SiliconFilter

iStatus+: Post to Google+, Facebook and Twitter With Just One Click

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As of now, Google isn’t making it easy for developers to create apps that can write status updates to the service, but that didn’t stop Nadan Gergeo from building iSatus+, a little iPhone app ($0.99) that lets you post to Google+, Facebook and Twitter at the same time. I’m a big fan of simple apps that only do a few things, but do those right. iStatus+ is exactly that kind of app. You enter your account information for any of the networks you want to use – and if you are in the market for this kind of app, you’ll probably put in all three anyway – and start posting. It really couldn’t be any easier.

Istatus iphone update google plus

Given that Google+ isn’t actually giving developers the ability to post status updates directly yet, Gergeo had to hack his own way to do this, but it works perfectly fine. You can even choose which circles you want to post your updates to. Because of this, tough, you are currently also relegated to just posting text updates. The app doesn’t support any media uploads (yet).

As it also supports Twitter, the app is probably best suited for short updates under 140 characters, but you can easily exclude Twitter from longer updates by just tapping its icon above the keyboard.

One additional small caveats: the app doesn’t handle links very elegantly. On Google+, likely due to the nature of how it’s accessing the service, links won’t show up as snippets and there is no auto-shortening of Twitter links either (so they count as part of your 140-character limit).

If you want to give the app a try, just head over to iTunes.

 



9:26 pm


Tonara: Disrupting the Sheet Music Business One Note at a Time

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Using the iPad to display sheet music isn’t newTonara, however, adds some much-needed functionality to these scores which its competitors just can’t mach: it listens to you while you play and automatically flips pages. The Israel-based company competed in TechCrunch’s Disrupt Startup Battlefield last week, but despite its great presentation, the competition’s judges didn’t think there was really a market for a smart sheet music app. I beg to differ. I think Tonara will set the benchmark for 21st century sheet music apps for those of us who play piano, violin, flute or other polyphonic and monophonic instruments (indeed, its flexibility is what makes it so great).

Getting Started

So how does it work? Once installed, the app comes with a number of pre-loaded scores on it already (mostly classical), but also features an in-app store for buying new scores for between $0.99 and $2.99, depending on their length. Then, you simply open up the score and start playing. Tonara uses the iPad’s microphone to follow along and a moving bar keeps tap on where in the score you currently are. Make a mistake and stop? Tonara will notice and just let you pick up from anywhere before that point.

Check out the video below for some of the more advanced features, including the ability to record sessions, how to use the metronome feature and a brief walk-through of the advanced settings:

Some Small Issues, But More Than Worth a Try

I’ve tested the app extensively over the last few days and highly enjoyed the experience. The store could benefit from some additional diversity, though. It’s mostly out-of-copyright classical music right now – which is perfectly fine, of course – but Tonara hopes to get some sheet music publishers on board so it can offer a wider range of scores.

With regards to how well it works, I would say that it’s great about 90% of the time. Sometimes, though, the cursor moves ahead too fast and sometimes it can’t find my place in the score again after I stop and correct myself (something that happens a bit more often that I’d like to admit).

Still, if you are a musician, I can only recommend this app. It’s a great first release and will only get better as the app matures.



5:01 pm


Wajam Wants to Make Your Social Search More Social

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Social search is, without doubt, one of the hottest topics in the search engine business today. Google and Microsoft have made it the central focus of their latest search engine features and numerous small players are also trying to get a foothold in this nascent business. Among these smaller players is Wajam, a Canadian startup that lets you easily add social search results to virtually all of the majorsearch engines and shopping sites you use today, including Google, Bing, Amazon, Tripadvisor, Wikipedia, and Yelp.

The idea behind social search has always been intriguing, as there is, after all, a good chance that the links your friends share online are more relevant to you than other links. To make this really work, though, a social search engine needs to be able to easily tap into all your social networks, not just either Twitter or Facebook. That’s where Wajam shines. It lets you connect to all your favorite social networks and then indexes all the links (and the content of the pages these links point to) that your friends have shared. Then, when you search, it transparently pins these results at the top of your regular search results on your favorite search engine.

Among the nifty features here are the ability to also add your Google+ account and search through it – something that Google still doesn’t let its users do. You can also filter results so you just see photos or just the links a specific person has shared. Earlier this month, Wajam also added a location feature, which lets you easily see who of your friends live in a given city and what places your friends have liked there.

