- WEB STARTUPS
- WEB JOBS
- ALL TOPICS
Earlier this week AJ Batac posted on Friendfeed about Pubwich, an “open-source online data aggregation PHP application.” I was intrigued, so I decided to check it out. The application is still very young, with a lot of work to be done, but it’s a great idea.
Initially, I was hoping that Pubwich would actually aggregate data from multiple sources into a single interface (the way Friendfeed does), but I soon learned that it actually just allows you to place information from multiple sources on a single page. Still, though, I think it’s a great idea and shows a lot of promise. In my case, at work, we have five Facebook fan pages, a Twitter account, a Flickr account, a YouTube account and at least two major RSS feeds. Rather than simply providing our users with links to each of those accounts, Pubwich provides me with an easy way to show our newest information to our visitors in one place. Continue reading “Aggregate Your Social Data With Pubwich” »
Yesterday we saw the launch of Google Buzz – a service that allows you to create conversations around content. The launch of Google Buzz dominated the tech news aggregator Techmeme nearly all day. One of the big complaints by popular bloggers like Robert Scoble has been that Techmeme doesn’t include content from social services like Facebook, Twitter or Friendfeed.
Interestingly, this morning I noticed that a Google Buzz item was given lead status as displayed below. And I know what you are thinking but it really wasn’t a MG Siegler item! The Google Buzz item was started by Google employee Brad Fitzpatrick. Brad was the founder of LiveJournal which was sold to Six Apart in 2005.
Brad’s Buzz item explains how to get your blog and/or feed into Google Buzz for buzzing – worth a read if you plan to use Google Buzz.
Will we see more Google Buzz on Techmeme? Was this item just the beginning of social integration into Techmeme? I’d suggest that if Google Buzz is indexed, Friendfeed should be indexed as well. Once the current blizzard leaves NYC, I will attempt to contact the staff at Techmeme for a response.
For archival purposes, here’s a graphic representation of the Google Buzz item on Techmeme:
The social web spawns a new network every 5 seconds. Roughly.
And every 3 seconds, a new app rears its shiny little head to offer centralization, aggregation, and status- or file-pushing for the dozen or more profiles and sites maintained by the average user.
For profile whores (guilty!), these sites tempt with promises of the ultimate tool for managing your online presence in a cohesive way, assembling the fragments of data into a unified front for your personal brand. Forgoing any commentary on the narcissism and navel-gazing of a fruitless generation, I’ll limit my overarching criticism of these services to two main points: They’re not sticky, and they cause redundancies.
With regard to my first point, it’s very common (for me, at least) to sign up for a still-in-beta site after being digitally flirted with across a few channels, only to discover that the range, scope, usability, and urgency (what I’d call the addictiveness factors) of the offering weren’t compelling enough to prompt return visits.
As for the second point, we’ll get into more specific detail in the reviews below; let it suffice to say that I’m connected to most friends across several networks. If you or I use a status-pushing or file-pushing service, I’m getting the same message from you on Twitter, Facebook, and likely the aggregating site, as well. And no one wants to see your TwitPics of breakfast three times in a row.
“But that’s not how it works!” you may cry. “Site X eliminates your need to go to those other sites!”
Welcome to the real world. Like most users, I still occasionally have to visit Facebook; and I even (gasp!) still use the Twitter.com web interface. So until your Super Magical Candy Mountain stream-aggregating site gains critical mass and actually fulfills its brand promise of being “the only social site you’ll ever need to use,” redundancies are an unfortunate fact, both redundancies in content and redundancies in services offered. In other words, don’t pitch your site as “the ultimate contact address book.” I’ve already got one, and it’s already got the critical mass to live up to that promise (here’s looking at you, Zuckerberg). Likewise, building an independent microblogging function into your service is pointless on top of pointless; God already made Twitter once.
Now, let’s get on with the roast!
FriendFeed: Like a Mao Suit for Your Social Streams.
The granddaddy of aggregators, FriendFeed is more commonly known by its street name, “Scoble’s lapdog.”
The ‘Feed pushes updates to Twitter, rounds up links you like, streams activity in any feed reader, and even generates a nice little widget for your blog or site. From FriendFeed, you can post text, photos, or links; you can also grab other RSS feeds and insert them in your stream.
The three problems I’ve had with FriendFeed since the Scoble pimping began are that it’s butt ugly (no objections, right?) and that it totally typifies the two abovementioned overarching objections.
