Tech startup Cronycle recently announced that it had raised $2.6 million in funding to improve on its collaborative research platform, which lets users curate articles from Twitter and RSS feeds into Pinterest-like boards and allows teams to collaborate on projects by following curated boards. Users can add articles, annotate and comment on articles and tag team members on the boards without leaving the platform.
Collaborative Content Curation
“Cronycle enables users to monitor and stay up-to-date on the topics that matter to them most, with advanced Twitter and RSS feed filtering; seamlessly share with others by annotating, tagging, and directly highlighting articles for the ultimate brainstorming session,” the announcement said.
By allowing the curation of information and content from multiple sources into one platform, Cronycle helps businesses make better use of information gathered for research purposes.
According to CEO Theo Priestley, who spoke with Small Business Trends via Skype, the biggest problem Cronycle solves stems from information overload.
“The real power behind it is when you use the tool to collaborate with others to be productive,” he said.
Cronycle Target Audiences
Priestley said that the company has some very specific target audiences in mind.
“Firstly, there’s anyone who wants to take more control over how they curate their news and information sources,” he said. “We believe that there’s too much of an echo chamber being generated from algorithms filtering our news feeds. By not relying on algorithms for curation, Cronycle gives users that power back to discover information for themselves.”
Priestley added that a second target audience consisted of content and marketing professionals who are looking for the ability to work on projects collaboratively.
“For example, working on a content marketing project around IoT could include curating information from a variety of news and tech sources, annotating and highlighting passages of note, uploading PDF whitepapers and research and working with external creative and PR agencies to produce drafts for final revision and publication,” he said. “Cronycle allows all of that and more.”
The financial analyst community is the third group Cronycle is targeting due to its reliance on multiple tools for research.
“We’ve spoken with large and small industry analyst firms who use 5-6 tools to create notes for research, but none have the same levels of collaboration and functionality that Cronycle delivers,” Priestley said.
How Cronycle Works
From a user perspective, Cronycle feels and acts like a hybrid of Pinterest and Feedly, an RSS reader.
It segments the admin console into seven components, which users access through a navigation menu located in the left-hand column.
Each user has a profile where he can manage administrative settings and functions. The user can also upload a profile picture and cover image, similar to social network profiles.
Cronycle notifies users of activity, based on their settings. This part of the interface contains a list of events arranged in reverse chronological order, almost like a newsfeed.
User- or team-curated boards are where most of the activity takes place. They consist of Pinterest-like collections of curated content arranged by topic.
“Boards are like a notice board where you pin post-it notes, articles, and images, or like a scrapbook that contains annotations and articles,” the website says.
Users pull content into Boards from customized sets of RSS feeds, Safari or Chrome browser extensions, by typing in article URLs or uploading documents from their desktop. The platform supports just about any file type, including Word documents, images, PDFs and more.
Users can also annotate, comment on, filter and search articles, vote articles up or down and see which attract the most attention.
Users can create customized content feeds based on keywords, Twitter handles and folders containing curated sets of RSS feeds. Users can transfer content from the feeds to boards.
Custom feeds that pull in relevant content based on keywords from feeds that users add or select from a list of trusted sources that Cronycle provides.
Users can draw from a small collection of pre-curated boards — 14 at the time of this writing.
The source library is the engine that runs the platform. It contains an extensive list of preapproved RSS feeds from news sources across the globe. Users can add feeds and Twitter handles, group individual feeds into custom feed sets, include feeds in folders, organized by category, and import a list of feeds via OPML. They can also search feeds by keyword and filter results based on a variety of criteria.
The Dashboard is the main page and shows the list of boards, latest articles drawn from feeds and a graphical representation of user activity.
How to Use Cronycle
There are two ways to use Cronycle. You can take the quick and easy route and start with Boards or a more methodical approach that starts with Sources.
Boards: Quick and Easy
Starting with Boards enables you to add content on the fly via the browser extension, by uploading documents from your computer or by copying and pasting a URL into the field provided.
Sources: Methodical Approach
Starting with sources is more methodical.
You can add feeds from websites you reference as well as search for sources included on the preapproved list. Then, you can create a folder based on the topic category and insert relevant feeds and also add feeds to generate a custom feed.
From there, you can go to Feeds, select a custom feed, and then share articles via social media or add them to boards.
Lastly, go to Boards to read, annotate, comment on and highlight articles and collaborate with team members.
Speaking of team members, there are two ways to add them: through the account owner’s profile or straight from a board. New team members receive a notification via email when an administrator adds them.
Problems Using Cronycle
The Cronycle admin console is still a bit buggy, at least in the Boards component.
In a couple of instances, the platform “glitched,” throwing up a cryptic message that prevented access to or further use of the platform. Logging out and back in was the only way to regain control.
In another instance, an article clipped from the browser extension contained little or no information (i.e., article title, description, thumbnail image, etc.) on the board.
A Cronycle customer service representative said in an email that the development team is aware of these problems and working to resolve them. He also indicated that doing a hard refresh — (Ctrl +F5 on windows) or (Cmd + Shift + R on Mac) — can solve the issue. He added that users could also report a broken link when the problem occurs through the interface.
Another problem came when naming boards. Instead of typing in the board title using spaces between words, you have to insert connectors, such as underscores (“_”) or dashes (“-“). For example, instead of “Small Business Trends,” the board title renders as “Small_Business_Trends.” Oddly, that same restriction does not exist when creating custom feeds.
The CEO said Cronycle’s pricing model is undergoing restructuring. Currently, the company has a free level, and premium pricing starts at $5.99 per month paid annually.
The free version is useful for individuals or small teams just getting started with the research process while the premium version unlocks more features and includes a larger number of boards, feeds and team members.
Cronycle also offers apps for iOS and Android devices at no additional cost.
Even with a few bugs, which the development team will eventually fix, the platform is still helpful for curating and collaborating on content due to its versatility and ease of use. The learning curve is short and the Boards and Feeds interface will feel familiar to anyone who has used Pinterest.
Any small business that has the need to gather research data and share it with team members for collaboration will appreciate its features and benefits.
Visit the Cronycle website to learn more or to give the platform a try.