Earlier this week, I talked to the company’s founder and CEO Martin-Luc Archambault. According to Archambault, his team mostly consists of engineers, as the company runs its own servers and has to not just pull in a very large amount of data (my friends, for example, have shared more than 3.5 million links) but also rank it. The ranking, indeed, could still use some tweaking, but in general, the search results are relevant, though the best ones are often under the fold (by default, Wajam only shows one result).

Overall, though, Wajam has turned out to be quite a useful addition to my search arsenal, especially because it pulls in data from such a wide variety of sources.

wajam_wikipedia

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4:12 pm


Hands-On With Windows 8 on the Desktop: A Confusing Jumble of UIs

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Today, Microsoft made the first developer previews of Windows 8 available to all who would like to try them out. I couldn’t help myself, of course, and immediately grabbed a copy once it was available to install it on my test PC. During its public keynote demos, Microsoft mostly focused on showing the Windows Phone-like Metro UI and tablet devices. How does this first public build of Windows 8 work on a traditional desktop (or laptop), though?

Two UIs and No Way to Isolate Them From Each Other

I have to admit that I’m about as torn about it as the two user interfaces Microsoft decided to bake into Windows 8. The Metro interface is slick, fast and surely works well on a tablet, but its full-screen apps feel like they are mostly a waste of space on a large desktop machine (I basically never use full-screen apps in OS X Lion for the same reason). The traditional Windows 7-like interface got some polish and is still as useful as always. Overall, though, as I feared, the two feel disconnected and there is currently no way to just use one or the other .

As Microsoft took away the traditional Start menu from the legacy desktop, a click on the new Start button now inevitably invokes the Metro-styled Start screen. Run an app there, though, and you won’t find it running on the legacy desktop – and vice versa. Thanks to this, for example, you may start Internet Explorer on the desktop and then find that the instance of IE running under the Metro UI doesn’t talk to the other one, so that none of your tabs are transferred between the two. Try to explain that to your grandparents when they get a PC with Windows 8 preloaded.

Obviously, this is still a developer preview and many things can still change . Chances are that, we will see plenty of Metro-enabled apps soon, so that switching between the two experiences won’t be necessary most of the time. I can see how Microsoft would restrict tablets to running tablet-style apps and give desktop users the option to switch between the two. This weird hybrid that forces you to use both systems on the desktop, though, just doesn’t really work in its current iteration.

More First Impressions

Here are a few more of my other first impressions:
[list]

  • the chromeless version of Internet Explorer 10 in the Metro interface is fast and capable (and doesn’t come with Flash pre-installed). Like so many other apps in the Metro interface, though, it feels like Microsoft put looks over usability – at least for desktop users – as you now have to at least click the right button once to do anything more advanced than clicking on a link. Oh – and you have to make sure you click it on the right spot on the screen, as you invoke the context menu otherwise. Hopefully, a next version will invoke other functions by just allowing you to move the mouse to the edges of the screen (maybe similar to Apple’s Mission Control/Expose).
  • the Metro interface looks slick – no doubt about it. Everything is fluid, well animated and just looks good. Nobody is going to accuse Microsoft of copying this interface from somebody else. On a traditional, non-touch enabled desktop, though, it feels more like a gimmick that gets in your way than a useful feature.
  • why did Microsoft kill the regular Start menu in the legacy interface? Starting an app now feels like work, as you have to dig through multiple layers of Metro UI – or use the keyboard – to find what you are looking for. Even if you really just want to use the desktop, the Start menu will inevitably bring you back to the Metro experience.
  • it feels like you really need to use the keyboard a lot more than ever before to get things done. Hopefully, Microsoft will, for example, make it easier to switch between apps that you started in the Metro UI. For now, using the good old ALT-TAB combination seems to be the only way to do so. The only way to quickly start an app from the legacy UI, too, is to just start typing after you bring up the Metro Start screen.
  • the much-maligned new Windows Explorer with the Ribbon UI isn’t actually that bad.
  • boot times are fast – less than 30 seconds on this machine after the BIOS had booted up (with an older Intel Core 2 Quad processor and an IDE hard drive).
  • installation was easy (same procedure as Windows 7), fast (under 30 minutes) and everything worked out of the box (graphics, sound, etc.)
  • how do you turn this PC off? Given that there is no Start menu anymore, there is also no way to turn the PC off from there. You currently have to CTRL-ALT-DELETE to find the power off switch…
  • as promised, legacy apps generally ran fine, though we found some issues here and there: Firefox had some problems displaying its user interface, for example. Other apps like Paint.net and the Windows Live Essentials installed and ran without problems, though. Shortcuts to newly installed apps now appear at the right end of the start menu now, by the way.
  • the system was very stable. No crashes yet, but I didn’t try to install any games or other apps yet that would really tax the system. Your mileage may vary depending on the components and the drivers available for them.

