If you’re looking for more reviews and resources for journalists, a good place to start is the British-based site journalism.co.uk. I especially like the tools and tech section. The navigation and search functions appear to have a few bugs (unclickable buttons; blank pages for search results), but with some patience you’ll find plenty of valuable information.
Twitter has gained a reputation for having the latest up-to-datest news, but that’s not always the case. Those tweets have to come from somewhere, and if the sources are not forthcoming you have to wait seconds — even minutes — to read all about it.
A good app for getting through this bottleneck is Breaking News. It’s updated every few seconds with bulletins from an alphabet-soup of reliable sources such as AP, AFP, BBC and NBC. And Reuters.
Just as I started writing this review, I learned from Breaking News that a powerful explosion has rocked Damascus. Not sure what to make of it, since there are precious few details. But for those who feel the need to know, the knowledge is there.
I also learned about deaths from violence in Iraq and Yemen, and about a woman killed by a bus in Florida.
Admittedly, this isn’t news for the faint of heart. I console myself with the belief that my knowledge of these events in no way affects them. Still, unless the latest news is particularly vital, I tend to leave this app on the back burner.
Another problem is that it concentrates on world and U.S. news. A great update would be a way of tweaking it to focus on countries or even cities. That way, if someone gets killed by a bus, there is better chance it will be someone you should know about.
What do journalists do in their spare time? Those at the business publication Quartz play a hot new game on their smartphones called Dots.
The concept behind Dots is simple. You get a six-by-six grid of different coloured dots and clear as many as possible within one minute by connecting like colours. As you clear them, more dots drop down from above.
The more you clear, the more points you get. This is important, because you can use those points to trade in for special powers such as the ability to clear one dot alone.
Why would you want to do that? Because the key to big scores is making squares. When you make a square, every dot of the same colour is expelled from the grid. This leaves fewer colours, making it easier to create more squares and rack up even more points.
And the single-dot power-up makes it easier to rearrange other dots to make the squares.
I learned this strategy by reading a rather lengthy article at the Quartz website that goes into detail on how best to improve your score. The folks there seem to believe that anything below 500 is unworthy. About the best I’ve been able to do is 167 — clearly putting me out the Quartz league.
Along with the single-dot power-up, there are two others you can can get with points — a time pause and an exploder. Dots generally gets good reviews at the App Store, but some people have complained that there should be a greater variety of power-ups. I can see what they mean — the novelty of Dots wore off fairly quickly for me.
Also, I wonder what it’s like to work for a publication where the employees spend much of their time playing games? Seems like a job at Quartz truly is something to aspire to.
Reuters has to be one of the best designed news apps ever. It’s easy to navigate and looks good doing it. The articles appeal to a business audience, but general readers will find them just as engaging.
After being overwhelmed by the eye candy in the new aggregator app, Vū, delving into Reuters is a welcome relief. That’s not to say there aren’t some polished animations — there are — but they are not a distraction from the main thing you want from a news app — the news itself.
The news comes in categories known as streams. Once you’ve chosen a story, you can flip up or down to the next one. In addition to Home, there are eight other streams. You can also search for any topic you like, with suggestions appearing as you type.
It would be nice if you could go deeper into the rivulets that feed the streams, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do this. For example, after performing a search on “Apple products” I noticed that the results were in a Gadgets stream. I would like to see an update to Reuters that would allow you to save Gadgets as a stream along with the main ones.
In addition to the streams, there are a couple of useful tools. Stories can be saved so you can read them later. And you can create a watchlist that shows the latest stock prices for companies of your choice.
Reuters has set a high standard with this app. Creators of other news apps should take note.
Never heard of Laura Mvula before, but I’m tempted to buy one of her songs. I found it in the Emerging section of the #music app, and I have to say this soul singer has a beautiful and expressive voice.
So does this mean I recommend this new app from Twitter? Not really.
Let’s go through the four main sections. First of all is Popular — in other words, the top 140. Yes, the number of songs is limited just like the number of characters in a tweet. Cute. Unfortunately, it’s filled with autotuned schlock. If this is the kind of music you’re into, you don’t need an app to tell you what’s hot. It’s everywhere.
The Emerging section holds out more hope, because it gets away from the Top 140. It’s advertised as “hidden talent found in the tweets,” but there is no information on how these songs are chosen. Most of the selections are not worth listening to, but, still, that’s where I found Mvula — so it’s not all bad.
Moving on, we come to the Suggested section. Mine started out empty, possibly because I’m not following any of the artists on Twitter and have no intention of doing so. But just as an experiment, I tried following Rihanna, refreshed the section and was presented with nine suggestions ranging from Bruno Mars to Katy Perry, with Britney Spears and Lady Gaga in between. Yuck. Urgent unfollow.
OK, that wasn’t a fair test because I would never follow Rihanna in a million years. So I tried following someone whose music I do genuinely like — Alex Cuba. Argh, it’s still the same junk being suggested. But at least, curiously enough, he (or at least his minions) followed me back.
The fourth section, called #NowPlaying, is based on tweets from people I follow. Apparently, the people I follow aren’t tweeting about their music because this section is empty. Could it be that these people are too sensible to bother their followers with fawning tweets about the song they happen to be listening to? Maybe.
Or maybe, to paraphrase, the Beach Boys: I guess I just wasn’t made for this app.