Kinja launches

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 01, 2004

Kinja, the Web app for reading weblogs that Meg and Nick have been working on for the past year +, has launched as a beta. It's still a bit rough around the edges (especially design-wise) and a little schizophrenic as to who/what it's targetted at, but it's neat to play around with. I like that it reads like a weblog...which is not the case with RSS readers...something I never liked about them. A downside is that there's not a whole lot to play around with. One public digest per person? I want more than that, just like my playlists in iTunes.

One neat feature is that I can make my digest public, so you can read all the sites I'm reading. Here's my current digest...I'm still working on it, so all my favorites aren't there, but you get the idea.

Update: NYTimes article about Kinja written by David Gallagher, Nick's post announcing Kinja, some conversation over at Gothamist.

Update #2: Meg posts about leaving Kinja at the end of April and points to her public digest. (I love these public digests...it's like you're DJing with weblog posts. Imagine when you can have multiple public digests.)

Reader comments

Chris O'DonnellApr 01, 2004 at 10:09AM

After 5 minutes of clicking around, it sort of strikes me as Bloglines Lite. Maybe I'm missing something.

BryanApr 01, 2004 at 10:11AM

Hey, I like the design. Simple and to the point. The UI is clear and out of the way. Kottke, did you do it?

GinaApr 01, 2004 at 10:19AM

I hear those Kinja developers are real grouches. *looks at Mark*

Jon GalesApr 01, 2004 at 10:23AM

Bryan: It was 37 Signals

Chris: I had the same feeling... "A year and a half for a spiffy aggregator that has pixelated logos of the sites it features?"

markApr 01, 2004 at 10:46AM

it was like a year and five months...and Gina throws a coffee cup lid like a software engineer.

PaulApr 01, 2004 at 10:48AM

That's a 37 design, all right - unmistakable.

I like Kinja, and I like the idea behind it. I may use it. I think it's a really good way to introduce syndication to new folks, or people weary of downloading a newsreader. I guess my biggest personal gripe is a lack of control over content placement on my Digest page, along with minor visual errors. But it's a beta.

vitafloApr 01, 2004 at 11:08AM

I for one do not believe this news. Mark finishing any project of significance is just not possible. Nice April Fool's joke. You almost had me!

RubenApr 01, 2004 at 12:23PM

April fool's joke or not, the idea is great indeed. But! Those ads annoy the hell out of me. I wouldn't use it for that reason alone - although my main argument would be that I prefer Feed on Feeds. I can program that fully to my own wishes.

Buck TurgidsonApr 01, 2004 at 12:34PM

"I like that it reads like a weblog...which is not the case with RSS readers...something I never liked about them." Which RSS readers are you referring to? SharpReader allows you to scroll through all posts regardless of source.

"One neat feature is that I can make my digest public." Have you heard of OPML? A number of aggregators support this format for exporting/importing feed lists. In fact here you can not only view other people's feeds, you can search them, see who's feed list most resembles yours, etc. Get with it! ;-)

spygeekApr 01, 2004 at 12:44PM

I love these public digests...it's like you're DJing with weblog posts.

Except that everyone tends to read the same stuff - it's more like DJing with Top 40. You'll have to look really hard to find something new and unusual when everyone has Gawker and Boing Boing (and kottke?) in their digest.

Thomas Locke HobbsApr 01, 2004 at 12:48PM

Kinja, Gizmodo, Fleshbot, Gawker. They're just so much fun to say!

jkottkeApr 01, 2004 at 12:58PM

Which RSS readers are you referring to? SharpReader allows you to scroll through all posts regardless of source.

Many RSS readers do this. And it feels different to me, that's all.

Have you heard of OPML?

Of course. But, to keep the DJ metaphor alive long past its usefulness, looking at an OPML file is like reading song listing on the album jacket while with a Kinja digest, you're listening to the DJ set. Kinja allows you to import your OPML file from another newsreader and export your favorites list to OPML.

MattApr 01, 2004 at 1:20PM

I like the fact that the technology (rss / atom or whatever it is) is completely hidden. I think that's a real first.

