Why bharat1 sucks?

Desicritics had a glowing review of bharat1.com. I don’t have anything specifically against it, but I think the review is a bit biased. So to play the devil’s advocate, let me point out why this so-called “preimer news aggregator” is not as great.

There are many ways a website can distinguish itself — user experience, content, functionality, presentation etc. I don’t think bharat1 excels in any of these areas. Really, the only think bharat1.com has done is pre-select a bunch of feeds. I don’t know why that is good, unless they have demonstrated that their feed selection is really great.

No new functionality: The author himself points out, Netvibes has similar features. Thats actually incorrect. Netvibes is a lot more than just a news aggregator — they are essentially trying to build a web based desktop replacement. In some senses Netvibes is a portal. And Netvibes is not alone — there are several others (Google IG, Goowy, Nowsy, Pageflakes etc etc).

In particular, all of these already let users move around content — so thats nothing new. They also offer a whole bunch of news feeds, and let users add their own news feeds — so thats nothing new either. Pre-selecting some news feeds is not that great — anyone can put up their OPML file to share and thats it.

What about “tags”? Thats not new either. Gregarius has tags. Technorati always had tags. Since you can get feeds for tags from Technorati and a whole bunch of other places, its not that great a deal. I think Google News does a much better job of “clustering” news — I wouldn’t rely on tags to represent “News Topics”.

Not only this, Netvibes et al. are more like platforms. They have open APIs, that let people build on top of the framework. They use community to build up traction. In its present form, bharat1.com is a one way road — there is absolutely no community involvement. They don’t even talk about how they discover tags, or a list of news sources they track.

Remembering the positions of the blocks? Are you kidding me?! That is so not new, or impressive in any which way. People have been stuffing things into cookies for the past decade or so. And that is the “most important part of the site”?

How does the ability to add my own blog to the site make it unique? If you can add any feed (as with Netvibes and friends), your blog is just another feed. I’m sorry, I don’t see the distinction. On the other hand, bharat1.com is probably the only aggregator which doesn’t offer its own news feed. What good is an aggregator if I can’t puts its RSS feed somewhere else?

What they call a “News Map” is better known as a [[wp>Tag_cloud]]. And if you find that impressive, check out News.com‘s hot news interface. As for the “minimalist” interface, nothing beats Google IG.

Finally, the site is not “ready”. There is no proper “About Us” page. The Policy page is linked to the “Contact” Page.

Like I said earlier, I have nothing against bharat1.com. I just felt that the author of the review had not done his homework. Perhaps bharat1.com will become all that and more, but in its current state, I think the review does more harm to it than good. All that glorification (“employs a unique combination of technology and creativity and brings to you the best of the web in a nice little package.”) just builds up false expectations, and in this fast moving market, don’t expect disappointed visitors to come back.

6 comments

  1. Marcus

    I don’t agree with your opinion ! each startpage has their features, for example goowy is a OS system, there are many features, GoogleIG too, the one i use for example http://www.pageflakes.com they have interaction with many other services and sharing page. I think you must analyse first before tell things around.

  2. Diwaker Gupta

    *@marcus*: I don’t know where you’re coming from man — I didn’t even say *anything* against start pages! If you read the post completely, it was about a “news aggregator” called bharat1.com. Everytime I mentioned start-pages, it was in a positive context. And I certainly didn’t say anything specific about Pageflakes. So whats the problem?

  3. Sid Meka

    This is Sid Meka. I own and run bharat1.com

    Diwaker, Thanks for mentioning our site on your blogpost.

    Your post was funny and dead-on! We do not claim to do anything that has not been done before. We only want to extrapolate some of the improvements that have been done in the web 2.0 world to the indian news consumption space.

    Also, we do not compete with Netvibes at all. Once we offer our OMPL one should be able to browse our news sources via a RSS reader or possibly even Netvibes.

    I do not personally know the author Kishore at Desicritics that wrote the review. :-) It was a glowing one and quite flattering as well. I have not communicated with Kishore yet and I am yet to thank him for this actually. It did help build up the motiviation of the team working on our site. Kishore did a good job of highlighting some of the techniques we employed to make it easy for the site users. Although these techniques are neither earth shattering nor novel by any stretch of imagination (As I pointed out by me on another blog: “I know this is not a an original idea by any stretch of imagination. My attempt is only to provide a superior user-experience compared to everyone else out there.”)

    bharat1 is not totally ready yet as you mentioned. We are wrestling with the quality of the feeds that are getting delivered by these Indian newspapers at the moment.

    Quite a few of the news sources we have do not offer direct RSS feeds. We are creating the feeds using a variety of mechanisms such as some online services, cron-jobbed site crawlers perl scripts etc. We had some challenges there to keep the feeds clean and will move quickly to provide the complete offering we have plans around. It is a very tedious scan / focus / cleanse operation :-)

    We have plans to develop the core engineering modules of the site for the next 12+ months and I think we deployed only about 10% of the functionality that we eventually want to make available. We are currently brainstroming around the social features that could be potentially built leveraing the current content consumption infrstructure we are trying to perfect.

    Again our core differentiators we believe in are:
    - Variety of feeds available on the site and those that are under development

    - Continued simplicity of interface regardless of the features we roll in, quite like google.com/ig that you mentioned

    - Long-term investment into core backend engineering to build a robust platform offering with a 12-16 month development roadmap.

    The goal is make it ultra simple for the end users such as a busy doctor in Chicago and a 60 yr old dad in New Delhi to consume the content and potentially participate in the process of content generation. Netvibes is a great product but I’m not sure how much adoption it has outside of the computer savvy demography. Although, I’d love the get the same level of buzz and adoption going is a specific demography at this time our goals and more modest and we are taking it one step at a time.

    The reason we have the site out there is to generate sound and very valid feedback that we have received so far which gives us a strong sense of validation on our platform offering.

    I noticed your domain in my google logs today and visited your site for the first time. I will add your blog to our list of blogs as well.

    Thanks and will touchbase in the weeks ahead as we roll out newer functioanlity.

    -Sid Meka

  4. Diwaker Gupta

    *@sid*: Thanks for that detailed response, and welcome to my blog! :-)

    First off, let me apologize if my post felt rash or abrasive. As I mentioned before, I was not trying to be unduly harsh against bharat1.com — I was merely trying to balance out what I felt was a biased review. I think its great that you guys are focusing on the Indian news space, because frankly speaking, most Indian newspaper websites are just pathetic.

    I can imagine the pains you are having with newspaper feeds. I’ve tried to add feeds from ToI, HT etc several times to my RSS reader but they just keep failing due to some error or the other. I wonder when these guys will wake up.

    Here’s a suggestion: don’t just focus on text-feeds. There are some good India-focused pod-casts out there, so you should try to cover those. Or better instead, roll-out your own — this space is still to be conquered! I haven’t seen any India-focused vlogs out there, but keep an eye out for them.

    All the best for the future, I’ll be keeping an eye on bharat1.com. Look forward to a *great* service!

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