XYDO – Your Social News Reader

What do you get when you cross the now, apparently, defunct Socialmedian and social-question-site darling Quora? Well, I am not sure, but it might look something like XYDO. If you like your news crowdsourced, timely and with a healthy side of friends, then XYDO might interest you. Instead of using algorithms to filter news of interest, XYDO prompts you to use your trusted friends to sift the good stuff to the top of your web page. You create an “activity stream” of content by choosing fairly fine-grained topics of interest and friends to follow from your social services. This content is pulled from links shared by these users. Further break down this content by stories that are trending, newest or top in the past 24 hours (or current). If you want a broader view of the news, step back and peruse the front page, so to speak, which pulls top content sitewide. Each news story offers some interaction as well, in the form of a voting option (which looks a lot like Quora’s answer voting mechanism), the identity of who shared the story, the categories the story belongs to, how and when the story was shared and a process for commenting on or discussing the story within the news blurb displayed on your XYDO page.  And, when you check out a story, note the related articles showing in the right hand column – you could dig yourself pretty far down into a given topic pretty if you are following the right people and subject matter. And it isn’t all tech – some of the early closed beta adopters set up some legal channels in XYDO, so the topical content is not strictly tech-oriented (although I don’t mind that particular orientation myself).

Follow content, follow sources, contribute your own sources to existing topics. Trending updates on a story can show back up in Twitter from XYDO if you choose to follow them there or keep tabs on the highly interactive, clickable, information-laden XYDO page. But don’t forget to leave a trail of popcorn – if you are a news junkie like me, you might need some help getting back out of the forest of information.

When all is said and done, I like XYDO’s take on news delivery, post-information explosion. It seems the best options for filtering content these days are either leveraging high tech algorithms or leveraging people you know and trust. No matter how you slice the “behind the scenes”, any filtering, tagging and sorting of the vast quantities of content is a GOOD thing. Cheers to XYDO – hope they keep it flying.

This week, XYDO opened its closed beta doors to the public. Go check them out at the link above and add your own voice to the mix – the more quality curators hopping on board, the better this crowdsourced news mecca will become.

Smarter Search with DuckDuckGo

David-sized search engine DuckDuckGo is a sweet package of search goodness. While it certainly doesn’t have the vast tentacles of a Google or even a Bing, it offers some features that might persuade you to join the flock.

Duck Duck Go’s results are a duck soup made from many sources, including Yahoo! Search BOSS, Wikipedia, and its own Web crawler (DuckDuckBot). Although it has been around since 2008, the Duck flew across my radar this morning, when I happened on Robert Scoble’s stream of conciousness post on DDG’s new use of Twitter lists on the home page. So, being the curious sort, I checked it out.

DDG offers a great search result, free of most advertise-y, spammy, content-farmy sites that pervade the larger players. It also is private in that it does not track or retain your search and browse history. It even looks clean. I personally like the all-on-one-page feature – you simply keep scrolling down and new items load. Navigate the results with keyboard shortcuts if that is your thing. For some results, DDG will offer alternative sets of results that it “thinks” might be of value. And, if you like ads, you might want to avoid DDG – there are none. Whew!

It also has a pretty cool feature called iBangs. You can use a dropdown button next to the search box and it will put results from your most frequented sites at the tope. Or, for certain sites, simply type an exclamation point before the site name and the subject of the search and your results will come from the site. A simple ! or !ducky takes you to the first result. So, even though it does not yet have a video tab, searching !youtube will limit your search to only YouTube videos.

So what’s this about Twitter lists? Apparently, as of yesterday afternoon, you could embed a list on your DDG page and make that your homepage. Essentially, you could get search and your fav Twitter stream in one stop. Pretty cool, especially if you consider Twitter a search resource.

Have you used it? Will you use it? I intend to check it out, if for no other reason than I am sick of ads choking out my valid results.

Words To The Wise In The Digital Age

Modernizing the expression a bit and making it relevant, the caution is well-taken. Thanks to SwissMiss Blog for the graphic, which is the gorgeous typographic creation of Joe Newton

Putting the Social in Search with Wajam

Big news last week when Google further integrated social connections into search results. The trend to merge social with search hinges on the perception that personalization will improve relevance. While my sense of this is that it fully depends upon what you are searching (i.e., personalization may help a great deal when searching a restaurant, but might not be so helpful when searching facts and figures), there is little doubt that social savvy, personalization, and relevance are the direction in which the Web is inexorably moving.