[/list]

Verdict: Mixed Emotions

Overall, then, I come away with very mixed feelings after a first evening with Windows 8: it looks like Microsoft is really trying to shake things up, but I’m not convinced that the Metro UI is a good interface for desktop users and the Windows 8 team should find a way to just hide it from desktop users. I’m all for innovation, but in its current form, forcing users to go into the tablet interface just puts unnecessary roadblocks into the users path. I just want to start an app – not see a pretty little block with the current weather.

Microsoft still has plenty of time to fix these issues, so I’m not too worried yet, but for now I don’t see any good reasons why users will a regular desktop or laptop should update to Windows 8 (and it pains me to say that, as I ran Windows 7 exclusively once the first builds were publically available).

Image credit: Arnold Kim



6:15 am


Google Venture-Funded EchoEcho Wants to Help You Find Your Friends

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When it comes to location-based services, check-in apps like FourSquare and Gowalla are probably the ones that have gotten the most attention in recent months. For the most part, though, the usefulness of these apps is still not quite clear. After all, there has to be more to location than discounts, virtual badges and mayorships. One service that has been trying to bring some much-needed attention to actually helping users solve a real-world problem through your phone’s built-in location features is EchoEcho. The service, available for iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry and (soon) Windows Phone, wants to make it easier for you to find and meet up with your friends. EchoEcho does so without forcing you to sign up for yet another social network (it just uses your existing address book) and its inherent usefulness means it doesn’t have to resort to “gamification” to get you to use it.

ios_accept discussI have been following EchoEcho since its earliest releases in 2010 and it’s been quite fun watching the bootstrapped company grow and slowly gain traction. Today, EchoEcho is launching the latest version of its apps and announcing a $750k seed financing round from Google Ventures and the UK-based venture firm PROfounders Capital.

As the company’s co-founder and CEO Nick Bicanic told me earlier this week, the team focused on making the sign-up process as easy as possible. Most mobile apps expect you to confirm your phone number by typing it into the phone and then copying a security code from an SMS you receive from the service to verify your identity. EchoEcho takes the opposite route and simply sends an SMS from your phone to its servers, thereby reducing the chance of data entry errors and making the sign-up process as easy as pressing “send.”

Features

ios_inboxThis latest version of EchoEcho, which is really the company’s first major public release, now also includes a built-in chat feature and an even easier to use user interface. One nifty new addition to the app is a mobile web-based client that allows users who don’t have the app installed yet to exchange their position with existing users who ping them. The app now also features a places database that covers almost every country in the world. To do so, the company is working with multiple vendors (including SimpleGeo, Foursquare and Google) and then dedupes the data on the fly.

Keeping it Simple

One thing that always attracted me to EchoEcho was the fact that it was easy to use and focused on doing one thing right: figuring out where your friends are and making it easy to meet up with them. Instead of randomly checking in and hoping that one of your friends will see it, the service simply lets you ping your friend, share your location (and get that of your friends’ as well) and decide on a place to meet – all with just a few clicks.

The service also puts a premium on privacy. You can’t see somebody else’s location, for example, without sharing your own as well.

Coming Soon: Groups

With all this focus on simplicity, though, there are still a few features I would like to see in the app. What’s missing right now, for example, is the ability to meet up with a group of people. Bicanic, however, told me that this feature is coming. The team also plans to add some real-time tracking functionality to the app, though what this will look like still remains to be seen.



11:30 am


Jux: Blogging in HD

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Blogs and microblogs, for the most part, all look pretty much the same these days. Jux, however, wants to bring a new look to blogs. According to the company own mission statement, “blogs and websites have mostly accumulated clutter” since their inception. While I can’t fully agree with that, the company’s approach to presenting content sure makes for a visually stunning experience. Instead of traditional posts and pages, Jux presents users with a distraction-free fullscreen view of every article, quote, video and slideshow. There are no ads on the site.

