Exploring Rojo - part three

 by Martin Belam, 3 May 2006

I've been auditioning online RSS readers as potential replacements for Bloglines. In part one of my exploration of Rojo I looked at getting feeds in and out of the system, and in part two I looked at the feed-reading experience itself. This final part will mostly concentrate on the tagging and topic aggregation features of the site.

One of Rojo's boasts is that because of the 'Mojo' system, it is able to aggregate user reading behaviour to produce categorised lists of the most important stories of the day. Now if you need any evidence that Rojo is currently firmly and squarely aimed at the geek market then you only need to look at the major directory of topics that Rojo aggregates. A top-level "Technology" category and a top-level "Web 2.0" category? And "Gadgets" doesn't get classified under "Technology"?

Rojo's categories

As seems obligatory for a Web 2.0 style application, Rojo features tagging. Looking at the tag cloud on Rojo concerns me about how it could make the leap from being a geeky feed-reading application to being a mainstream web application.

Rojo tag cloud

It is a point I've made before when comparing the tag clouds of Yahoo!'s My Web 2.0 Beta and Flickr. Once you have an early adopter crowd geeking out an already advanced concept like My Web 2.0 or Rojo with tags like ajax, php or technorati, how do you ever wrestle it back to being about the kind of things that are in the Lycos Top 50 or Google Zeitgeist or Yahoo! Buzz index, that are "real world" interests. Showing the tag cloud as it exists to my wife or parents would do nothing to convey to them how useful a feed-reader could be to them in their requirements for information from the internet - where are the tags for 'cats' and 'recipes' and 'Orlando Bloom'?

Like with FeedLounge, the tagging can be done at feed level, where they are used to organise the view of your feeds in the left-hand column, and at story level. The interface is easy enough, and I very quickly learnt to add tags one-at-a-time rather than in a delimited group. Rojo can't cope with some non-alphanumeric characters in the tags however - notably I was unable to tag any of my feeds 'reboot:bbc.co.uk' because the colon was a persona non grata as far as Rojo tags were concerned. Some basic testing revealed that <, >, # and € were fine, whilst as well as the colon, &, ? and @ were illegal characters.

Examples of special characters considered valid in Rojo tags

So, as ever I have been finding lots of little gripes about how the application didn't quite do what I wanted or expected, or finding small bugs and problems. On the whole though Rojo really impressed me with a combination of the feature-set and a very smooth user experience. I've decided to give it a longer audition, so for the length of the BBC's reboot:bbc.co.uk blog that I am contributing to, I will be using Rojo to aggregate feeds and information about that as one of my research tools.

Finally, if anyone is interested in connecting to me to try out the contacts/social mojo-ing aspect of the service then please feel free to invite me as a contact - rather predictably my username is 'currybet' as I don't think I've quite got the hang of this secret shopper application-testing-and-review lark yet ;-)

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