Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

Paper.li: A quick review

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A couple of weeks ago I started paying attention to tweets such as:

These paper.li things seemed to be providing a decent service – mocking up a magazine of links curated by their ‘editor’. For me, they provide a decent one-stop look at articles and resources that I might have missed in my Twitterstream, for whatever reason. It looks like a pretty recent startup, and as such is going through some development. I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

After a quick exchange with Adrienne I decided to give it a go, building a weekly magazine for IB Sciences classes (MYP and DP). It was quick, easy and published in a couple of minutes. It took some tinkering to work it out, but I was generally pleased with the results:

The first edition of the IB Science Weekly Magazine

The first edition of the IB Science Weekly Magazine

It is scheduled as a weekly paper, updated on Tuesdays, and pulls in links posted by people, organisations and hashtags I follow on Twitter.

………o0O0o……..

Here are some of my observations after using paper.li for a couple of weeks. Some of them may be erroneous, based on a lack of experience, so feel free to correct me in the comments below.

I like

  • The magazine-style layout of topics and content.
  • The one-stop curation, so you don’t have to keep going to Twitter.
  • Automatic categorisation to build ‘sections’ of the magazine.
  • The videos feature, which works nicely.
  • The ability to rank sources in your list, drawing from the top sources first and so on.
  • The ability to block sources (such as some people I follow in a list who might frequently post adult content).

I would like

  • An option for manual updating without the automatic weekly/ daily update (and subsequent automatic notification to subscribers). As a magazine largely for high schoolers and their teachers, the automatic update can slip in inappropriate articles or links that might have been detected by their bots. If I’m away, such as last week, these can appear for a few days before being weeded out. I would prefer the notifications were held until the content had been vetted.
  • Whoomph, there it is.

    Whoomph, there it is.

    Archival magazines. The version in the screenshot above no longer exists. It would be great to click on an edition from a given week to see the headlines and content. As far as I can tell, last week’s edition is gone forever. Whoomph, there it is! EDIT Aug 10. Maybe I hadn’t spotted it before, but it is a neat feature. 

  • Manual sections: IB Biology, IB Chemistry, IB Physics, MYP, Teachers and so on.
  • And then, of course, the ability to manually assign content to the most appropriate section.
  • And headline articles with images (and custom layout?) in each section.
  • A smarter content-collection system. It already does a good job, but there are often items missing that I expected to see. The Higgs story is a good example – it peaked just after the new edition, and so hardly featured in the next edition a week later.
  • Attributions that highlight the source of the article more than the ‘spotter’. Sometimes it looks as though the Twitter spotter wrote the source, when really it came from somewhere else.
  • Multiple editors, to share the work.
  • To have either no advertising or some way to filter ads. Call me a prude, but I don’t like underwear adds in a product for teens.

I would really love a “current issue – next issue” feature for my needs in this project. The current issue would be the version which is visible online, with a draft ‘next issue’ in the building stages. When I deem the ‘next issue’ is ready for publication, I could hit ‘publish’ and it becomes the active version, sends the notification emails and tweets and archives the older edition.

Ideas for in-class use

  • It would be great for a school newspaper, based on students’ blogs and work.
  • If multiple editors or better control of content were allowed, it could be a good community resource around a given topic. I can see it being used in Global Issues Network groups, for instance.
………..o0O0o………..

Next Steps

At the moment readership and community engagement is low. In part this is due to most international schools being on summer break (i-Biology stats are pretty low this time of year). As schools come back into session, I’d like to leverage more involvement of teachers and some super-enthusiastic students to keep the magazine going.

Paper.li is a worthwhile service and I can see it (hopefully) develop into a tool which could be used to build community around a topic and connect students and teachers. Let’s see how it goes!

Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

One thought on “Paper.li: A quick review

  1. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for this – I was thinking about setting up a paper.li myself. However, I share your views on additional features, particularly the need for improved control over content. I also agree that the spotter often looks like the source – even down to the spotter being informed they’ve been quoted! Maybe these features will be added / changed at some point in the future, when it may be worth re-visiting.

    Regards, Adam

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