Customization: Gives new meaning to the term “absolute zero.”
Content Posting: You can comment on and “like” posted updates or links, and you can share links through a bookmarking function. You can also post text and photos. Rather thorough!
Mobile Functionality: Email, MMS, and an “iPhone-optimized interface.”
Roasted: Well done, but could’ve been done much better. “Mmmm” for “missed opportunity.”
Chi.mp: Hollered Beta.
Chi.mp gives the best vanity URLs of any social site. Username.mp. So simple. So easy to remember. And the user interface stands out as one of the prettiest, most fleshed-out in its class. Still, customization is minimal; I can’t even suss out how to change my avatar. I’m guessing it’ll change when I update my Facebook avatar, but shouldn’t that be a bit more intuitive?
Also, the idea of “personas” has been employed to some effect here. Mom and your boss and your Friday night crew all get to see different sides of you, on the web as in life. But shouldn’t we have the ability to decide how many personas we get to have? And how do we know which users see which content? O’Dell is confused on this point; it seems like a great and necessary but complicated concept.
I can’t offer praise for Chi.mp’s “mini blog” or photo upload functions; on my profile, they push updates to Facebook and Twitter, but not to WordPress or Flickr, which would be the more intuitive choices and would eliminate the need for visiting other sites to repost redundant content. I also question the usefulness of the email forwarding; I can set up firstname.lastname@example.org and have those messages forwarded to my Gmail account, but… Why?
And why in god’s sweet name do I have to fill out a profile for personal and professional information when the site’s already syncing with my Facebook and should be able to do the same with my LinkedIn? After bitching on said point on Twitter, Anthony from Chi.mp kindly “hollered beta,” admitting there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Customization: I can pick one of a few backgrounds. Or even a solid color.
Content posting: Mini-blogs and photos which update to Facebook and Twitter.
Mobile Functionality: Uuuuh…
Roasted: Rare, but keep cooking. Put that shrimp back on the barbie, or whatever it is they say in New Zealand.
Retaggr: Thanks for the Widget.
Retaggr is a pure-as-the-driven-snow aggregator. Your custom URL is your social web “business card,” so to speak. Your Retaggr card can be emailed, tweeted, pinged, etc.; and the Retaggr widget makes a handy all-in-one stream feeder for your blog or website. Heck, even I use it. It also gives you a nifty ClicktoAdd.Me URL that allows users to quickly peruse their Internet-stalking options and (in some cases) instantly connect to you across those social sites.
But the widget’s rather ugly, the profile page is useless, and the functionality is limited. As a result, the odds you’ll forget about the site shortly after you sign up are pretty high.
Customization: Users can choose themes, backgrounds, colors, and a vanity URL.
Content Posting: None; this baby’s a pure aggregator. You can tag images, but only on Retaggr-enabled sites.
Mobile Functionality: See above; so, none.
Roasted: Throw it on the coals and douse it in lighter fluid. It’s done.
Pixelpipe: Actually Doesn’t Suck!
For some cosmic/hormonal reason, I hated the Pixelpipe live demo I saw last week at SF New Tech. After TechCrunch’s review, I spewed some bile into the comments section about how there are already too many value-free aggregating/status pushing services and went on with my life. I now must nibble lightly on my words; Pixelpipe doesn’t suck.
The suprisingly simple three-click process for adding most “pipes” is among the fastest processes I’ve seen yet. Unfortunately, it’s giving me unidentifiable technical problems with pushing status updates to Facebook (mystery error message FTW?), and double-posting to TwitPic/Twitter (see the all-important redundancy note at the beginning of this gargantuan post). And I still can’t get the background image upload form to work.
Customization: Allows for custom or colored background/headline on a hosted page; but so far, I haven’t been able to make that work.
Content Posting: Uploads status updates/microblogs, photos, videos, audio, and other files; then pushes the content to any relevant social sites you’ve linked.
Mobile Functionality: Email, MMS, an iPhone app, an Android app, etc. Seems poised for mobile greatness.
Roasted: Medium rare. Stick a fork in it and send feedback to @brettb.
Cliqset: Back to the Drawing Board, Kids.>
This is literally the profile I forgot I had. I tried to sign up for a beta invite, only to discover my username had already been taken… by me.