That said, you can one-up Google’s social by integrating a nifty little extension into your browser called Wajam (link here). This social extension meshes your friend’s content with your search results within the browser itself, and not just in Google. As a result, you can get that social-personal-relevance goodness in Google, Yahoo and Bing while using Chrome, Firefox, Safari and even IE.

Once installed, simply search in the engines and the most relevant Wajam results show at the top. The result includes information about the sharer, their comments and whether any other friends shared the same content. Implicit in this latter stat is the concept that 10,000 people can’t be wrong – the more trusted sources sharing an item, the more relevant, important and useful that item must be.

Image from Wajam FAQ.

There are further stats along the very top of the results. Additionally, starred or shared items of your own will also show at the top. View more results from friends  will show the top 11 results. If you click a friend’s name, their specific shared items will show. 

Image from Wajam FAQ

There are even more stats – see how many people shared a particular result and click the number showing to see all comments. Sort results by newest or oldest and by sources.

Image from Wajam FAQ.

There are search terms listed under the top result and clicking on them will further refine the results.

You can link your Twitter, Facebook and Delicious accounts to serve as social sources for your Wajam results, and you can even import bookmarks from your browser. This enables you to leverage your own saved and shared content as well as the content saved and shared by your Twitter and Facebook friends.

I have commented in the Studio on the ability to search and leverage your social content before in connection with my review of Greplin (link here). Wajam offers another take on that task, this one residing in your browser and happening as naturally as a Google search. Whether you buy into the whole social/personal/relevance formula or not, Wajam is a heavyweight contender and deserves a spot in your Web search tool box.

Wajam is in private beta right now, unfortunately, but you can attempt to jockey for a spot by “liking” their Facebook page or following them on Twitter. Can’t hurt to cut the line, so to speak.

REALLY, REALLY Supercharge Twitter with my6sense for Chrome

It’s all about Twitter today. My last post discussed Smartr on your iPhone as a means for soaring through the links in your Twitter streams and lists in order to fully realize the value of real-time news.

But just as exciting (if not more so since Chrome is accessible to anyone with a computer) is the advent of the my6sense Chrome Web / Twitter extension.

my6sense has been a mobile application that uses an AI engine to find the most relevant information from your various social streams and present them to you in reverse relevance order. I have been using the app for ages on my phone and rely heavily on it when I need a surgeon’s instrument to cut through the huge masses of information flowing through my raw data sources. my6sense gets better as you use it – it “learns” your reading and sharing behavior and presents even more relevant information as a result. They call it “digital intuition.” I call it a massive time saver.

But what if you don’t have an Android phone or iPhone. Well, now you can still get some my6sense goodness with their new Chrome extension and Twitter. From their site:

my6sense for Twitter.com displays the most important updates from your Twitter stream, for you, in a dedicated, new, tab. We use ‘Digital Intuition’, based on your input, to rank your tweets, so you can be sure you won’t miss out on critical updates from your friends or top news sources. Skip the noise and stop sifting – my6sense surfaces the best of the web for you, right in Twitter!

It merges beautifully with your Web-based Twitter page, showing you the most relevant tweets at the top, regardless of when they may have been posted, although you can filter from the past 6, 12, 24, or 48 hours of tweets. Your my6sense ranking is accessible via a menu tab at the top of your stream. It focuses on the links, not the raw updates, so you get a cleaner news-heavy stream. Click “my top tweets” or “refresh” to get a different view of the most relevant information.

The my6sense treatment works great for getting top news and should be used in conjunction with your regular view to ensure you are getting your top conversations as well – as noted above, the extension tends to filter our link-free tweets. But, that said, giving a quick glance at your my6sense stream gets you the goods faster than Web alone. And, the more you use it, the better it gets.

Thanks my6sense for bringing relevance to the masses!

REALLY Supercharge your Twitter, With Smartr

Took a week off to attend to business trips and meetings and other matters, but now I am back! I have been wanting to jot down some thoughts about Twitter and my new strategy for bringing it under control. A large piece of that strategy is a phenomenal app for iOS called Smartr.

