Flipboard Competitor Takes Personalization On iPad To New Level

Having downloaded what has been billed as the first true Flipboard competitor, I’m left with lukewarm exZitement. Sure, Zite has the potential to change my iPad experience by providing personalized content that saves me time and addresses only my interests. But recommendation engines are hardly infallible – unless my wife is a closet poker player, for the life of me I can’t tell you why we get Poker after Dark on our DVR. Fast Company posted quotes from the university researchers behind Zite. "It's a combination of semantic- and statistically based machine learning," says CEO Ali Davar, of Zite's content algorithm, the technology of which has been in development for years. "It works by looking at the articles you click on and the characteristics of those articles. Is the article longer or shorter? Is it skewed toward one element of a topic or another? Is it a political blog? If so, does it have have a right- or left-wing slant?" According to Fast Company, users can tell Zite whether they enjoyed a particular article, whether they liked a particular source, or whether they want more news on a particular topic area. But Zite can also learn from a user's "soft" yes's and no's. Skip over a news brief? Zite counts that as a soft no. Did a headline catch your eye and get you to read the longer story? Zite counts that as a soft yes. The look and feel is definitely way behind the slick presentation offered by Flipboard (which introduced an updated product this week). Zite’s value is designed to get better over time. It will take a period of use before we can declare Zite a keeper or a pretender. One additional question I have is whether personalization products like this one limit one’s ability to discover. We’ll see.