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Ping.it: Not a Google Reader replacement, but a tool to discover emerging viral content

Written on:May 11, 2013
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Want to know which YouTube videos were most popular on Reddit? Or what the top stories are across 10 different news sites? Ping.it aims to help with a new web tool that lets users create custom “probes” to surface specific content across the web.

Ping.it, an Oslo, Norway-based startup, has been around since 2009 and has experimented with a number of business models, but it launched in public beta this week as a content discovery service. Ping.it’s main feature is “probes,” which it describes on its blog as “small apps which go out and retrieve information from across the Web on behalf of the user. They can be created, edited, shared and subscribed to – all by Ping.it users.”

“I see Ping.it as a new step forward in content discovery using elements from traditional RSS Readers and social media,” founder Marcus Lian told me. “Google Reader was discontinued for a reason – time to move on.”

Here are a few of the probes that users have created already:

  • Top 3 news stories per hour from the top 10 news sites
  • Reddit music videos from YouTube with more than 98 percent thumbs-up and more than 10,000 Facebook likes
  • New on Netflix top 100

Users can subscribe to existing probes or create their own. There are a number of limitations, however:

  • Right now, there’s a very slim choice of metrics you can use to filter a probe. You can filter based on keyword, Facebook likes and YouTube likes, but there’s not an option yet to, for example, filter based on how many times a story has been tweeted, or how many times it’s been shared on Facebook. Those features are coming, though: Lian tells me that Ping.it is already internally testing “number of tweets, Facebook shares and Facebook rating, our own invention: just divide likes by shares, and the more likes per share, the better).
    Ping.it
  • Creating a probe is not intuitive: It’s not obvious how to filter for popularity on YouTube, until you actually look at an example of an already created probe that does this. Luckily, each public probe can be “copied” and then modified. Lian says it will be easier soon.
  • Ping.it is a web application only. Once you create a probe, it is added to a “collection” that you can only access through Ping.it’s website. And while Ping.it relies on RSS to create probes, you can’t actually create a probe and then subscribe to it through an RSS reader — again, it can only be accessed through Ping.it. Mobile access is coming soon, Lian said.

Overall, it’s still clunky, Ping.it is worth checking out — particularly as a way to stay on top of emerging viral content.

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