Call For Testing: Recommended Reading Emails

Hi, everyone! I’m Jeff — an engineer on Team Delta. We’re working on delivering WordPress.com content recommendations right to your inbox. Hopefully, your recommendations will be interesting, engaging, and relevant to you. Any feedback you can provide is greatly appreciated!

What is it?

Emailed recommendations are calculated using an algorithm which takes into account the sites you like and follow. They should get better the more you click through and interact with other WordPress.com sites. They will be sent approximately weekly, will have around 5 recommended posts, and look something like this:

recommended-reading-email-example

 

How to Help Test

  1. Reply to this post and mention your WordPress.com username so we can add you to our list.
  2. Wait for a new “Recommended Reading” email to appear in your inbox.
  3. Let us know if there are no posts in the email which are relevant to you.
  4. Look for any mistakes or broken links.
  5. Check for accessibility problems.
  6. Be on the lookout for another email in approximately a week & report as above.

We are planning to test this feature until Monday, January 16, 2017.

If you have feedback about these emails, please leave a comment on this post. Thank you for your help!

Published by

Jeff Bowen

Data & Dev at @Automattic / @WordPressDotcom, zymurgist, ❤️ music, Goonie, /problem( solver)?/, mountain-longer, prone to thinking fits.

46 thoughts on “Call For Testing: Recommended Reading Emails”

      1. Got the first RR email. It was attractively designed and easy to scan quickly. All links led to the appropriate article in the Reader, so functionally this is sound. I found that the excerpt for each post didn’t always entice me to read. I can see that all of them are just the first paragraph or so of the post, and none of the authors wrote a first paragraph that drew the reader in and gave a sense of what they were going to get out of reading the rest of the post. I read a lot of stuff every day and so that blurb needs to compel me to click.

        I am a Feedly user. I’ve tried using the Reader; matter of fact, about six months ago I tried it again and exported my feed list from Feedly and imported it into the Reader, so it’s pretty up to date with my feeds. But I am so used to the Feedly (and, before it, the lamented lost Google Reader) paradigm (as Feedly can be set up to work much like Reader) that I’ve struggled to adapt to the Reader. I just keep using Feedly. A weekly RR email might help me get my head more into the Reader game and help me ultimately switch.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks for the feedback, Jim! We’re actively working to improve the excerpts.

          A weekly RR email might help me get my head more into the Reader game and help me ultimately switch.

          That’s the hope! I know every time I click around in the Reader, I’m impressed with how much great content is aggregated there.

          Like

        2. If a blogger writes an official excerpt (i.e., under More Options in the editor) for a post, will RR pick that up instead of using the first paragraph? That seems like a great way to get a compelling lead in the RR email. If, that is, the author bothered to write an excerpt. I never do, but if the possibility of being included in RR is enhanced when a post includes a good excerpt, I would strongly consider writing excerpts.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I share the same hypothesis: that authors taking the time to write a custom excerpt tends to lead to increased quality. I’m working to leverage has_excerpt right now 🙂

          Edit: To clarify, it will use the custom excerpt in most cases already.

          Like

      1. I’ve received the first “Recommend Reading” email. I’ve tested it on the desktop on Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS/Firefox 50.1.0

        I’d say one or two of the posts were relevant to me. Not very surprising since the algorithm takes my Likes and Follows into account and I follow some of the sites just to support them rather than being 100% interested in their contents. Same goes for the Likes since I mainly “Like” comments rather than sites/posts. As I’m opposed to big sites like Google & Facebook finetuning and sharpening their user profiles with more and more data and selling these to advertisers in the long run, I’m kinda happy the algorithm was not very accurate. 😉

        As for the broken links I’m guessing they were all working. The thing is I wasn’t and am usually not logged in when checking my emails. This is a huge show stopper for me then. Tbh I didn’t expect this behaviour when reading the description of the “Recommend Reading” feature above.

        Since it’s generally recommended to block external images from loading when checking your emails (to protect your privacy and prevent spammer from verifying your email address) none of the images were loaded (WordPress.com logo & featured images) when checking my emails in the webmailer. Don’t know if this counts as broken but the webmailer preview window just shows the alternative image titles as a link which kind of breaks the layout a little bit.

        Some of the strings weren’t translated into my configured interface language but I guess this is due to the feature being in beta test. While some strings like “Read More” were correctly translated to german as “Weiterlesen” others like “Follow, like, and comment on articles in the WordPress.com Reader and receive recommendations tailored to your interests.”, the blue button “Visit Your Reader” as well as the footer with “Do you want these emails?” and “Unsubscribe”-link are still in english.

        I’m no big fan of html emails in the first place. Is there any chance we’ll have the option to switch to a “Raw text” version for the email in the future?

