Talking tech since 2003

Five months ago, retickr closed its doors on its social, interest-learning news reader for the Mac. That doesn’t mean the company hasn’t been busy, though, as we’ve just learned about what the team has been working on for the past few months.

Fireplug, an iPhone app much in the vein of retickr, attempts to learn about which stories interest you and which don’t. The app makes use of thumbs up and thumbs down buttons to learn your tastes, and employs a host of swipe gestures that allow you to quickly move back and forth between stories. You can build your own “streams,” which are essentially folders containing news articles from the sources you choose, or you can browse through content in already-assembled streams put together by the retickr team.

If you want to keep up with the links being shared by your friends on Facebook, you can do that, too. Fireplug allows you to connect your Facebook account and access any stories posted to your News Feed through the “Social News” section. It’s not unlike the social feature that Flipboard offers, although Fireplug has opted to show only links that are shared instead of status updates. If you’d rather see interesting content instead of what your friends are doing later, this is actually more of a perk than a missing feature.

Photo 2013-01-29 04.38.12 PMPerhaps the most interesting part of Fireplug is the way it gamifies news reading. If you visit your profile page inside the app, you’re greeted by a number of statistics, such as the number of articles you’ve read inside the app, or the number of days you’ve read a certain source in a row. The app also keeps track of how much you read about a certain topic, granting you “Student,” “Scholar,” or “Master” designations based on how many articles you’ve read. And there’s an overall Fireplug Standing, which I assume compares your total points to other users of the app. As you can see, I’m 165 out of 328 after opening 6 articles.

There are a large number of social news readers available these days, and a handful of them try to accomplish the same task as Fireplug: learn about what you like and show you more of it. The gamification aspect of the app is something that could help set the app apart from its competition, but aside from that, there’s not a whole lot here that you won’t find in other apps. It’s a bit too early to completely count Fireplug out, though, as the personalization is likely a major selling point. So I’m going to use the app for a week and report back with my findings. Will Fireplug learn enough about me to show the content I’m interested in? We’ll find out.

You can download Fireplug from the App Store today.

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