State – A Roll-Your-Own Streaming App

There is a new kid on the block in the game of stream-management and that kid is State. Similar tools  have come before, with Friendfeed the most notable – apps that allow you to take your content from other applications and combine it into a single application much like braiding strands of hair into a single coil. The benefit to the user is a one-stop location at which the user’s own content can be managed and viewed, as well as a single vantage point for that user to view and interact with the streams of his or her follows. This was the point behind the popular Friendfeed, which has lost its luster in the wake of a talent sale to Facebook, and appears to be the driving force behind State.

It is not a clone, however. For example, your content isn’t just passively pushed into the service. You connect your services (five at the moment for bringing in content – Twitter, App.net, Instagram and, very interestingly, Dropbox, as well as Instapaper for sending out content), and build out your stream manually. When you add content using the icons on a “workspace” page, which you can rename with a better description of your page, you can select the incoming stream, then the resource – in other words the filter of content by filters that are meaningful to the service, including home timeline, mentions, user, place, tag, search, list, location, favorite, etc. Then fiddle with the content box dimensions containing the stream content and create a boxy-magazine like look. You can have several workspaces accessible by dropdown arrow.

You will also be able to follow others streams if users choose to make them public, and you can choose to make yours public or keep them private. Thus, when State really gets going (and hopefully hooks up more services), you will be able to use it as a content discovery tool and a personal content curation tool. The interface is unique and interesting. I can see the benefit as more services are added – and can definitely see the utility from both sides (managing your own and viewing others content) of the content coin.

You can ask for access to the private beta at the link above, and check out a demo of how State works. Can’t wait to see how this tool develops.

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Blekko's new Social News Curation Tool ROCKZi

 

I love Blekko, the search engine. I have reviewed it here before and it is one of my go-to search resources because of  the intelligent way it offers access to web information.

 

Now Blekko is dipping its toes into news curation. ROCKZi, with the tagline “read, vote, rock,” is designed to offer a solution to reading, discovering and curating interesting news along vertical categories. Add to and upvote stories on the site, gain “karma” points that increase your standing within the community, share stories and start discussions over shared interests.

 

If you know anything about Blekko, you likely know about “slashtags”, the tags that users can employ to limit search to certain pre-described categories. Boards on ROCKZi are much like slashtags – they give you access to a particular news vertical, so you can be assured of relevant stories within the category. Like slashtags over at Blekko, the number of boards is growing. Right now, you can peruse the following:

 

 

For bonus points, see if you can figure out the category from the title.

 

There is a bookmarklet that you can use to add stories while surfing. The board pages are laid out nicely, with a certain homage to Flipboard, and you can easily see from the thumbnail how many votes the stories have garnered. Hover over the thumbnails to add a “this rocks” or “comment” to the story. When you comment, you might note the similarity to a Facebook share – the comments employ a Facebook social plug-in and you can obviously log into ROCKZi with your Facebook profile. Fortunately, you can turn on and off posting your comments and likes to Facebook if you wish. When you just generally search the site without employing a board limiter, you will get all stories that contain your keyword, with filtering for top or recent.

 

I know what you’re thinking – I need another site for reading news like I need a hole in the head. If that new site is offering you stories you aren’t otherwise finding in your RSS feeds or social networks, then that site is worthwhile in my opinion. Better the story you know, than the story you don’t, to coin a phrase. And, with Blekko’s quality, it is hard for me to imagine ROCKZi being a dog. If you have some free time, head on over to ROCKZi and get some great curated news. Perhaps ROCKZi will pick up where the shattered remains of Digg have left off.

Meet The New Delicious

Sneaking in between big announcements from Facebook, Amazon and Apple, the all new Delicious has launched and is looking very visual and social. Fans of the site have been struggling over the better part of the past year as Yahoo shuttered operations at the seminal social bookmarking site and then sold it off to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. For months now, devotees have wondered what Hurley and Chen would do with the site, shuddering a bit at the new terms of service. But now Delicious is finally back and, I daresay it, still fresh, interesting and effective.

