I did not get much sleep last night. I spent the wee morning hours playing with Flipboard, fully engrossed until 5am. I don’t get that easily sucked in when sleep is beckoning, which should go to show how much I believe this: Flipboard is frakking awesome! Flipboard is the reason the iPad was made. And if you are a Twitter fan in particular, it is reason enough to go run out and buy an iPad right this second.

Flipboard is a (free!) app that takes full advantage of the large iPad screen real estate. (Those who are begging for Android and iPhone versions, I just don’t think you “get it”.) It bills itself as “your social media magazine” because it takes your Facebook and Twitter streams, which in their native apps are typically displayed chronologically – and, more to the point, vertically – and turns them into book form with magazine style pages that can be flipped with the swipe of a finger. Postings are still essentially chronological, but the page design is such that ‘articles’ are optimally tiled on the page rather than just strung as a series of headlines.

In the magazine layout, I found myself attune to every friend’s activities. The layout is more conducive to scanning all the headlines/bylines and gleaning the salient aspects. Contrasted with native Twitter and Facebook – especially with Facebook’s screwy-ass “Top News” vs “More Recent” orderings – I feel like I can review a greater number of feeds with a better uptake than with the conventional “stream” method. If there are links in the tweets/postings, those links are expanded more fully, and you can “read more” to get the complete story on any external items. The links are fast and the paging metaphor is easy to use. It is a dynamic medium that changes with every reload, guaranteeing that you will come back for more.

Flipboard gives you 9 book-tiles in which to place content. The first 2 are for your own Facebook and Twitter feeds. And while you can easily waste hours reading the “newspaper” that is your own social life, the “OMG-this-is-a-killer-app” comes when you start adding additional content via the Flipboard feeds.

Flipboard makes available over 60 additional feeds that you can use to fill the remaining 7 tiles. Some of the feeds are from conventional sources – USA Today, NY Times, TechCrunch, etc. Others are from Flipboard’s own aggregation service, combining the best of related themed posts (FlipTravel, FlipStyle, etc) from a number of sources. They even have a FlipPhotos stream which is a collection of often-stunning photos submitted by users and taking full advantage of the beautiful iPad color display. You can – and I did – easily waste hours exploring all the different feeds and wishing that Flipboard supported far more than a mere 9 tiles. At the end of the night/morning, I felt like the Matrix’s Neo after his first day being jacked in to “the Construct” simulator – total information overload, but give me more please!

But then I started looking beyond the engrossing content and into the mechanics of how Flipboard did what it did. How did people submit photos to create such a dynamic portfolio? With Flipboard being free (with no advertisements whatsoever), what is the business model and how can they afford to have people aggregating content for me? But then I looked more closely…

Every NYT or USA Today article had a tweet reference to it. Same for the curated articles. Same even for the photos. They were using Twitter as a sort of RSS feed, and then combining those tweets to optimally arrange in book form. NYT isn’t syndicating content just for Flipboard – Flipboard was merely syncing to their tweets. There probably was no one in Flipboard’s content division being paid to “aggregate my content” for FlipTech – it was all done as a Twitter feed or list with a themed set of Follows. How genius! And how very simple & scalable. This opens up the door to user-generated syndication by using Twitter lists for aggregation. The possibilities are endless. Now I really wish Flipboard supported more than 9 tiles! This enhancement should be their model for generating a revenue stream…

The Facebook feature is fantastic, and I’d like them to add a LinkedIn module as well. For that matter, it seems they could easily incorporate support for RSS feeds. But RSS aside, Twitter is more “social”, multimedia-savvy, and infinitely expandable. As a link-sharing mechanism, Flipboard is phenomenal. Flipboard is Twitter enhanced, and you can even retweet from within. The interface to Facebook is just a bonus. They do need a refresh button though. (Minor additional quibble: tweeted links with added commentary hide that verbiage until you drill down – you initially see the attribution and the link content, but not the tweeter’s intro.)

Twitter recently released a Twitter-for-iPad update, and with it’s paned view and support for gestures, it is tremendous. But Flipboard is so much cooler. If you are a heavy Twitter user, you really need to start thinking about getting an iPad!

http://www.flipboard.com/
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