AndrewApr 01, 2004 at 1:29PM

On a more superficial note, I'm not a fan of the logo. It looks suspiciously like the little honeycomb symbol Orkut uses for communities, and the slightly off-level tilt bothers me.

pbApr 01, 2004 at 1:31PM

...with a Kinja digest, you're listening to the DJ set.

Or to push the metaphor even further, you're listening to samples from the set. You still have to click through to read/hear the whole mix/thing. Maybe Kinja should allow users to toggle full posts vs. post excerpts.

FrankApr 01, 2004 at 1:48PM

Not to sound like a player-hater, but...

I don't see how this is any better than just visiting the web sites themselves in your browser or having a list of links to your favourite sites in your blog...

It gets especially messy when your list involves sites that post all the time, like a Gawker. The whole page just ends up looking like a stripped down version of the Gawker with some other crap thrown in.

It may be useful if there were some sort of mechanism for finding new, interesting authors, but otherwise I just don't get it. Without some sort of ratings system, it is, like the poster above said, akin to Top 40 radio.

hosenpantsApr 01, 2004 at 2:09PM

I'll second Frank, at least for now. From the Nick Dentons site:

"If weblogs are to realize their potential, they need to reach beyond the pioneering communities of technologists and amateur political pundits."

I not sure what the potential is supposed to be?
If kinja is about making a product to sell to a larger concern, google or whatnot, that makes sense.

A blog to keep track of blogs that keep track of things?

Keep in mind that I'm the crank that thinks Friendster et. al. are not about actually connecting ('cept for maybe a singles dating service) human beings, but instead makes it easier to feed a need to "be in touch" or "be on the list" or "keep tabs of whats up".
Like Frank said, I already have DJ Ason's set list.

Good luck though, gonna be a good ride rollin' it out this week!

J.D.Apr 01, 2004 at 2:24PM

Is it a bad sign that I've managed to break kinja with my first attempt at creating a digest?

I subscribed to five feeds. One of the feeds has the same entry repeated three times and that's it. Another shows 15-20 entries, including a duplicate of one entry.

Sponsored links? No thanks.

Why are the post titles so gigantic?

The giant white box (which must be for the favicon or some such) is annoying.

I want the weblog name to be more prominent (and the entry title to be less so).

I know, I know: wrong forum for complaints. So far, though, I've seen nothing that would make me want to use this over other options.

J.D.Apr 01, 2004 at 2:26PM

Oops. Forgot to remove the first sentence of my previous comment. I realized "break" wasn't correct; I wasn't giving kinja enough time to find the feeds. Still, I don't understand the duplicate entries...

J.D.Apr 01, 2004 at 2:39PM

Now that I read Nick's description of the service, I see that Kinja isn't really meant for me, anyhow. It's meant for my brother. Or my wife. Maybe I'll point them to it to see what they think....

megnutApr 01, 2004 at 2:48PM

Sponsored links? No thanks.

J.D. I'm just wondering, is it advertising as a model that bothers you? Or trying to make money in general that's a problem? Would you, or your brother or wife, rather pay a monthly fee?

Still, I don't understand the duplicate entries...


mayApr 01, 2004 at 3:19PM

i just started using the beta RSS reader that comes on "my yahoo" page about a week ago. It's great. I don't understand why using a RSS reader is considered difficult. All I had to do was copy and paste the url of the site I wanted to add, the reader checked to see if the site had an rss feed and then added it to my list of blogs if it did.

And because it's on "my yahoo" page, I also get updates on my stock portfolio, headlines from major news sources, travel fares as well as my email on the same page and I can control the order in which everything appears. And there are no ads. (b/c i am using sbc/yahoo as my isp...i imagine if you are using a different isp there will be ads)

ericApr 01, 2004 at 3:20PM

The bookmarklet is entirely broken with Firefox .8 / XP Pro.

Entries don't seem to be remotely chronological; recently added favorite blogs chunk in at the top in one block.

I guess this isn't really for me, either, though.

Scott JohnsonApr 01, 2004 at 3:23PM

Kinja provides a nice, clean interface the really does a good job of hiding all of the syndication technology behind it. It will probably get more people using the technology because it removes the fear factor. But I think I'll stick to Bloglines.