Delicious was a pioneer of the Web 2.0 movement – creating an application that allowed you to log in and save key web content from any browser, peruse the favorite items of other members on the site and connect over web content. Delicious retains its social sharing DNA, but changes the “network” and “fans” to “followers” and adds a new feature, Stacks, that looks a lot like a playlist of your favorite content. In other words, Stacks allows you to curate related web content and share that curation on the site – much like Scoop.It and Pinterest. Also new: multi word tags and media previews. And, according to Hurley and Chen, they have a lot more features waiting in the wings to add value to the Delicious  experience.

The good news is that saving content via the familiar checkered bookmarklet in the browser will remain intact. The better news is that all your hard, curation work is going to get a whole lot shinier. Check out an example of a “stack” of links about Texas wildfires:

Also, check out the interview with Hurley and Chen over at AllThingsD – I wish them – and Delicious – all the best.

Scoop.It's Rich, Easy Curation Makes You Look Like A Pro

Scratching both the itch of discovery and creation, Scoop.it is an invite-only service that offers a slick, powerful tool focused on content. Within the rich interface, users can set up topic-based pages to fill with relevant content. Or, users can explore the pages created by other users. Or both.

Scoop.it makes the curation part VERY easy for you – along with the standard bookmarklet that will allow you to pull from all over the Web, you will also get a stream of recommended content from around the Web for each page you maintain right on the site. Recommendations are based on your own search terms and can be tweaked by source or term. With one click, that content is packaged into a nice little “box” showing the title with link to original article, image and a quote that sums up the article, enticing the reader in for further discovery. When you have curated enough content, your page starts to look like one of those magazine-themed apps like Flipboard or Pulse. Scoop.it also shows you stats for your page, so you can see how people are interacting with your content.

Of course, there are cool social features. In addition to the usual sharing options to other social sites, Scoop.it lets you follow other pages of interest, comment on material and even suggest material to topic curators. Check out the embed of my page on Pro Tech:

Scoop.it’s team likens itself to Tumblr without the blogging and Paper.li with more manual control over the content. Scoop.it isn’t stingy either: they are fine with you taking your Scoop.it page and embedding it elsewhere, anywhere – such as a Facebook page, WordPress blog or LinkedIn, with widgets and embeds. The Slideshare below talks about this new feature in greater detail.

Scoop.it is a total package for content curation, meeting many needs – particularly of those passionate or knowledgeable, but without the time to devote to a blog to impart that information to the public. Look like a content pro with Scoop.it.

Relieve Eye & Finger Strain with Snip.ly

Content creation, sharing and consumption is what the Web is about. But, no doubt about it, the process can get a bit weary-making. To that end, there are tools out there that help speed up the sharing process and others that filter and hone information for easier consumption. Tools like curated.by and Keepstream allow you to pull information out of the gushing onslaught to show the thread or “story.” Tools like Amplify allow you to cull bits of information from around the Web – literally clipped sections from Web pages – and share them via personal stream within the Amplify environment or across the Web via widgets.

Amplify is onto something with its “clip the important part” leanings. Another offering that leverages this same concept, while meeting the needs of both content sharers and consumers, is brand new tool Snip.ly. Snip.ly has a site on which people share “snips” of the Web and bookmarklets and extensions to make the process of snipping and sharing as easy as possible. The idea behind the tool is that people see information flowing past in their Twitter and Facebook streams but opt not to explore simply because reading and processing the articles and media behind the links is too energy-intensive. Instead of sharing a link to the full article or media, Snip.ly allows you to clip the most important piece (in your evaluation) and share just that piece via URL. If a viewer clicks on the link, you are taken to the snip and, if the viewer is interested in finding out more, he or she can click within the snip to go to the full content. The snip becomes the gateway or filter – allowing users to expend less energy getting more information about the information on the other side.

Via Snip.ly’s bookmarklet, you can cull information from pages by simply highlighting the text and selecting your sharing medium, Facebook or Twitter, in the bookmarklet’s window. Like Amplify, you can include your own editorial comment on why the content is cool. When your readers click through to the target article or page, your snip remains visible over the page.