        Cheers
        Martin K. aka iqatrophie

        Like

        1. Hi, Martin. Thanks very much for testing on Linux & Firefox — very helpful.

          Yes, we may use additional signals in the algorithm in the future such as vertical self-selection during signup, but for now, it’s only likes and follows. Rest assured, this is not something being built with advertisers in mind 🙂

          Thanks for the feedback about the layout with images blocked. We’ll see if that’s something we can improve as I know lots of folks read emails in such a way.

          Some of the strings weren’t translated into my configured interface language but I guess this is due to the feature being in beta test.

          Exactly, we’re hoping to have as many strings translated as possible when these come out of testing.

          I’m no big fan of html emails in the first place. Is there any chance we’ll have the option to switch to a “Raw text” version for the email in the future?

          We wanted these to be useful to non-HTML email users as well. There should already be an attractive Text view for these emails. In Gmail, for example, you can select “Message text garbled?” from the dropdown to see it. (https://cloudup.com/chHOI532Q_O)

          Thanks again!

          Like

        1. In the latest batch of articles, none were relevant. The algorithm seems to think I’m into poetry and fashion, which I’m not. Perhaps I don’t follow enough blogs to give the algorithm good data to draw from. The email layout looked fine and the links worked properly.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I would much prefer to see SW development effort go into producing more serious and easily used functionality, such as a single really good editor that combines the virtues of the Classic and Beep-Beep-Boop editors.

    Like

      1. 1. 3 of the 5 recommended posts were not relevant to me.
        2. All available links worked. I was logged in to WPcom at the time I clicked on them.
        3. The last post was nearly empty of content, only the post title, 4 words and a link, which when clicked on turned out to be a photo post.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. My second RR email arrived today. Two of the five articles were poetry, and …well, I don’t like poetry. The other three were related to photography, which is interesting to me. But again, the blurbs supporting the posts weren’t enticing — except for one. If I wasn’t testing this, I would have clicked to read only that one article. Here’s the excerpt:

    “I don’t have a contact sheet but I do have a rap sheet. I’ve sold crack. I’ve driven stolen cars. I’ve been in a number of fights and a couple of gun battles. I’ve spent a significant number of days and months in county and city jail. Basically, I’m a street guy. ”

    THAT is enticing. This one really wasn’t, because it led me to believe that there was no content in the actual post beyond this (and I was right):

    “Pictured here is Malin Rydqvist, a pilot and yoga-lover from Sweden. This was shot on a GoPro during the GoPro launch event in Mallorca, Spain. Join me on Instagram!”

    This one wasn’t enticing, either, for reasons that should be plain:

    “To all dear readers who happen to stumble across this, have a Happy Healthy Christmas! And thank you for your persistence in reading mundane food reviews. I promise to be just as boring in 2017.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Jim. I’m glad there was at least one enticing post there (now I want to read it!). The recommender should improve the more you click through, like, & follow.

      Like

  3. OK-second recommended posts email arrived. Selections were more interesting for me, even though this week I didn’t comment, like or follow new sites. I do, however, worry about reinforcing “bubble” syndrome.

    All links opened on my Android phone, but if I didn’t select to open in the WP app Reader, I had to log in to WordPress.com. That is a killer for me. (I feel like I’ve already mentioned this.) So if someone doesn’t have the WP app installed on their device, I assume they will have to install it. Why? Just to compare, neither Flipboard nor Medium require me to read articles from their weekly newsletter in their apps.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Second “Recommended Reading” email arrived. Unfortunately none of the five recommended posts were very interesting to me. I guess this is because of the already mentioned fact that some of my Follows are just for supporting other sites. This and that I can’t open the links (not logged into WP.com when checking email) paints a wrong picture for the algorithm I guess.

    I’m following some RSS feeds in my Reader for e.g. Ubuntu/Linux related sites. Does the algorithm take these into account as well or is it limited to WordPress.com sites? *justcurious*

    Like

    1. I’m following some RSS feeds in my Reader for e.g. Ubuntu/Linux related sites. Does the algorithm take these into account as well or is it limited to WordPress.com sites? *justcurious*

      Feed subscriptions are not taken into account for these.
      Thanks again.

      Like

  5. My third RR email arrived today. The excerpts for each of the five posts were much improved over the last two weeks — all of them gave enough good flavor to let me decide whether to click through.

    But this week, only one of the posts was interesting to me, and then only marginally. The uninteresting posts were about working out, Finnish literature, poetry, and a story about skiing. The one that was marginally interesting was about parenting. Except that I read that one on a break at work, and it included pics of the author’s small children — naked. Oops, not what I wanted on my giant monitor for my co-workers to see.

    Like

  6. Email #4 arrived a couple of days ago and I just unsubbed from Recommended Reading for the reason I noted above. As a user, logging in is an unneeded, additional barrier to *reading* a post. Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

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