Usually in this space, when you see me writing about the technical aspects of the New York Times or NYTimes.com it’s a rant of some kind about a company being dragged reluctantly into the digital age. There is so much about NYTimes.com’s online practices that are more in the manner of shooting themselves in the foot than taking them forward technologically. But today, I come to praise the site rather than to bury it.
The Times just rolled out the new MyTimes Beta. While it probably doesn’t use any brand new technology, I think it makes very effective use of existing technology to create an extremely useful personalized media home page. If you spend a good deal of time at the Times site and make use of it as a blogging resource or research source, I’d strongly urge you to check it out. From what I understand, the service isn’t available to all. You have to sign up.
What’s so cool about it? It’s not just that you can personalize the way the Times displays by selecting only those sections, reporters or columnists you actually read to appear on the page. You can add any other news source that has an RSS feed as well. So besides NYT, I’m featuring The Guardian, Haaretz, Ynetnews, the Washington Post, Slate, The Nation, Juan Cole, Talking Points Memo, Firedoglake and many others. I have to say it doesn’t look very elegant graphically. But it gets the job done quite nicely, thank you.
But now for a few of my cavils: Cache! Please add a cache feature so every time I leave my MyTimes page to visit another page of the Times site my entire page doesn’t have to reload. If you have lots of feeds displaying on your page it can take A LONG TIME to load. It’s not fun and not pretty. This is probably my biggest issue with the feature.
Within a section, say Opinion, you should be allowed to eliminate the articles of those columnists you don’t like or don’t read. Also, for sections like Opinion or Contributors featuring columns, author names should accompany all article titles.
The section entitled “All Journalists” actually lists a small handful of NYT reporters. Some of my favorites are not featured.
Now, if we can just get the rest of the NYTimes.com site to enter the digital age. For example, why does the Washington Post proudly link to blogs which feature links to their stories while NYT refuses to reciprocate the favor of those bloggers who link to it? Why doesn’t NYT allow links to external sites? Such a refusal to embrace elementary online media practices is bizarre and neolithic. Why doesn’t the Times site have home pages for every reporter with bios and links to their most recent articles?
Enough kvetching. MyTimes is a great start and I’m looking forward to the Times refining and improving it.