The focus here is clearly on large images (including slideshows), but Jux also offers templates for posting long articles and short quotes. If you are into video, there is also an option to embed YouTube clips. While you can’t embed other peoples’ posts on your own blog, you do get the option to do so with your own posts.

One thing the Jux team doesn’t seem to be interested in, though, is adding many social features to the site. There is no commenting function, for example, and you can’t follow other users’ posts.

There is really little point in describing what the site looks like here. Just head over there and check out a few examples. Setting up your own blog on Jux is about as easy as it could be. The interface for posting content, too, shows a considerable amount of polish for such a new product.

Is it really going to change the way you blog? Is Jux good enough to make you switch away from Tumblr or Posterous (and the community there)? I’m not sure, but it’s nice to see a service that tries to push the casual blogging concept forward.



3:59 pm


Spotify Rocks the Desktop, Fails on Mobile

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Spotify, the streaming music service which arrived in the U.S. to great hype and scarce invites earlier this week, may be one of the more frustrating companies to review. On the desktop, it offers the single best user experience of all the current streaming music services available in the U.S. today and easily bests its direct competitors like MOG, Rdio and Rhapsody. When it comes to the mobile experience, though, Spotify simply falls flat when compared to its competitors’ apps.

On Mobile, You Want to Listen to Music, Not Manage Playlists

The problem with this, in my view, is Spotify’s insistence on building its service strictly around playlists. This works great for creating shared playlists and discovering new music by browsing your friends’ lists, and it’s even a decent experience for just listening to music on your desktop. This approach, however, doesn’t quite work so well on mobile. When you are driving down the road, you don’t want to have to organize a playlist before you get started. Instead, MOG, for example, offers a hybrid on-demand/radio approach similar to Pandora, where you can choose one song to seed your playlist and then have MOG pick the rest of your list based on this. Spotify doesn’t have this kind of mode.

Spotify on Mobile: Frustrating

Indeed, Spotify doesn’t even make creating playlists on your mobile device easy and instead of giving you easy access to all your local cached files, they are somewhere in your playlist menu – some under the “starred” label, some under “local files.” Why which file is where it is, I’m not sure. The playlists themselves then are organized in alphabetical order by song title, but there is no way to browse by artist or album.

MOG, on the other hand (the Spotify competitor I’m most familiar with), offers a stellar mobile experience where the search feature actually autocompletes your queries (unlike Spotify) and where your cached files are easily accessible. While you can manage different playlists, the focus is on one central play queue. Want to add a song to it, just hold your finger over any song, wait for the menu to pop up and decide whether you want to play it next or add it to the end of the queue. Back buttons are where you expect them to be (top left instead of the “hide” button that often has the same functionality in the Spotify app – and which sits in the top right corner) and switching between song, album and artist views couldn’t be easier.

At the end of the day then, Spotify makes for a great desktop app, but most of my streaming music experience is mobile in the car or at the gym – and MOG simply beat Spotify there.



5:01 am


Katango: Organizing Your Facebook Friends Has Never Been Easier

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Google+ was developed around the concept of Circles – groups of people you organize according to your interests and relationship with them (tech bloggers, family members, etc.). While Google was working on Circles for its new social network, though, another company – Katango (formerly known as Cafébots) – was also working on a similar concept for organizing your friends. While Google makes you organize your groups manually, though, Katango developed a set of very smart algorithms that can automatically organize your Facebook friends into groups. Today, the company – which was funded by Kleiner Perkins’ sFund – is releasing its first product that uses this system: a group messaging app for the iPhone.

screen02This app, which is also called Katango (iTunes link), takes a look at who you are friends with on Facebook (the company plans to start working with other networks in the near future) and then organizes them into groups and lets you share content with them.

Using an Algorithm to Organize Your Friends

Unless the algorithms work very well, this kind of approach is obviously prone to being more of a hassle than just manually setting up groups, but luckily, the app actually works very well. The company’s VP of product Yee Lee gave me a demo of the service’s abilities earlier last week. Seconds after I gave it my Facebook credentials, Katango had organized my friends into instantly recognizable groups. The service, for example, recognized all my old work contacts from my last job at ReadWriteWeb and put them into one group. It also set up groups for all of my friends in Germany, as well as for my family members. I don’t have a massive amount of friends on Facebook, but according to Lee, other users with more contacts will also see groups based on where they live, who they play sports with or go to church with and share other interests with.

