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Summary:

I’m dissatisfied with the current crop of “lifestreaming” apps. Overall, I think they’re missing a huge opportunity to help users focus their limited attention to the content that really matters. Last week, for example, Simon covered the release of skimmer, a desktop client that brings together […]

eventboxI’m dissatisfied with the current crop of “lifestreaming” apps. Overall, I think they’re missing a huge opportunity to help users focus their limited attention to the content that really matters.

Last week, for example, Simon covered the release of skimmer, a desktop client that brings together notifications from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other services. Also recently launched is Cosmic Machine’s EventBox, a Mac-only application that similarly mashes together notifications and messages from a range of web services: Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, Flickr and Reddit, as well as the capability to import raw RSS feeds.

Both skimmer and EventBox are pretty and pull a variety of web services into a single stream of information. But as a heavy user of multiple social networks and web apps, neither provides me with any real ability to manage the stream of information I get from all those web services. As far as I can tell, all they really do is to move noise from several separate sources into a single cacophony of content. There are some limited filters to fish out particular keywords from the stream, but nothing that I couldn’t use an RSS reader -– like Google Reader -– to replicate.

So here’s what I’d love to see from lifestreaming tools:

  • De-duplication – When friends post the same update to Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn, I only get one update.
  • Social volume control – Over time, lifestreaming apps should understand the content sources and people to which I pay most attention. I should be able to crank up the volume to show me everything, or dial it down to just the people and sources I really want to know about.
  • Relevance – A simple text filter is a no-brainer, but how about a relevance filter, looking at what my connections are reading as a collaborative filter for my own content sources?
  • Explore the “long tail” – I want my app to signal to me what’s mainstream and what’s niche, to allow me to drill down to esoteric opinions while at the same time getting a broader picture of what’s happening.
  • Visualization – The app should let me see at a glance what’s happening in my sphere of connections and content. Let interesting conversations and contents bubble up to the surface so I only need to be distracted by things of importance.

So, what do you want to see in your lifestreaming toolbox?

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  1. tobias s buckell Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    They’re missing the ability for you to manage your lifestream across different computers (I have a laptop and a desktop). Ability to mark as seen and not repeat twitters on each machine would be dandy.

  2. Great point Tobias – I’m constantly frustrated that my iPhone clients for Twitter don’t ‘mark as read’ items that later show up on my OSX client.

  3. tobias s buckell Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Dowp, forgot to add iPhone. Yeah, desktop/laptop/iPhone, every time I refresh twitter I’m not sure what I’ve seen. My main issue with ‘the cloud’ and ‘web 2.0′ is that I love the mac desktop interfaces to the cloud for stuff like Twitter, Facebook, and so on. Mature technologies like email allow for imap so that I can easily work on my iPhone/laptop/desktop regardless, the cloud needs to catch onto this if they want more productive people to enjoy their usage…

  4. 1. You want De-duplication? It’s a great idea and if that worked across idividuals it’d be a meme killer. Genius! I’d happily ignore anyone who used the word “lol” for starters.

    2. You want Relevance AND Long Tail? You want your cake and the other thing… I don’t think you can have both (sorry) but you can have much better visualisation or representation.

    Great post, now how about having a bash at knocking up a demo screen… I’d love to see it.

  5. @Tom that’s a great idea – wanna work on it together?

    I actually did start some concept work on a hardware social volume control…think Griffin Powermate :)

  6. What’s on your Lifestreaming app wishlist? | Reinventing Yourself… Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    [...] lot, I mean a whole lot, of people would pay for this app. I haven’t seen skimmer yet but I have been experimenting with [...]

  7. Jason T Johnson Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    I was thinking the very same thing just the other day. Things are getting way too noisy. Your list is right on.

  8. You are heard. We are addressing the same challenges u and most netizens are facing about information overload and visualizations problems. Watch out how semantic technology can change the game of information stream processing.

  9. Edwin Khodabakchian Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    Hi Imran. I am wondering if you ever had the chance to play with feedly (www.feedly.com). It tries to address some of the issues you are describing (although the angle is around content, sources and topics – social is just used for filtering and sharing). It would be interesting to see how we stack up compared to your expectations.

  10. Lifestream (www.lifestream.fm) might be worth a try. I picks up more than 60 sites/services in its feed.

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