When I first heard of Flipboard, they were brand new. I read the tagline and scratched my head. “Create my own magazine? That sounds like a lot of extra work.”
I didn’t get it then. Then my brilliant friend Amy Vernon showed me how great it was to be able to find things by topic. She was so enthusiastic, I had to give it a try.
Now, there are many things I love about Flipboard. Let me give you a brief overview of what it is and what it does. Then I’ll count the ways.
I like to think of Flipboard as the way to follow the web via interest. When you join Flipboard, you can follow what they call magazines, visually-appealing presentations of content collected from around the web.
Or you can follow people who created magazines, which Flipboard calls MagMakers. It’s easy to become a MagMaker. You create a magazine, public or private, by yourself or with a team, to collect information about a topic.
Recently Flipboard also introduced a way to create standalone blurbs, with or without graphics.
But now we’re getting into the things I like, so let’s do that. You can watch the video to get a better overview of what Flipboard is at your leisure.
In the meantime, here are…
Ten Things I Love About Flipboard
I could easily go beyond ten but I’ll try to keep myself in check. So maybe let’s say 10 or 12 in case I add a couple more at the end there.
Being able to find & organize curated content by interest
If you fave (or ugh, heart) something on Twitter, it falls into a black hole on a single list forever or until you remove it.
I’m not picking on just Twitter.
This same endless and disorganized black hole is found on Facebook, Google+, and Instagram. If I curate someone else’s work and want to refer back to it weeks later, knowing I “hearted” or “saved” it may or may not be helpful.
On Flipboard, I can save a link, note or image to a public or private folder I’ve curated.
For example, knowing it was a productivity article makes me go and look in my “Do Less, Accomplish More” magazine on Flipboard.
Being able to follow either a person or an interest or both
On Facebook, I can friend a colleague from work. It could help me get their kids’ names straight in my head by associating them with pictures. Or I could learn from my colleague by the articles or news they post to their profile.
But if they also believe that iPhones are evil or Windows explorer sucks, and they want to talk about it all. the. time?
You can’t just ignore that one crazy quirk. While there is a little fine-tuning you can do on Facebook, the work is already done on Flipboard.
On Flipboard, I can follow one or several of a person’s magazines, or I can follow a person and get all their magazines. So if I really vibe with someone and I want to hang on their every word, I can.
If we only have area of overlap in our interests, if they’ve made a mag about it, I can follow just that.
The ability to collaborate on a magazine
Hashtags rock, don’t get me wrong. They can function in many ways but collaborative collections aren’t one of the better ones.
Twitter is about the moment.
Facebook is about the timeline.
Flipboard can be about collecting evergreen information to be used over and over again.
It can be about curating the freshest information on a topic.
It can function as a place where a group of moderators direct a discussion of a note, in an almost forum-like fashion.
The visual aspect
Whether on desktop, a tablet or my phone, iOS, Linux or Windows, Flipboard looks great to me.
You can choose which of the images featured in the article appears when you curate, and many mag creators take that seriously. Rarely will you find a boring magazine with no visual aspect to it.
As a MagMaker, if an article gives you the perfect image to go with the Mag you created, you can promote that story to the cover of your magazine.
Mute tools for both publications & people
So you know how you have that one friend who is really a great person who you love…
but online they go on and on about the one conspiracy theory they believe in from this one obscure blog that makes you want to tear your hair out and glue them to your friend’s fingers while they’re asleep …
so they’ll have something else to focus on or dear Lord maybe we should get this guy a woman?
That’s just me?
Well. Anyway. If you theoretically had a friend who kept posting stories about the new Samgizmo/iThingy or pictures of their cross-eyed dog or political candidate that you can’t stand?
You could mute your friend on Flipboard, and then unmute them when the election is over. Or you could mute just the publication where your friend finds all the wacky stories.
(Cover Stories are like Facebook’s timeline but tweaked to be useful to you instead of throttling any content you didn’t ask to be suppressed)
Report & block tools for people
Because unlike on Twitter, Flipboard is not set up for mob attacks. You block someone, end of conversation for the most part.
You report someone… well. I don’t want to say that gets rid of all spam and trolls.
But I will say I’m more satisfied there than at Facebook or Twitter.
Stats on your mags
While I also wish there was search of your own magazines, so I could easily find things I know I flipped two months ago and only have a vague collection of?
Knowing which stories did the best and how many people are following what you’re doing is stll helpful in many ways.
- If you have a magazine that is specifically to raise awareness of an issue, you can see what people reshared, commented or viewed the most.
- If you’re wondering if the advice you’re curating about your field is helpful to people who flip, you can get some idea from stats what they interacted with the most
- Stats sometimes help you pivot into another direction, if your mission is more about the audience than the niche you’re focusing on.
- Analytics, even limited ones, help you see what is getting popular.
The Flipboard community
It has been a long time since I felt so comfortable with a group of people I only know online for so long. I know I keep bringing up Twitter.
But it reminds me of the early days of Twitter when Favrd was still a thing, and being witty was valued more than whether your link got retweeted a few hundred times.
Over time it could get worse, but – how do I explain this – there isn’t room for that at Flipboard the way there is as Twitter. You don’t stop at Flipboard because you’re bored and want to fill idle time.
