By Holden Page
A constant challenge for news consumers, aggregators and curators is being able to uncover fresh and compelling personalized content. This task is increasingly complicated by the massive amount of inept information published daily, and the additional noise made from content farms.
Self proclaimed scratch-an-itch developer Bruno Bornsztein has decided to tackle this opportunity with a new reader + curation project Sauna. He originally created Sauna as an internal tool for his team at Curbly, but after realizing the potential, he opted to open Sauna to the public.
Much like Sauna’s competitors, content is seeded from a mixture of RSS feeds, general topics, and personal social media accounts. All of this data is analyzed, and put into a dashboard where you can explore what Sauna has found. Using collaborative filtering, Sauna quickly learns what content you would prefer to see in the future based on the articles you are reading. Currently, Bruno has no plans to license relevance technology from SRI International used in similar products such as Summly.
While these features alone are not enough to make Sauna stand above the crowd, its take on dashboards is unique.
Sauna allows you to make multiple dashboards that can be filled with content from specified RSS feeds, and Twitter accounts. For instance, I can create two separate dashboards for finding relevant content concerning politics and technology. This approach to content filtering makes it easier to find relevant content within categories; rather than muddying the waters with broad topics.
Going further, once a dashboard has been created, an option is provided to share them publicly. Instead of a bland default template for public dashes, Bruno allows each dash to be custom fitted to user taste. This is enabled by basic WYSIWYG editing, or through the insertion of custom HTML code. An excellent example of Sauna’s ability to blend in with other web properties is available on Curbly Fresh. Bruno has also enabled use of vanity URL’s, demonstrated at Bruno.Sauna.io.
All these features combined allow curators to consistently provide new content automatically, and in an environment that can be made comfortable for readers. If these features weren’t enough for you to justify using Sauna, Bruno puts it in words that everyone can understand, “If you want to be an influencer or thought leader, Sauna.io is the best tool to do that.”
That said, Sauna is still a production product that does need work to reach maturity. While it’s relevance algorithm is acceptable, it is still not significantly better than the competition at cutting through the noise just quite yet. There are also common problems that plague every early product, such as sluggish load times, and occasional feature breaks.
Even with these issues, Sauna is a local one to watch. While the market for curation by automation is crowded, it is nonetheless an area of the web that could use all the innovation it can get. With some polish and ongoing feedback, Sauna could become a serious contender in the space down the line.