In the iOS app, users will also be able to add their contacts to groups. None of this data is ever made public, so while the service gets a pretty intimate look at who your friends are, none of this data is ever shared with anybody.

Having groups, of course, only makes sense if you can do something with them, so Katango focuses on sharing photos and other content with your friends. If your contacts are on Facebook but don’t use the app, they will see your content on Facebook. If they use neither, they will get an email.

Feature or Product?

To some degree, of course, Katango is really more of a feature than a standalone service and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody like Twitter, Google or Facebook would take an interest in buying the company. Lists, after all, are now a central part of all major social networking services and being able to automate this process is something most of these companies are likely looking at.

As for acquisitions or partnerships, Lee was obviously tight-lipped, but he did note that the company has talked to the “big two” players in the social networking space (I take this to mean Twitter and Facebook).



11:34 pm


Alfresco Brings Its Enterprise-Level Content Management Platform to Small Businesses

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Alfresco is an open source enterprise-ready content management and collaboration platform that is currently being used by major brands like Home Depot and Michelin. Until now, though, the organization mostly focused on these large customers with more than 10,000 users. Now, however, Alfresco is launching Alfresco Team, a new social content management solution for small business that is free for the first 5 users (a subscription to the company’s enterprise solution usually costs around $15,000 per year). Alfresco Team also includes access to the company’s new iOS apps for iPhone and iPad that allow its users to access their documents on the go.
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4:07 pm


Trover: The Best Location-Based Discovery App You’re Not Using (Yet)

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We all got our fair share of laughs out of the failed launch of the over-hyped photo-sharing/social networking service Color. While the idea behind the service was smart, the execution was abysmally bad. Trover, which quietly launched earlier this month, takes some of Color’s most basic ideas and puts them into an easy to use free iOS app (iTunes link). The app is based around the idea that you want to share photos of cool places around you with the rest of the world. There is also a location-based social networking aspect to the app, but you could easily ignore this aspect of the service without losing it’s basic functionality.

Location-based social networking based on photo sharing sounds like a complete buzzword overload, but oddly enough, it actually works out very well in Trover. In some ways, it’s the kind of app you would expect Flickr to make if Flickr still had an ounce of innovation left in it.

trover_screenshots

How it Works

The idea behind Trover is very simple: it allows you to publicly share geotagged images with anybody else on the service. That is, admittedly, nothing too original, but it’s very well implemented. The main view of the app shows you all of the images around you, organized by distance. By default, you will see all the images around you, but you can also filter this down to seeing just the images of the people in your social network on Trover (you sign in with your Facebook account, but the app won’t automatically add your Facebook friends to your network).

Share Your Discoveries – Whatever They May Be

Because of the app’s open approach, you can virtually share anything you want. The people around me have shared anything from photos of restaurant menus and food to pictures of local sights, interesting stores and weird stuff they found while walking down the street (no dearth of that here in Portland). Of course, this also means that some people just take pictures of the food they made at home, but so far, I’ve seen surprisingly little of this.

Trover’s Currency: A Simple ‘Thank You’

Unlike other apps like Foursquare and Gowalla, where the focus is more on amassing virtual badges and collecting digital flotsam, the currency on Trover is a simple ‘thank you.’ To thank others, you don’t have to be part of their social network. This makes it easy to thank other and it’s surprisingly rewarding to be thanked by others.

For the most part, the service has been flying under the radar. Hopefully this will change soon. You can download the app here.



10:29 am


Hands-On With Google Music Beta on the Web

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Google Music, Google’s new music service just launched as an invite-only beta at Google I/O today and we just got a chance to take it for a test drive on the Web (look for our review of how it works on mobile devices later). After testing it for a little bit, it quickly becomes clear that this could be a major hit for Google. Indeed, among today’s music locker services like Amazon’s Cloud Drive and MP3tunes, Google’s efforts come the closest to recreating the convenience of Lala, the service that Apple bought last year and promptly shut down.