This is interesting, for sure,  for the individual user as well as their ultimate target audience. But the big picture is even cooler – Snip.ly will host these snips that ostensibly represent the coolest stuff out there in the minds of Webizens. Go directly to Snip.ly’s site to browse the stuff that caught others’ eyes. If content discovery is your passion, use the “shuffle” feature to get a random sampling of snips. If all goes according to Snip.ly’s Hoyle, it could become a ranking resource of the Best of the Web. Depending upon the filters and search functionality Snip.ly employs, it could become a decent resource in its own right.

More Social Curation with Storify

Here’s another one for you, sharing ilk with the likes of curated.by and Keepstream. It’s called Storify (link here) and it allows you to collect tweets and other media on a topic or “story” that you might want to publish out to your readers, followers or connections. Storify distinguishes itself by allowing you to collect source material from across the web (rather than just tweets or Facebook shares). You can search and add content from YouTube, Flickr, Google search results and more. Reorder elements and add text to provide context to the story. Once you have collected your information, you can create and share your story via your Storify URL or embed your “story” into your blog or website, and even send notifications to your original sources advising that you have clipped and re-published their content.

While it is possible to duplicate this kind of effort manually in your own blog, Storify’s drag and drop interface makes it beyond simple to create media-rich versions of events. Stories with Storify are interactive, and  readers can re-Tweet or reply to the people quoted in stories. You get curator-attribution in RTs.

I can see lots of uses for this. In the professional context, you could collect all of the content surrounding a presentation or conference and republish it following the event for posterity’s sake. Or, start a discussion on Twitter and collect all the replies. Check out this clever “Storify” created by @tcarmody about lobbying for Twitter follows.

By the way, Storify is an actual verb – it means to form or tell stories. So, what are you waiting for? Go sign up for an invite and get your Storify (noun) on!

Keepstream: Keeping Tabs On Your Stream

Content curation. I can’t say it enough. I love when someone else does the expert curating for me, but sometimes if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. Keepstream (link here) helps you do just that with a particularly untame-able source – Twitter and social liking activity. Keepstream, a free web app – simply sign up and authorize your Twitter, allows you to create collections of favorite tweets. But it doesn’t just work for tweets. It grabs Facebook likes, Twitter retweets, and more (soon will be automatic, now manually). Use the bookmarklet to collect web pages as you browse. View and manage your collections from a single, simple dashboard interface.

And here is the cool: share or EMBED them in a blog post or web page. You can gussy up your own content with relevant, related content created by others, updated as you update your collection! Great way to show the conversation around a topic of interest. Just click the embed button and use the associated widget to present the content. It currently works with Blogger, Squarespace, Typepad and WordPress self-hosted blogs, but more are on the way. Wow – such promise, you say, but how do I use it? Founder Tim Gaspar has his own suggestions – check them out:

  1. Showcase positive feedback or mentions of your brand.  An example – http://keepstream.com/TimGasper/keepstream-chatter
  2. Grab highlights from an event hashtag!  Or just from any hashtag.  An example – http://keepstream.com/TimGasper/-blogathonatx-highlights Another example (we got to high-five Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead!) – http://keepstream.com/JimEngland/edgar-wright-visited-alamo-drafthouse
  3. Integrate some tweets you’ve posted lately into you blog.  That way, even if your blog readers aren’t following you on Twitter, they can still see some of the best posts!  An example – http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2010/09/tw.html
  4. Add some related links of interest to the end of blog post – so that your readers can see some additional resources!  Readers love it and other bloggers appreciate being linked to.  An example (scroll down to the bottom :-D) – http://blog.keepstream.com/2010/09/what-do-apple-the-guggenheim-and-forbes-have-in-common-curation/
  5. Posted a bunch of photos, videos, and tweets during an event?  You can put all the links in one place – in a Keepstream collection – to make it easier for you friends or followers to view them.
  6. Collect links around a topic – either for personal research, or to share with your network.  An example – http://keepstream.com/JimEngland/marketing-and-pr-for-startups
  7. Do a tweet chat or a Twitter interview!  Check out this awesome interview of Adrian Grenier, the actor in Entourage –http://keepstream.com/mediatwit/twitter-q-a-with-adrian-grenier
  8. You have to admit, making sense of the morass of web content and sharing is a top priority for anyone seeking to use the Web to its full potential. Check out Keepstream, as well as my own curated list of tech tweets below:

Favstar.fm – Perusing Favorite Tweets

Do you star tweets? I know I don’t star enough. But there may be a reason to do so, if you want to get more out of your Twitter experience.

