meantime, follow me on Flud!
The new Flud is available for the public today with iPhone and iPad apps now available in the App Store. The Android app update will be available in the Play Store soon, but will not be part of the initial release - I suspect it will arrive along with the public release of Flud for teams. As of today, the Flud web app has been updated to fit the new style, and businesses can find out more there.