DanApr 01, 2004 at 3:24PM

At the "Add Favorites" screen, it would be nice if a list of the most popular entries, or categories of possible sites to add were right there.

GregApr 01, 2004 at 4:36PM

There's lots of other apps that do basically the same thing, only with more features. check out Blogdigger Groups (http://www.blogdigger.com/groups). Comes complete with RSS feed, OPML import/export, category filtering, blog filtering.

J.D., the hypocriteApr 01, 2004 at 4:41PM

Meg, thanks for the reply.

Right — I forgot this was a beta. Bugs to be expected, eh? :)

J.D. I'm just wondering, is it advertising as a model that bothers you? Or trying to make money in general that's a problem? Would you, or your brother or wife, rather pay a monthly fee?

Good questions. In general, I suppose it's advertising as a model that bothers me. Why, though? I don't know. And I'm very hypocritical about my stance. I go to a site like Yahoo! and the advertising doesn't phase me, yet I hate all of Google's sponsored links. Too, I'm throwing together a book-oriented site, and I want to include copious Amazon links and, possibly, some Google adlinks. As I say: hypocritical of me, and I know it. I can't articulate why some advertising bothers me and other advertising doesn't. For whatever reason, I'd rather pay a monthly fee for something like Kinja..

I work with my brothers. They read my weblog, and maybe one or two others, but that's about it. As an experiment, I showed them Kinja and what it does.

I asked them how they felt about the advertising. "What advertising?" said Jeff. I pointed it out to him. They both laughed at me. "That's nothing," said Jeff. "At least it's not a bunch of flashing shit."

So my brothers would have no problem with the advertising. And my mom, an AOL die-hard, would probably have no problem with the advertising either. In fact, knowing my family, they'd rather have ads than to pay for the service.

But here's the rub: I asked Nick and Jeff if they could ever see themselves using such a service and they said no. I tried to show them the various categories, but they lost interest and left. I've tried to convince them to incorporate RSS feeds into their My Yahoo! accounts, but they're not interested.

I guess what I'm saying is that, in this case, you're faced with two problems. On the one hand you have me, a person who thinks the idea of Kinja (and syndication in general) is pretty keen, but who (for whatever irrational reason) isn't keen on the advertising. On the other hand, you have my brothers, both of whom liked the layout and for whom the advertising was no problem, but who are not likely to ever use the service.

They most important piece of information for you, I suppose, is that the advertising, as it stands now, is not enough to dissuade me from using Kinja. To be honest, I barely notice it already... :/

AaronApr 01, 2004 at 5:00PM

::follows the Kinja discussion to another place::

When I'm viewing other people's digests (a good term for it), it has a link to sign up at the top, and then realizes that I'm already signed in further down the page.

As to the white boxes, it might be neat to be able to customize colors for those that don't have an icon (like you can do foreground/background on LJ friend names)

It would also be nice, as it is in beta, if there was an actual place to discuss it (Someplace like the google labs group, or Textpatterns' forum, to name some places which use it well). It would also be nice if Kinja's latest developments could be on a page, not just delivered to my e-mail - honestly, I don't know if it'll even get past the three spam filters and into my inbox.

Another cool feature would be collaborative digests, though that may be beyond the entire scope of what Kinja's supposed to do, but I think it would be cool if, for instance, I wanted to collaborate with a bunch of other people to put together a weblog of serialized novel weblogs, or things like that.

Also: I almost get the impression Kinja could turn a post with comments (like this one) into one of the "weblogs". can it?

makieApr 01, 2004 at 5:11PM

Woo hoo... who needs a web site now that we have an pseudo-rss feed online? I can see future weblogs be nothing more than data feeds.

Finally, can we get back to web design by designers, not bloggers!

More experimentation with interactive media!

akmApr 01, 2004 at 5:18PM

With this kind of service what I would like to see is regionalized feeds. Say ten people who post about events happening in a particular city. Now we have a very decentralized source for what's happening around town. I can see myself looking at the "local bands" feeds from local bands, "fund raisers" from the non-profits, and "store sales" from retailers... Keep a pulse of your own neighborhood.

benjyApr 01, 2004 at 6:04PM

Haha. Kinja stole their terms of service from Yahoo according to Onlineblog at the Guardian. The Denton school of web design (he also took hws blog design from his old company) is branching out into law.

benjyApr 01, 2004 at 6:05PM

Fuck, his blog design, not hws.

