is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
I’m on record with my admiration for the mobile news app Nuzzel. It uses your social graph to alert you of the news stories trending among people you follow, thereby creating the most accurate personalized news wire service that I’ve ever used. As I wrote in a blog post last August titled “Nuzzel Is the Best Mobile News Product Out There,” its utility is so valuable that the app succeeds in spite of its otherwise lackluster design. I described it then as “aesthetically lacking and difficult to use,” and unfortunately it hasn’t really gotten better in the time since.
Here’s an example. Every day, Nuzzel does a terrific job of alerting me to a dozen or two news stories that are almost always highly relevant to my interests. These alerts can come fast and furious though, and keeping up with them can be a burden during a busy workday. Nuzzel doesn’t really offer a simple way for you to save them for later or to a third-party service like Instapaper, unfortunately. What it does offer is its own “newsletter” feature, which lets you swipe on an alert on the home screen and add a given story to a daily, auto-generated email that people who follow you on Nuzzel can get in their inbox.
It’s easy to see why Nuzzel privileges its newsletter feature over services like Instapaper; this is in theory an effective way to stoke interest in Nuzzel itself and to build a social network within the app. I have no idea if it’s working for the company or not, but I was basically disinterested in the newsletter feature until I realized it could be a solution to my “save for later” problem.
What I did was subscribe to my own newsletter, so that I get a copy of it around midday each day. Then I built a script with Workflow to parse each day’s newsletter, find the links to just the stories, expand them and then add the text of each one to my Instapaper account.
So now as these notifications appear on my phone, I just quickly swipe on them to add them to my daily newsletter. When that arrives, usually around midday in New York, I run the Workflow script by clicking on the newsletter’s “View this issue in your browser” link in iOS’s Mail app, choosing “Run Workflow” from the Share Sheet and then tapping on the script—which I’ve named “Nuzzel Newsletter to Instapaper.” It’s a few more taps than I would like but the process takes only a few seconds and the end result is that I have all of the stories in my Instapaper app with minimal effort. In an ideal world this wouldn’t even be necessary as I could just send links directly to Instapaper from Nuzzel alerts on my phone. But for me it’s an ideal companion to an incredibly useful but flawed product, and yet another example of the edge cases that can be smoothed out with Workflow.
You can grab the Workflow script here and run it yourself. You’ll just need to set up your own newsletter on Nuzzel and authorize Instapaper inside Workflow. However, be aware that the script uses regular expressions as a brute force way of understanding what’s contained in each newsletter and finding the links it should add to Instapaper, which is a method that is often fragile. It works for me nine times out of ten, but your mileage may vary. When it works though, it works great.+