Even the Cliqset blog seems confused on what the hell Cliqset is supposed to do. The product is unfocused and, currently, it doesn’t… do… anything. Wait, is that even possible?
Oh, right, it’s the social web. Ninety percent of these “revolutionary platforms” don’t do anything.
Cliqset, however, is particularly offensive, spurning existing aggregation services and data portability while offering the most grandiose and amibitious plan to offer users a single social identity on the web.
Unfortunately, Cliqset neither gathers data from my other social sites, nor does it push my updates to my existing profiles. Guess what it is? Just another microblogging service, but with less functionality and no mass of users.
Content posting: Status updates that go nowhere outside Cliqset.com
Mobile Functionality: Kill me now.
Roasted: You can’t roast a turd.
Posterous: Emailing Like It’s 1996.
The setup process (sending an email to email@example.com) was delightfully novel, leading me to a super simple two-button service-adding process for linking my Posterous account to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, the ol’ blog, and… and…
Oh, wait. I guess that’s it.
No support for Last.fm, YouTube, Vimeo, Plurk (hah, ok, that was a joke), or anything like that. Users can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest more services.
Posterous offers an interesting bookmarking function for quick posting and commenting, and users can control what gets posted where by specifying an email address (Twitter-only posts go to email@example.com; but what if you want an update to go only to Twitter AND Facebook without having to send two emails?).
Overall, the functions are all tied to email and limited accordingly (good luck uploading that 3 minute video clip, dude!), and the “meh” factor is high.
Customization: I get to choose my avatar.
Content Posting: Borderline CMS-y. Can post videos, audio, photos, and text to a blog.
Mobile Functionality: If you can email from your phone, you’re golden.
Roasted: Medium. The blog part is tasty, but the constant repetition and redundancy can be a bit tough and chewy.
And that’s the lot!
Who did I miss? Did I leave out your startup? Do you have a better idea?
Regator is an Atlanta-based startup which provides curated blog aggregation. They have created aggregated pages for over 550 topics ranging from arts to health to local interest to politics. Readers can vote a story up or down within Regator and that helps to make the story more important in the Regator index.
Check out my chat with Regator co-founder Scott Lockhart where we discuss Regator along with his tips for growing a site when you aren’t located in the valley.
popurls, the original social aggregator has launched a variety of new features this weekend. popurls is so popular that the King of Clones, Guy Kawasaki has cloned it for his latest startup. From a developer standpoint, popurls has some nifty features like the ability to swap opening links in other windows, text sizing and css changes on the fly.
The major update is the addition of the "poprank algorithm" which features the top nine stories across the popurls community. Founder Thomas Marban notes regarding the algorithm, "tracks popularity on the basis of several measurement methods across the web". I have a call-in to Austria to get the secret sauce from Marban but somehow I doubt I will get very far.
Other newly launched features include:
- Direct sharing on facebook
- Screensaver for windows
- Improved search
- Pownce bot
- New feeds
- Updated iPhone client
I keep a tab open for popurls and a tab for Original Signal and both attack the aggregator issue a bit differently.
Bloglines, the RSS tool owned by Ask, has released a new beta version of their feed aggregator. Gary from Ask.com has a basic product overview. Richard has an awesome in-depth review of the Bloglines product over on Read/WriteWeb.
Richard notes, "Bloglines Beta is the first stage of 'a complete redesign of the Bloglines service'. The new features include a new personalizeable Start Page (featuring drag and drop functionality to add feeds); 3 feed reading views (Quick View with headlines only, 3-Pane View for an email-like interface, and Full View for "the classic Bloglines page layout, updated"); Drag-and-drop feed management using Ajax; and a new Unread System to manage what to keep and what to ignore. Also upgraded are the 'Add Feeds' process and the 'Full View' option."
I love the fact that there are no default feeds, I don't have to delete 40 things I don't want just to start adding what I do. And where is the advertising, if none, then how do they generate revenue?
It "feels" much smoother than Google Reader. But can this new version bring back it's loyal base from years ago?
Here is my video review – 5 minutes – RSS, step inside please.
Web aggregator popurls has launched a real-time viewer mashup with Google Maps. It displays a map of the world plus the content being clicked on from popurls. It's pretty groovy to watch what people in different countries think is interesting. My suggestions would be to let users select a zoom level as currently it's pretty far zoomed out and a pause button. They could also offer a country-by-country analysis, select "Germany" and only watch the clicks from with Deutschland.