I am a big connector. I believe in the power of one's network. And with social networking sites and various tools available to you in this digital world, there's no excuse not to connect with others and extend your network. I meet a lot of amazing people on Twitter every year and treasure the opportunity to build new relationships. But at some point, your network grows large and you are in danger of losing touch with people you care about.
That's why I was psyched to find Newsle last year. Newsle is a service that allows you to keep up-to-date on where your friends are featured or mentioned online (news, blogs, articles). Newsle finds articles about you, your friends and colleagues, and anyone else you care about and notifies you minutes after they're published. For friends with common names, the service makes sure it finds articles about the right person, and most importantly, it allows you to instantly congratulate your friend on being mentioned though a tweet, Facebook post, or LinkedIn post.
Newsle was started by Axel Hansen and Jonah Varon, two computer science students from Harvard who were randomly paired up as roommates. During their freshman year, Varon launched College FML, and Axel created an iPad app for viewing large neuroscience datasets.
The two young men came up with the initial idea for Newsle during finals their freshman year. They imagined an internet where every page was tagged with the real people in it, so they could quickly see what their friends had done online. "That summer I was interning at Google and Jonah was working at a startup, and we hacked together the first version of Newsle," says Hansen. "It searched for old news about our friends, and we immediately realized there was a huge amount of great content that was slipping through the cracks and could only be organized algorithmically. We spent sophomore year working on Newsle while in school, and then raised our seed round and took a leave of absence the next summer."
Because this is the first time news has been organized around people, there's a huge variety of potential applications that can be built on their technology and the two founders are just getting started. But right now the main way people use Newsle is email alerts when their friends make the news. Says Hansen: "We've even heard of users getting jobs thanks to Newsle, by reconnecting with a friend after they made the news."
Newsle also allows users to follow people important to them who they are not friends with: top people in their industry, celebrities, politicians, etc. There is also a journalist tracking feature to help PR people follow articles written by relevant journalists.
"Besides letting users keep tabs on their people, we also want to establish real identity online," says Hansen. "Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter got people to start using their real names online, but while they play a big part in your online identity, they only tell part of the story. We want to give the user a more complete picture of someone, and news is just the first step."
Newsle is also great for getting background on a specific individual beyond just social sharing sites. If you have a business meeting with someone, it's helpful to know what they've been sharing, but it's even more useful to know that their company just raised a round of funding -- which you can only find on Newsle.
So there you go. When your friends make the news, Newsle makes sure you know.
Note: The author doesn't have any affiliation with Newsle, just a big fan of the product