Twitter is the ultimate bubble. You can follow people just like you to learn about things you already know you’re interested in. Mark Kawano, the former Apple designer who co-founded the longform, visual story platform for iPad called Storehouse, doesn’t want to fall into this same trap.
Last week, Storehouse rolled out its first major update since its release a few months back. The update breaks Storehouse’s single feed into three feeds–your Home (which consists of stories from people you follow, the Story of the Day (one great story that Storehouse wants to promote), and Explore, which is the most interesting of the three.
Why? Well it’s not like any feed you probably know. First off, it’s not based on chronology, with the newest stories posted first. In fact, it might have stories that are several months old alongside newer content. Explore is also not pegged to the people you follow, or pre-specified topics you’re interested in, either–like politics, architecture, or video games. In fact, it’s not personalized at all. Everyone on Storehouse sees the same Explore feed. In all of these senses, it’s almost the opposite from the way Twitter has built their ideologically similar Discovery tab, which is based on the network of people you follow.
“Something we need to get better at, we [as humans] don’t actually know what we’re interested in all the time,” Kawano tells Co.Design. “A lot of the times, the better stories are things you didn’t know you were interested in at all.”
Storehouse’s Explore is just stories that might be interesting to readers. It’s like a museum exhibit of neat stuff, pulling from a collection of hundreds of thousands of stories that are constantly tweaked, shaped, and rebuilt by algorithms, with the goal of capturing a true feeling of discovery–you know, what the web is so good at when it allows you to hop link to link until you end up reading a Wikipedia page on some foreign cultural phenomenon you never knew existed five minutes earlier.
“A lot of apps try to get you to curate–‘tell me what you’re interested in’–excluding topics,” Kawano explains. “At some point we were experimenting with that model in organizing stories more categorically, but it turned out that some of our engineers that thought they’d never like a fashion story found one that was really interesting . . . even things you don’t plan on cooking, or places you don’t plan on visiting, there’s something interesting about the longer form than looking at something that is shorter form.”
Furthermore, Kawano sees another benefit in the Explore channel: It’s a part of Storehouse that can push, not just unique stories, but uniquely designed stories. By breaking you out of an aesthetic populated by a circle of friends, you’re force-fed different perspectives in creative layouts, hopefully inspiring you to push the medium forward.
Of course, the question remains, will Storehouse’s users actually opt to use that Explore feed when they can simply follow stories from friends instead. In this sense, Storehouse may be accommodating our personal bubbles as much as it’s attempting to burst them.
“We’re experimenting,” Kawano admits. “We don’t think we’ll ever be done with the Storehouse algorithm. It’s something we’ll constantly tweak. We tweaked it already. We’re gonna learn.”