Paper.li Combines the Evils of Faux Curation and Spam

I'm surprised that there is even a debate over the merits of paper.li.  (I'm equally surprised that I'm wasting a blog post on this topic, but that's neither here nor there.)

Scott Greenfield complained about paper.li's use of content without attribut
ion or the addition of anything meaningful. ("Rocket Doesn't Matter.")  In response, Rocket Matter (whose daily prompted Scott's post) quickly commented, posted, and killed Rocket Matter's paper.li daily. ("Boy Did I Step into a Hornet's Nest with Paper.li.")  Brian Inkster canvasses this activity, adds his own thoughts, and asks: "Should lawyers have their own Paper.li" (via Charon QC, who sums up my sentiments: "The *Seriously Sh*t Daily.Li* is OUT! – gawd help us…"). 

It's somewhat distressing that we even need to have this debate. I agree with Scott and Charon, and I'm surprised Brian even treats this one as a close question.  (Read the comments to his post by the way.)

There are a few things that are wrong with paper.li:

1. faux curation: First, paper.li is billed as a "curator." Even if - unlike me - you don't think curators should be restricted to museums, or that curation is just an annoying buzzword du jour, paper.li is a terrible curator. Among other reasons, paper.li does not distinguish between positive and negative feedback. If someone in your stream mentions an article, it doesn't matter whether it's mentioned in a positive or negative light, it's signaled for inclusion into your "daily." As others have noted, this inclusion is attributed to you, and no commentary is added. I guess people can click through to the original tweet, but the daily itself omits any positive or negative feedback. Curation may or may not be on your list of top one million ideas for the new millenium, but paper.li is a terrible curator. (Not that algorithms make good curators to begin with, but that's a separate story. See "Rise of the Curators." If you're looking for a collection of tweets and stories from people in your stream that's presented in a nice, readable format, check out flipboard. I still prefer the serendipity of the twitter stream itself, but flipboard is a fun app.)

2. paper.li is spammy: Not only is paper.li a bad curator, paper.li is spammy. It may not fit within the conventional definition of spam, but this does not mean that it's not spammy. Its default settings are set to send out daily tweets with your "daily" - these tweets also mention the top "mentions," which are the people who get prominent billing in your daily. The sole currency of paper.li is people retweeting dailies because they are mentioned.  (The bulk of traffic to paper.li dailies are from people who check to see whether their tweets are mentioned in the dailies.)  I'm sure the traffic patterns to the dailies will verify this in a heartbeat.  The fact that paper.li "publishers" send out daily tweets with links to their dailies - rather send out their dailies via email subscriptions or rss feeds - is telling. This is partially explained by paper.li's poor opt-in/default features, but the telling fact is that no one ever subscribes to a paper.li. You'd be hard pressed to find a paper.li with over 10 subscribers. A paper.li has a home on the web, but it does its dirty work on Twitter. "Publishers" send out tweets which reference people who are "mentioned" in the daily.  And people who are mentioned blindly retweet these links. Brain Tannebaum captures everything that's wrong with this practice here. (As a side note, continuously letting people know via @twitter that you've mentioned them in a blog post or article is just bad form. Anyone with a pulse can figure it out for themselves, without you having to point it out. It's a growing pet peeve out there to see someone write an article and then follow it up with a series of -- "@johndoe, you've been mentioned in my blog post" - tweets.)

3. paper.li crosses the streams: A wise old social media guru once gave me four words of priceless social media wisdom: "don't cross the streams." Social media accounts should be kept largely separate. There's nothing wrong with cross-posting once in a while (or promoting your blog posts via Twitter or Facebook), but setting your accounts from one service to automatically post to another is a cardinal sin. Paper.li and its publishers violate this basic rule.

4. paper.li is an insult to newspapers
: The newspaper industry is obviously going through cataclysmic shifts and has been over the past five to ten years, but it's a disrespect to newspapers everywhere to equate what paper.li puts out with even the smallest, dying, most irrelevant newspaper in the most obscure newspaper town. I'd take the Timbuktu Tribune over anyone's paper.li daily any day of the week. (Shockingly, the Guardian puts out the "Guardian Law" daily, which has a paltry 29 subscribers. Any newspaper publisher worth his or her salt would have killed this one a long time ago.)

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So, if you fancy yourself a "publisher," and want to put out content that you have no control over and that's spammy, go for it. Set yourself up with a paper.li "daily."

 
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Comments

  • 2/20/2011 8:06 AM shg wrote:
    I fear that Brian's otherwise sound judgment was a bit conflicted on this one. Too many "friends" arguing that the paper.li is just hyper-twitter or that those "lucky" enough to have their content scraped should be thankful for being "promoted" by their scrapers. It's the marketers' mentality and rationizations at work, projecting their unseemly motives on the rest of us.

    Poor Brian, who enjoys the smiles and attention, found himself in a quandary, and was not invited back for glass or two of rioja at Charon's stateroom.
    Reply to this
    1. 2/20/2011 8:02 PM Venkat wrote:
      I agree.

      I can't see how this is a close one, but then again, I put plenty of things in this category that others often don't seem to.
      Reply to this
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