Starring your own tweets provides you with your own list of curated content. If you haven’t already noticed, there is a little star to the right on every tweet on Twitter web (and similar options on third party Twitter clients). It looks like this:

If you click that star on a tweet, it will show up in a list made up of your starred tweets. The benefit, of course, is that you can then go back and quickly find the tweets you liked.

If you have the sneaky suspicion that you are not getting at all the good stuff out there, check out Favstar.fm. Favstar.fm is all about the stars. Twitter stars – not stars on Twitter (although more on that later). Favstar.fm (link here) is a third party Twitter application that views Twitter by stars. On their web page, you can see the most starred tweets, the most starred Twitter users, your list of starred items and various permutations of filtering based on your starred tweets and others’ starred tweets.

Assuming that only the good stuff gets starred, this could be an effective way of browsing for the best items out there as reflected in the popular voting process of starring. The leaderboard shows you the most recently starred, most stars of all time, popular people who have received the most stars, and users who favstar.fm bonus (paid) subscribers have boosted.

If you log in with your Twitter account, you can see your own tweets that have been favorited and by whom. If you follow Favstar.fm on Twitter, then it can crawl your stream and get further details on your favorite tweets.  This might be Favstar.fm’s best use at the moment.

A plus for Favstar.fm is that you can curate right from the Favstar.fm home page – to the right of the popular tweets are buttons that allow you to star a tweet, promote a single Tweet of the Day (paid bonus feature) or retweet. The buttons look like this:

But, as you can see, with the exception of the bonus “tweet of the day” feature, these are the same buttons you find right on the Twitter web interface shown above.

Word of caution: people on Twitter appear to be curiously attracted to fluffy tweets. If you only browse the surface of Favstar.fm, you are sure to get to the funny and the profane. If you want to make Favstar.fm work for you in a more, say, professional sense, you need to drill down a bit. For example, if you really want to leverage power curation, check out Robert Scoble’s own favstar.fm Twitter list (link here) to get a list of his most favorited Twitter users. I recommend you browse through the people label and dig down into these lists.

Another problem though is that Favstar.fm only has three categories – Funny, Entertaining and Insightful; Tech and Social Media; and Celebrity. Since I am interested in tech, the second category is pretty much the only useful category for me. If you drill down into this list, you can find some interesting tweets and Twitter uses.

Third problem – you have to pay to get more than the first page of any given label tab. So, scrolling down the leaderboard only gives you the top 20 tweets. Take a look at that list and you will surely find something funny, but maybe not so informative.

For me, Favstar.fm is an interesting, entertaining take on Twitter. However, in its current iteration, it is not the power tool that I would use for Twitter curation, particularly for more precise filtering, such as market segments or professional groupings, like legal. It presumes I am most interested in celebrities and funny men (and women). And too much functionality is left for the paid users. Right now, it doesn’t offer enough beyond Twitter’s own starring functionality – save for finding who has starred your tweets – to really warrant me spending much time there.

If it still piques your interest, check out the video below. Favstar.fm has promise that has yet to be fulfilled, but maybe it will …

Formulists For Automatic Twitter List Curation

Over the past few days, the battle between RSS and real-time social news sources such as Twitter has had a flare up, most likely brought about by the death of Bloglines. Much like the “blogging is dead” battle that occasionally pops back up to ignite the online community and divide the sides like a virtual Hadrian’s Wall, the Twitter vs. RSS grudge match has some pretty impassioned and diametrically-opposed advocates. For example, Louis Gray addressed the “difference of opinion” regarding preferred method of content consumption by concluding RSS or RIP, the Results Always Trump The Methods (completely agree). And a heated debate arose on Amplify (link here) regarding the Twitter camp’s recent assertions that Twitter is not a social network but an “information network” – this brought about an interesting and somewhat lengthy “which is better” duel between Twitter and RSS for news reading. Check out Collin Walker’s take on the debate and the downsides of social curation here.