Install

After you download the installer, Google Music will ask you if you want to automatically sync your library whenever you add new songs to it. This should make it easy for Android users who are deeply invested into their iTunes library and playlists to keep using it on their desktops. Google, of course, doesn’t make a Google Music desktop app, so for the time being, you will have to use another desktop jukebox anyway.

As part of the install process, Google also lets you select a few music categories that you enjoy and will pre-populate your music locker with a few free songs (I’m not sure how Google actually licensed those, by the way).

Depending on the size of your playlist, uploading songs can obviously take a while, so having some free songs to play around with at the beginning is a nice bonus.

Playlists

Thanks to its ability to sync with iTunes, Google Music also syncs your playlists. You can, of course, also start a new one at any time. The service also creates some automatic playlists for you based on your likes (thumbs up, in Google Music parlance), as well as list of your recently added songs.

Instant Mixes

One of the niftiest features of the service is the ability to create “Instant Mixes.” During today’s keynote, Google stressed that its algorithms don’t just compare users’ playlists the way Apple does, but actually looks at the music in your collection and finds songs that actually go well together. To start an instant mix, you just click on a song, select “Instant Mix” and assuming you have a few matching songs in your collection, Google Music will create a new playlist for you and start playing it.

Verdict

Except for the fact that you can’t buy music and that the service doesn’t feature any social layer yet, Google Music is probably the best online music locker service yet. As Google builds out partnerships and adds features, it will hopefully be able to offer features like playlist sharing (which works great for Spotify) and the ability to buy music on the Web and your mobile devices as well.



1:48 pm


Feedly for iPad Shows RSS Isn’t Dead Yet

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Every month or so, somebody will proclaim the death of RSS and feed readers at the hands of Twitter and Facebook. Indeed, there can be little doubt that interest in feed readers like Google Reader, NetNewsWire and FeedDemon has declined rapidly over the last few years as users switched to social networks and smart aggregators to consume news (and as consumers grew frustrated with the usability issues surrounding feeds).

Feedly, however, is one service that grew out of this era and continues to thrive by making its Google Reader-based magazine-like feed reader easy to use for newbies and powerful enough for power users. The company just launched its iPad (iTunes link) and Android tablet apps, as well as an update to its iPhone app.

Just a few years ago, before Twitter and Facebook became the phenomena they are today, Google Reader and shared feeds and posts there were on top of everybody’s minds when it came to social recommendations. Without large social networks like Twitter and Facebook, we didn’t really have any other meaningful metric to gauge social interest in a story.

Feedly, which first launched as a browser plugin back in 2008, still uses Google Reader shares as a metric for gauging interest in a story and creating your personalized homepage. More importantly, though, the new version of Feedly Mobile now makes it easy to quickly search for sources you would like to subscribe to, is noticeably faster than the previous iPhone version and features a beautiful, minimalist layout. While reading articles, you can like them on Google Reader, share them on other social networks or via email or save them for later (note: the iOS and Android versions are virtually identical, but I only tested the iPad version).

Can Feedly Remain Relevant in a World of Social Recommendations?

Whether you’re already heavily invested in Google Reader or not, Feedly is definitely worth a look. In the long run, though, I’m worried if Feedly will be able to compete with services based on social recommendations from Twitter and Facebook like Flipboard and those based on smart algorithms like my6sense (also RSS-based) and Zite. For most RSS feeds today, Google Reader shares are far and in between, so to remain relevant, Feedly will have to pull in other signals for evaluating the importance of a story, too.



9:39 am


Scoop.it Wants to Make Curation Frictionless

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One of the most over-hyped concepts of the last year is “curation.” Most curation services, with the exception of sites like Tumblr, aren’t really ready for the mainstream. Scoop.it, on the other hand, wants to make curation as frictionless as possible and allow anybody to easily create magazine-like pages with curated content in just a few clicks. I’ve tested many curation services over the last few months. Scoop.it has been the only one that I’ve really stuck with.

At its core, Scoop.it is really bookmarking on steroids. It’s clearly geared towards relatively mainstream users, but also fulfills most of the requirements more advanced users would have. As the company’s CEO and founder Guillaume Decugis told me earlier this year when we met up at SXSW, he sees two major markets for the product: companies that don’t have the resources to blog but still want to put up relevant content for their customers and users who are passionate about a certain topic, be it freestyle skiing or tech news.

You currently have to sign up for a private beta invite, but starting next week, sign-ups will be semi-open.