You plan to go to Flipboard to learn things, enjoy what other people have discovered about your interests and hobbies, to absorb.
And yes it’s missing a conversational element outside responses to an article or an open thread created by a Magmaker – it’s not like someone can come to your profile and message you directly via the platform or post to some timeline associated with your name.
But I value that ability less and less. I’m starting to think the problem with Facebook and Twitter is that literally any fool can look up my profile and start spewing hateful/irrelevant/mixtape nonsense at me.
Of course I want people to be able to have conversations with me.
That’s why, years after it is practical, I still follow at least 70% of the people following me back. I know you supposedly can only interact with a social group of 200.
But day to day? My 200 changes. I keep my doors open and it keeps opportunity open too.
To bring that back to Flipboard, I kinda like that it’s not the place to randomly chatter. Like with Quora and LinkedIn, each conversation is framed around an existing purpose, set by whoever initiates the discovery and sharing of that content item.
That keeps the conversation centered around what is 90+ percent of the time around a common interest. And as Pokemon Go has taught us, you’re more likely to geek together over a common interest than yell at each other.
Thusly, you don’t get all the combativeness in this kind of environment. There literally is not a place for that type of randomness to enter.
Should a mob show up, it’s harder to target one magazine flip in a magazine than it is a profile. Not impossible? But there are a great many barriers to group trolling.
The Flipboard club
But the fact that it exists and operates with not just the blessing, but from time to time a boost, from Flipboard?
It speaks to how open and community focused Flipboard is.
I’m circling back around to that with a personal story later.
Back to Flipboard Club.
It’s basically a place for people new to Flipboard to learn everything there is to know about using it or producing magazines.
Every Wednesday night at 10 pm Eastern, they have a Twitter chat, and sometimes they have people from Flipboard as guests. Amy Vernon introduced it to me, and the founder, Aida, has been a great guide.
She also has become a friend during my struggle to survive cancer, checking in on me and playing online Scrabble with me at all hours.
On Fridays, people use the Share button on their mags to introduce more people to their magazines, as well as their favorites using the hashtag #FlipboardFriday.
Every week I discover something new. I’m also pretty sure that this is why my aforementioned productivity magazine got on one of Flipboard’s official magazines about recommended user magazines.
The Flipboard staff
You know how you sometimes get so comfortable online that you start to relax and joke with some fun person and find out they’re someone famous everyone is into except you?
(But only because you spent the year they blew up abroad)?
Or you go to a conference and start a chat at the bar with a lady who seems so much like you, and you go into the session and she’s the keynote speaker and points to you in the crowd like you’re a good friend that she’s so happy made it in today?
That’s what happened with me and several members of the Flipboard staff.
I am often just chillin or debating something with the types of worthy opponents you find there or joking. And someone will tell me “oh that’s the guy who runs certain special operations” or “that’s the lady who runs this part of marketing” and “yeah that’s the founder you were chatting with”.
What else is cool about that, besides mingling with the creators of something you love?
They use their product.
They like their product.
They accept critiques about their product.
That’s enough for me.
But on a Tuesday in late October, the week I started writing this, I had a new experience that really made me grateful.
On Twitter, when I was in the middle of taking a bunch of nonsense flack for being grateful to be alive, and recognizing one of the parties responsible (long story), as the troll mob thickened momentarily, I got a direct message.
Imagine my shock to find out that it was from the Flipboard Twitter account, just reaching out to say I was in their thoughts.
It was a very timely reminder that despite what a few dozen out of several hundred voices were saying, I was valued.
And not forgotten.
And not alone.
I don’t see it as a coincidence that they chose that moment to say hello. And sure, gestures like that may not scale.
But that they are trying to maintain sincere community ties, as long as it is possible, is not missed by me. From the outside I view that being considerate of people is part of their brand and company culture.
Good work is noticed
I have no scientific proof that this is true across the board.
The first section you see when you open your mags is Cover Stories, which is controlled by what stories you “like” as you browse Flipboard.
So yes, it’s run by an algorithm that you tweak with your preferences, but unlike other platforms, the quality of news is constantly getting better, unearthing things I’d never find on my own.
About once a week I get something that may technically be filed with my interests but doesn’t really go.
It’s the same from the perspective of a MagMaker – when I pick an article that really hits the target of my magazine, the response is often immediate and 99% positive.
From time to time there are critiques too, but the majority are pointed and topical, sometimes even downright respectful.
Sometimes the algorithm errs on the side of authority or age rather than freshness. but I also like that Flipboard isn’t obsessed with only new stories – rather the emphasis is on whether information is new to You.
I know. We have Pocket, whatever died that was just like Pocket, Evernote, etc.
But I love the way it works in Flipboard, so that I can have many private magazines, and by category. I have one that has all my sources for a new site I want to build.
There’s one with stuff I want to read today if there’s a lull in my schedule.
There is a collection of things I want to act on.
I suppose I could even set one up to invite a group of members and make it private to our group, for joking and laughing.
It’s great how you can be private in a group at Flipboard.Being able to collaborate in private is a big plus.
I could come up with 10 more.
There are a lot more great things to love about Flipboard- I’m pretty sure I could write another 2500 words on ten more tips. Of course, I probably will.
Maybe in fewer words…