TomApr 01, 2004 at 6:26PM

You only get one chance to launch, and this should have waited a while longer. There aren't the kind of filtering/ordering controls that would actually make Kinja useful.

The site is solving a heavy blog reader problem (monitoring multiple sites) but targeting a light user set of functionality. In doing so, I'm concerned it will make neither group happy.

Worse yet, it's not ordering posts properly -- I'm getting big blocks of old posts from each site ordered by which site updated most recently. Nor can I adjust how many posts I'm seeing from each site.

It's fine to design software with fewer controls, but in doing so, you need to actually spend more time making sure it works right.

TomApr 01, 2004 at 6:28PM

I'm also not sure I agree with the thesis that blogs are "challenging to navigate for the average web user."

If that's true, why is mixing several blogs together and presenting them in the exact same "blog" format any better?

jonahApr 01, 2004 at 6:47PM

If that's true, why is mixing several blogs together and presenting them in the exact same "blog" format any better?

In my opinion, no. I think that an amazing application would be one that could properly collate entries from multiple sites based on the time of the post.

My very basic understanding of rss though, is that depending on the level of the feed, this data isn't always available. Also, I don't think that is a universal GMT timestamp even if there is one.

ScottApr 01, 2004 at 7:11PM

Trying to import my OPML list doesn't work, beta I guess. And the email link (bugs AT kinja.com) in the error messages bounces back as a 'user unknown'.

Good idea and could be useful but wish I could customize the display page a little.

ScrivsApr 01, 2004 at 7:45PM

I am still trying to figure why something like this took 15 months to develop. That is ridiculous if you ask me. Were they constantly changing the focus of the project or something? At most this should have taken 3-6 months. Maybe Meg was just milking Denton for all he is worth ;-)

I give Denton credit though. It seems he has no problem taking small chances with all of his sites hoping that one eventually turns into a cash cow.

Alexander GrundnerApr 01, 2004 at 11:30PM

The site and its concept seem weak. Why would I want someone at Kinja to regurgitate an excerpt of someone else’s blog?
This site model is definitely geared towards the web newbie; and being such, the site’s service will lose its appeal after a few weeks of use. More original concepts have already emerged that introduce Web surfers to new sites like: Feedster, Bloglines, and TECHUZI.

ericApr 01, 2004 at 11:58PM

blo.gs seems to do a similar thing with more features - AIM notification of new posts is more convenient than going to a site and clicking 'read more' from an excerpt.

JoergApr 02, 2004 at 6:10AM

I don't know. I still think a 'folder' list is far more intuitive. I suppose it could work for newbies - seems pretty full-on, though how all the posts appear in one stream. Love the design.

TomApr 02, 2004 at 9:41AM

My very basic understanding of rss though, is that depending on the level of the feed, this data isn't always available. Also, I don't think that is a universal GMT timestamp even if there is one.

That data may not always be available, but it is for most feeds -- 2004-04-01T16:22:43-05:00 -- includes offset information. If nothing else, what is a blog but a chronology of posts?

megnutApr 02, 2004 at 10:22AM


I am still trying to figure why something like this took 15 months to develop...
Well the first four months it was only me, doing research, interviews, requirements documentation, stuff like that. Then for 3/4 of a year it was only me and Mark, the lead tech guy, full-time. Only since last Decemeber has the team had two other full-time members.

That is ridiculous if you ask me
But you don't really know the requirements, do you? You don't know the platform or the architecture, so you really have no idea how long the project should take given the resources ($ and human) and the requirements. I'm not trying to be defensive here, just want to clarify. It always cracks me up when people look at something and say, "Oh! That shouldn't have taken so long!" when they don't really know what's been built.

Kinja looks very simple on the surface because of the audience for whom it's been designed. It doesn't have "filtering/ordering", it doesn't have lots of bells and whistles. But there's an amazing platform that belies the simplicity of the UI. And that's where the potential of Kinja lies. Hopefully it will be realized.

anonymousApr 02, 2004 at 10:45AM

How is the platform any more extensible than those underlying feedster, bloglines (et cetera)?

