Paper.li (http://paper.li) organizes links and tweets into a newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for your own Twitter network, a list or #tag. It is run by SmallRivers, a privately held Swiss startup co-founded by Edouard Lambelet and Iskander Pols and located at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology EPFL campus.
To create a newspaper simply sign up with your Twitter account and decide whether you want a newspaper generated from your own Twitter network, a hashtag or a Twitter list. Paper.li then extracts all tweets that include URLs, the content found at these URLs (text, blog post, photo, video), analyses the content to identify the topic (for example Politics, Technology ) and then constructs a newspaper for you.
The front page gives you what Paper.li thinks are the most important stories for each topic. How it chooses those is not clear: the FAQ merely says that it uses semantic analysis and “paper.li magic”! You can view more stories on a topic by clicking on one of the tabs at the top of the page.
The paper is updated daily but you can change the update frequency to morning and evening or weekly editions and also alter the time at which the edition is created. Email alerts can be set up to tell you when a new edition is available.
I was initially sceptical about the value of Paper.li. I use Tweetdeck to manage my Twitterstream with searches, lists and groups to help me keep up with subjects and people that are important to me. I also have RSS feeds of some of my searches. After a few days of using it, though, I found that it did bring to the fore important or interesting stories that I might otherwise have missed, especially when I am travelling and do not have time to catch up with all of my Twitterstream. It has also highlighted Twitter users – mostly publishers- who I follow but who rarely report on anything that is relevant to my areas of interest. (A frenzy of unfollowing ensued after I viewed my first few editions). I can also see it as being a useful way of presenting Tweets and information from a conference. Simply set up a Paper.li for the hashtag. It is by no means perfect and I would not rely on it as the sole means of keeping up to date. It does miss and exclude stories that are important to me, but the paper that is produced is easy and quick to scan and as long as you are aware of its limitations it can be a useful addition to your information management toolbox.
So why the possible “major irritation”? You can promote a paper automatically on Twitter using the “Promote it” option. The default is set to ON – or certainly was when I signed up – with the result that some of us were being bombarded with notifications that someone’s latest Paper.li was out. Frankly, I don’t care and neither do a lot of other people. It created a backlash against the service for a while so if you do decide to set your own daily paper please go into your settings and set ‘Promote on Twitter’ to OFF. If you have set up a conference or hashtag Paper.li, simply mention the link on an appropriate blog or web page, or in the occasional tweet. People can them decide for themselves whether or not to subscribe to it.
If you want to keep up with developments at Paper.li they have a blog at http://blog.paper.li/, are on Twitter at @SmallRivers and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/smallrivers/274789310110
Update: Just tried to change the update frequency and title for two hashtag newspapers. You can’t! The settings can only be changed for a newspaper generated for your Twitter username. #FAIL