Introducing the News Feed, Prepd’s auto-filing solution

5 min readDec 21, 2016

Prepd launches V1 of a major, new feature.

Through feedback surveys and conversations with students and coaches, we’ve learned that, by and large, the entire Prepd community would like to see an auto-filing component introduced to Prepd. Of course, our user base also communicated some valid concerns in terms of how such a feature should be implemented. Primarily, there’s a concern that auto-filed news articles would undermine the educational value of the activity, since students may feel disinclined to independently research and read. We took those concerns to heart so we can build an experience that would provide access to a large collection of auto-generated files while also encouraging students to continue researching, reading, and organizing their files.

What is the News Feed?

Prepd’s News Feed (currently released as an open beta feature) automatically retrieves articles from 21 different news sources. Since articles in the News Feed can then be saved to any Prepd application, the News Feed helps teams quickly file and fills research gaps. It also helps level the playing field, so smaller extemp clubs can compete against larger programs.

Prepd’s News Feed automatically retrieves articles from 21 different news sources

What are the benefits of the News Feed?

The News Feed accomplishes four things.

  1. The News Feed helps level the playing field for smaller extemp clubs or individual competitors, who may feel at a disadvantage relative to larger programs with more filing capacity.
  2. The News Feed helps new teams transition to Prepd, because they’ll immediately have access to tens of thousands of research files.
  3. The News Feed is a fast way of saving articles into Prepd for long-term storage.
  4. The News Feed covers any research gaps that you may have, so you’ll never have to worry about not having evidence for obscure topic areas.

How does the News Feed work?

In the top left corner of any Prepd app, you’ll see a search field. The search icon immediately to the right of the search field is Prepd’s Smart Search tool — which searches through all of the files you’ve saved to Prepd. The second image, to the right of the search icon, is the News Feed. If you enter text and click on the News Feed icon, you will run a search through all the articles that have been saved to the News Feed. From the search results page, you have advanced search tools for narrowing down results.

News Feed articles are automatically deleted after a period of time. At most, they can be saved for up to two months. But coaches will soon have an option to adjust the deletion period through the Team Settings page in the Dashboard.

Please note that upon launch, the News Feed has not yet populated with two months worth of article history. It is accumulating new articles every hour, so moving forward, the collection of files will grow quickly.

Which publications are included in the News Feed?

The News Feed collects articles from the following publication sources:

· Al Jazeera America


· Associated Press

· The Atlantic


· Brookings


· Christian Science Monitor

· Der Spiegel

· Fox

· Gallup

· Guardian

· Jerusalem Post

· LA Times

· New Republic


· Politico

· Reuters

· Russia Times

· South China Morning Post

· Time Magazine

Why are News Feed articles deleted?

In order to save space and keep your articles relevant, the News Feed automatically purges articles once they are two months old. It doesn’t contain articles that are older than two months. However, coaches will have the option to adjust the deletion settings from the Team Settings page in the Dashboard. Coaches can select between 2, 4, 6, and 8 week deletion periods; but the default for all teams is two months.

Automatically purging the articles not only saves space and keeps the article collection relevant, but it also encourages students to use the News Feed to save articles into Prepd. If an article is saved to a Prepd app, it will be saved forever; or rather, it won’t disappear unless you manually delete it or purge files en masse.

Can I adjust settings for the News Feed?

Settings for News Feed will not be available upon launch. But this is something we plan to implement shortly after the new year. In addition to adjusting the settings pertaining to article deletion, coaches will also be able to selectively enable or disable certain news sources. By default, all news sources are enabled, but coaches will be able to turn some off through the Team Settings page in the Dashboard.

How does the News Feed advance the educational value of the activity?

Prepd believes strongly in enhancing the educational experience provided by speech and debate. We believe that one of the greatest benefits of competitive extemp is that it develops independent research and reading habits. So, Prepd has built a set of features that protect the educational experience.

For one, students still have to manually research articles — either through the News Feed or with Fast Catch — in order to permanently save their research. It’s unwise to rely on the News Feed since all its files will be deleted after they become two months old (or sooner, if coaches change the settings).

Second, Prepd offers other educational tools for monitoring student activity. Namely, Prepd tracks reading activity and visualizes it in the Dashboard. When reading an article, students can select the “Mark as Read” button at the bottom of the article view. Students will then be presented with one of five comprehension exercises. These activities are not meant to be difficult or time-consuming (they should only take a minute or two to complete), but they force students to pause, internalize what they just read, think critically about it, and then articulate some sort of insight. Once an article has been marked as read, the student’s activity as well as answers to the comprehension exercise are displayed on their user profile, accessible through the Dashboard.

What’s next?

We released V1 of the News Feed on December 21. We will continue to update and improve the News Feed through January. Until then, since this feature is in a beta status, you may encounter small bugs or design flaws. We will improve the News Feed’s performance and also make some adjustments based on student feedback to make it more usable. Also, we will update Prepd Offline to include the News Feed in early January.