How it Works

So how does it all work? To get started, you simply decide on a name for your curation site (you can manage more than one) and install the bookmarklet. Then, whenever you see a story or site you want to feature, simply click on the bookmarklet and Scoop.it will automatically pre-populate its form with the title, an image from the story and the first few sentences of the text (you can modify these, too). Once you’re done with this, you send the snippet over to your page on Scoop.it and either call it a day or decide where to place it on the grid and modify the size and position of the image.

Scoop.it also offers a second method for curating content, as the service itself will suggest stories to you based on the keywords you have entered for your page.

scoopit_large

Coming Soon: Reconciling Blogging, Facebook Pages and Curation

The service has a number of new features planned for the very near future. The next version of Scoop.it will include the ability to send items directly to Facebook pages and WordPress and Tumblr blogs, an API and a widget that will allow publishers to promote their curation sites on their own properties. As Decugis told me, nobody really wants to have to maintain yet another site, so bringing all of these features together should make things a lot easier for Scoop.it users.



8:28 am


RandTxt Brings Random Chats With Strangers to Your iPhone

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One of last year’s hottest company’s of 2009 was Aardvark – the mobile Q&A service that Google acquired in early 2010. Aardvark routes your questions to the most appropriate person in your expanded social network and ensures that you get the highest quality answer possible. RandTxt (iTunes link) is the exact opposite of this. With this service, which launched its free iPhone version today, your questions, comments or obscene observations are routed to a random user on RandTxt’s network.

RandTxt’s SMS and web-based service launched a few weeks ago, but because of the high cost of sending text messages, users were limited to two questions per day. The iPhone app, which doesn’t rely on text messages, does not have any of these limitations.

James Tamplin, the app’s developer, describes RandTxt as a “Chatroulette for text messages.” That’s an apt description. Think of it as a poor man’s Yobongo, where the complicated location-based algorithms are replaced with a random number generator. Is it useful? Probably not – but if you’re looking for a fun way to spend two minutes at the checkout counter, you could do a lot worse (obscene comments, by the way, will get you banned).



9:21 am


News.meh

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News.me, an iPad-only news aggregator that was developed by Bit.ly developers Betaworks (in collaboration with the New York Times) made its debut in Apple’s app store today (iTunes link). The app presents you with a list of stories your friends on Twitter and select influencers chosen by the News.me editorial staff are reading. With the help of the data collected by Bit.ly, the feed is filtered according to how many times an article has been shared and clicked on. To use the app beyond the one-week trial period, users will have to pay $0.99 per week or $34.99 for a one-year subscription.

Among media pundits, News.me’s business model of redistributing the money it makes from subscriptions to the news outlets it has partnered with has been the main focus of attention. The majority of users couldn’t care less about this, though, and the app will have to justify its existence by offering an experience that users will actually want to pay for. As it stands right now, I don’t think I’ll pay for the service – especially given that Zite and Flipboard currently offer a superior experience for free.

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Less About News.me – More About News.what-others-are-reading

In theory, the idea behind News.me is quite interesting. It allows you to see what others on Twitter are reading and highlights the best of these stories by using a PageRank-like algorithm based on Bit.ly’s massive trove of data. Because of this, though, News.me feels like it’s less about giving you a great personalized reading experience as it is about giving you a semi-voyeuristic view into the stories that stream through other users’ Twitter streams.

Sadly, you can only follow those Twitter users who are also subscribed to the service – making it substantially less useful than an app like Zite and Flipboard where no such restrictions exist. You also can’t vote content up or down – meaning that the personalization doesn’t extent much beyond looking at the “best” stuff that’s streaming through a given users’ Twitter channels. While apps like Zite or the Google Reader-based My6Sense iPhone app, News.me doesn’t learn anything from my reading behavior.

The reason News.me just isn’t that useful to me, even though the design is nice and I like the business model, is that when I’m browsing news, I want to browse by categories and topics. I don’t want to have to wade through a semi-random list of stories – many of which show up in multiple streams and hence make this service even less interesting.

Verdict

As it stands now, I don’t see a good reason for paying for News.me. The experience isn’t up to par with what other services offer for free and I’m not sold on the concept behind it. Want a personalized news experience on the iPad? Download Zite and Flipboard instead. Or, on the web, try Trove, which looks at stories shared by your Facebook friends.



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