Twitter Without the Twitter Feed

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There's a lot of fun in the hullabaloo of Twitter, but if you just want to find interesting stuff, a new site called Prismatic will spare you the work of sifting through hundreds of tweets.

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Like many people, I get a good proportion of the news I read every day from people I know online, primarily in the form of links I find on Twitter, and also from Facebook to some (lesser, for me) extent. On Twitter I read hundreds of tweets and mark a few as favorites, articles that I will pull up and read in full once I'm in the office. I find great stuff, but it's not particularly efficient. Even though I'm following a carefully tailored list of very interesting people and publications, I still only mark a few stories out of the hundreds I glance over.

As with all search activities, the hope is to somehow increase the signal-to-noise ratio. That is why I have been enjoying Prismatic, a site that pulls together content that's interesting to me from all over the Internet. Right now, it's pointing to a good mix of fun and serious stories from The Atlantic, Gizmodo, The New Yorker, The Awl, and many other great publishers. For each story, there's a quick summary, a picture, and the tweets of a few people who have linked to it. Within Prismatic I can retweet or favorite the stories (this functionality was added just last week). For example, here's what one story from the New York Times's Opinionator blog looks like in my feed right now:

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Prismatic finds content for you by looking at what you have shared on Twitter, the publishers you link to, and who your friends are (it will eventually account for Facebook as well). But the content doesn't only come from your Twitter feed -- it comes from anywhere on the Internet, using clues in your feed to find things that will interest you. "Your social accounts are seeds, not the source," co-founder Bradford Cross explained to me over email. Once you've started using it, you can refine your feed by adding new "interests" such as "cloning" or "Apple." Over time, Prismatic will learn more about you, based on what stories you click through on the site. Additionally, I can look at specific publications on Prismatic to see which stories from them are hot in my Twitter orbit.

Prismatic is the work of five people with backgrounds in Artificial Intelligence, design, and data based in San Francisco. The early team started building the product in late 2010, and the version of Prismatic that's in use came together in late 2011. Right now, anyone with a Twitter account can sign up for an invite, which Cross says will arrive quickly. Soon they hope to support signing up with a Facebook account. How they'll work with people who want to sign up with just an email address they aren't sure, but they hope to do so eventually.

I still like the hullabaloo of my Twitter feed, but for some concentrated, high-quality reading, Prismatic is a reliable source.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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