Since the release of Moments I've been making an effort to use it, so I can decide what it is about it that doesn't feel good. I have some conclusions, and an idea for Twitter on how to proceed.
It doesn't feel good.
I think that's because it shares a lot with the spam sites I've been trained to avoid.
The ones with catchy headlines that suck you into lots of clicks, presumably so they can show you ads and get paid for them. Or maybe it's doing something to improve the pagerank of some pages it points to. I don't know why they are like they are, but it's not to make me, a reader happy, or inspired. Inspired people go look something up on Wikipedia, so they just want you bored enough so you'll click the Next button, if you can find it.
However I think the idea is valid. "Surfacing good stuff" on Twitter seems doable, and worthwhile. Every so often I get a gem, like this link from Jay yesterday. It's dense, but packed with good stuff.
Here's a free idea. A design contest! With a nice cash prize. Maybe even a job. Dear designers, here's the raw material. Make something people would like to come back to.
Once you have this, put this on the twitter.com home page for people who aren't logged in. Have the links on the page take you into the behind-the-scenes context for whatever it is you're looking at. Train new users to go deeper, but if they don't want to -- give them the best experience possible. Make them say "Oh I get Twitter now, it's about news!" At least that much. Let them understand the position. Even better if they come back, again and again.
I think the reason why the current design doesn't achieve this is that it was designed in a corporate environment. The idea needs to be set free and let artists play with it. (Adam Bain, the new COO of Twitter, comments on this item.)
Banksy: "It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster."
Yesterday I did an experiment, using IFTTT to post an item from Scripting News on Medium.
It worked, sort of. One of the problems was a flaw in Fargo's RSS generator. Without thinking, it indented the beginning of an item's <description>. If the content is HTML this doesn't matter, whitespace is irrelevant in HTML. However in Markdown, a tab at the beginning of a line means something. So that was certainly tripping up IFTTT, and in turn causing Medium to display the first line as literal text, not markup. This might have somehow been connected to the missing title on the Medium version of the post.
I fixed the problem in Fargo. If the item is markdown, it doesn't indent the text.
This post will be the second test case.
So far I have not even looked at the API, I haven't had to. Using RSS is fine with me, if it works. It does have a downside, any changes to an article do not get reflected in the Medium version. It would be nice if the RSS interface could accommodate that as well. Maybe Medium wants to directly support RSS, given that it is kind of a standard?