Why no search facility? Easy to implement (esp if you have an 'amazing platform') for great user return. I'm with scrivs - 15 months and not even 'search' or other rudimentary features?

anonApr 02, 2004 at 11:16AM

The megnut link doesn't work, I guess that was meant to be an April Fools joke on April 2.

This is a nice application for generic blogs, but it can get quite confusing if the blog has a specific subject, even if only related to gadgets or smut, like Nick Denton's money-making projects. Try to combine those with teenage diaries and see what you get.

jkottkeApr 02, 2004 at 12:01PM

Why no search facility? Easy to implement (esp if you have an 'amazing platform') for great user return.

If you know anything about software development, you'd know that search is not easy to implement in all instances. Look at Technorati. The search feature took awhile to develop and it was so very slow for a long time because building a search platform to deal with 200 million links and 2 million weblogs (and growing quickly) is not a trivial thing if you want it to work right and scale well. If you just wanna search your blog, sure, it's easy.

ScrivsApr 02, 2004 at 2:01PM


I posted my reply, which would have been too long for this site.

Project Management: Kinja

CheshireApr 02, 2004 at 2:02PM

I think it's at least an interesting idea (I haven't looked at RSS readers at all, nor do I have an RSS feed on my site). Though I agree with Tom on a couple of points, I understand the site's in beta and should be addressed as such. The main point of Tom's that I want to echo, though, is that I'd like to see the latest posts from all of my sites first, rather than grouping posts from each site.

Also, and I hate to be the lone voice in the wilderness on this, since no one ever addresses my questions on this topic (Bowman, Veen, and CSS Zen Garden's creator, to name a few), but on Mac IE 5.1 the site doesn't look like it's coming up quite the way it should. There are strange spaces in the layout, and on the signup screens there were missing "submit" buttons. OK, I'm going to finally switch to OSX and Safari pretty soon, but since some 20% of my readers are also using IE 5.x (based on my last 1000 readers -- I don't know how it breaks down to Mac vs. Windows), it seems like a significant number of people are being left behind. Am I wrong?

BenApr 02, 2004 at 2:43PM

I highly agree with the idea that there should be some sort of more "official" space to chat about Kinja besides kottke.org.

(But since its all here and there are people from Kinja watching...)
When I am on my own digest page, it shows a message about using "+" to add a site to my favorites. When you are on your own digest page there are no unknown blogs, thus no "+" signs anywhere on the page. Mildly confusing. Also, how does the site deal with duplicate entries to the same link (ala Blogdex)? Does it only display the "first post"?

But otherwise, I imported a 100+ entry OPML file with no problems, and have experienced no issues, display or otherwise, that other people have mentioned.

And Jason, to your point about asking you to add/remove your link to their public digests, I would like to point out that on the "share" page, each user has the option to make their own digest private.

RonanApr 02, 2004 at 6:49PM

I've been thinking.

The branding of Kinja is a little odd. You say it's to entice normal Internet users into the world of frequently updated sites, but then why has it been (almost) solely promoted in geek circles? All this has led to is self-styled geeks using it, then remarking that it doesn't have feature x, y or z (adding them would complicate the service). Isn't it the point to make it simple to use?

I asked my family what they thought of the site over dinner. They, on the whole, liked the look of it but won't invest the time in tracking down and entering URLs manually. Could I suggest bookmarks as an import device? XSLT can do wonderful things these days.

Another thing I noticed was that they had never heard of OPML ("Is that to do with Google?". My reply? "Errmm... No.") or bookmarklets -- of which two of my three family members misread as bookmarks; "Oh cool I can import my bookmarks after all...".

I realise it's in beta but for a project with money behind it - I must get one of those soon - I think a little less geek testing would have gone a long way.

souloniceApr 02, 2004 at 9:58PM

What would have really impressed me is if Kinja had the ability to aggregate other types of content, for example recently updated photoblogs, recently added links, new polls, etc.

Now that would be cool.

BTW, I can't get Kinja to include my site in my digest....

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.