Studio readers can probably guess my prediliction – I would take my news a half a second later if I had greater assurance that the news was coming from a trusted source and could easily verify its veracity – characteristics I generally don’t associate with the average of the Twitter stream. Additionally, I find it far easier to access and view the information in my RSS reader than I do in Twitter, which gives equal footing to the important breaking news tweets and the “this is what I had for breakfast” tweets.

As pointed out in the Amplify discussion above, you can impose your will on Twitter to a point and aggressively cultivate and maintain lists of the best news sources to improve the quality of your information. But Twitter has not made list creation and maintenance an easy task at all – take the inability to edit private lists, for example.

ReadWriteWeb tipped me off to a new tool to help you create and curate your Twitter lists. It’s called Formulists (link here) and will be launching in public beta mode on Monday.  Using algorithms, Formulists will create lists automatically that update daily. The lists can be created relative to your interactions and the interactions of your follows and followers. Create a list of the people you talk to most, the people your friends talk to most and people who are most similar to another user, for example. The lists will also update without manual intervention – a list of “people who RT me” or “people who list me” will update as people RT and list you.

Another interesting feature is the ability to track people who unfollow you (perish the thought). Formulists brings to the table additional filtering features that make Twitter that much more manageable to negotiate.

The upper limit of lists imposed by Twitter is 20. Formulists has to abide by this limitation. However, as you create new lists, your old lists in excess of 20 are not deleted, but are instead stored on the site, available for reactivation at any time.

While recent changes at Twitter have made me wonder why third party app developers are still working with this platform, I certainly hope that Formulists can weather Twitter’s fickle moodswings. Formulists is just the type of tool to persuade me to argue the other side of the RSS / Twitter news source debate.

Curating Tweets: Can It Be Done?

One fantastic source of relevant information is the stuff distributed by the thought leaders on a given subject in a given community. One assumes that the information such thought leaders consume, process and then pass forth to others is of a greater value than, say, the average random post floating by in a galloping stream of content.

When considering where to mine for value, one cannot ignore Twitter, although one might like to. I say this because I myself have felt the frustration of reading a section of the stream and only finding information of little to no relevance to me, despite my constant effort to cultivate and pare follows and group them in lists. Simple search may not be enough: when I enter a keyword, I am often met with a barrage of information ranging from spam to sham from users I have no prior connection with and, therefore, no basis upon which to assess the value of their contribution.

There may be some answers to these issues in the pipeline. Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb writes about a new service that is not quite open to the public called Curated.by.

Curated.by is a tool that allows you to gather and share collections of tweets on topics of interest. Once the collections are created, you can share them, embed them on a web page, or, more imporantly, subscribe to the collections of other users.

I have no first hand experience with the service yet. It is the creation of Bastian Lehmann, who interestingly enough was responsible for another Twitter trend tracking tool (say that five times fast) called Zensify that I wrote about here (link)  in the Studio over a year ago. The interface sounds simple enough: drag and drop tweets into a collection created on the site, or use a Chrome extension to collect tweets right on the Twitter web page.  Check out Mr. Lehmann’s own Flipboard tweet list here, to get a sense for what a Curated.by list might look like.

I see two excellent uses for this tool: (1) create a list of valuable tweets that compliment your own expertise or subject matter and embed or share them with others to show your powers of curation; and (2) find the curated tweet lists of others whose opinions you value on given subjects so that you can cut down the time spent in Twitter finding the shiny stuff. This would be an example of personal serendipity with a slight lean toward search on the Relevance Matrix discussed in my prior post.

Curated.by is not the only option out there. My longtime fav legal content publication tool, JD Supra, also offers an application within Facebook called Social Transcripts that allows you to enter one or more keyword terms, collect tweets and share them in a tab on your Profile page. Once at day, the application will publish a note containing your transcript to your Facebook friends. I tend to pay attention to the information highlighted by people whose insight I value, so Social Transcripts from valued connections are similarly promoted in my mind.

Mr. Kirkpatrick also notes in his post another curation service, this one for blogs, called Curated.info (link here).  Curated.info collects and bundles blog subscriptions. Removes some of the heavy lifting if you can find bundles created by users who know what they are talking about.

It can’t be overstated: effective Web use is all about efficiency. And with time being money or money being time or something like that, tools like Curated.by, Curated.info and Social Transcripts can only help.