Anyone who has read my ramblings in the Studio for any length of time might have a sense of my “love” / “hate” relationship with Twitter. It is a fantastic broadcasting and publishing tool, it is a decent tool for communication (although not my favorite), but I have struggled mightily with it as an efficient information source. The tech experts respond “Make Lists!”, to which I retort, there is still a lot of drivel-ous material to be found in those lists.  The time it takes to find the links of value and follow them to get the content is better spent in my weighted RSS readers, Feedly and my6sense.

With Smartr, however, I have seen the light. Smartr finds and shows the links, the whole links and nothing but the links. You can quickly peruse the list of links and, if you see something you like, click on it to get a full text version in a very readable format.

Download the free app to your iPhone or iPad and enter your Twitter account information. The app then displays only messages that contain links to webpages. Even better, the tweets are “formatted” –  they show  the article’s title and a thumbnail, with a short blurb from the article. Gone are tweets without links, with pictures and Foursquare check-ins.
Of course, you can retweet or save for later without opening, but you can also do more when you open a “tweet”. Send links to Instapaper and Read It Later. Pull to refresh and watch as previews load as you move down the list of tweets. Tweet from the app, and switch from the timeline to lists and back again. Create and manage lists directly from the Smartr app.
The full articles are so readable, I can tear right through them. Within the article, retweet, mark as favorite, publish to Tumblr, Posterous, or Facebook.
It is solid as a rock. I have had very few glitches with it. Occasionally, it takes the app a while to load the lists, but I am certain that is somewhat dependent on my connection.
Now, here is my tip: head over to Listorious and find some fantastic Twitter lists to follow. I have beefed up my tech and web list subscriptions, using their top 140 lists. These lists serve very well within Smartr to keep you well-informed on all the top, real-time, breaking news in the areas you are working in. Or, if you have curated your own Twitter follows effectively, your own lists will serve as a fantastic source of information.
For your Twitter conversations, craft  your top peeps list to include the people you enjoy conversing with. If you use these lists within your Twitter client of choice, you can stay on top of your favorite Twitter discussions and for your searches. Then, turn to Smartr to view your information-based lists and see how quickly you can blow through the links and stories, keeping your real-time chops as current as possible.
Many of the reviewers are comparing Smartr to Flipboard, calling it the Flipboard for iPhone. I don’t see it that way. Smartr is all about the tweets with links, whereas Flipboard is all about formatting tweets, links or not, and many other sources in a magazine-like format. Don’t get me wrong – I love Flipboard. But Smartr will pull you through your Twitter timeline even faster than Flipboard can. I think the Smartr look is a far better utilization of the iPhone screen than Flipboard would be.
The only downside right now is that it is iOS only. They need an Android app (and Windows 7 and Blackberry so that they can hit the broad audience). Hopefully, different versions are in the making.
I have a whole new outlook on Twitter and spend a great deal more time there than ever before. Thanks Smartr, for making me Smarter.

Tumbl.in Twitter And Discover The Goods

I am a fan of social web discovery app StumbleUpon. I have, in fact, found some incredibly interesting and useful stuff simply by hitting the “Stumble” button in my browser. That sort of serendipitous discovery is an enjoyable alternative to my full throttle, heavy-duty research-focused method of pulling information out of the Web.

I admit it. I struggle with using Twitter as an information source. Although I have to say the Smartr iPhone app has gotten me pretty far along on the path to being a Twitter -information-aggregator convert. But I will save my love for that tool for another post.

Another tool that has gotten my attention is one that combines the gushing firehose of Twitter with the serendipitous discovery of StumbleUpon. The tool is called Tumbl.in and works much like StumbleUpon does, but for links scattered through your favorite Twitter search topics and lists. StumbleUpon users will recognize the top menu bar with buttons for retweeting, rating, saving for later or the simple Tumbl.in button that will pull you to another link. If you prefer, you can browse links from a given sub-section of your available Twitter links. Like StumbleUpon, you can select categories of interest to affect the results of the Tumbl.in randomizing button.

Tumbl.in definitely has its own niche here. And I like where it is going. If people are seriously going to employ Twitter as an information repository, then apps like Tumbl.in and Smartr that cull all but the links are a great start. Slice and dice through your Twitter stream and find the gems in record time, and leave the Foursquare checkins for the chaff pile.

If you check it out, would love to hear what you think of the service in the comments.

Twitter Versus Facebook – Cage Match

There has been a lot of press lately (link here) on which of the two sharing giants, Twitter or Facebook, is likely to net you the most valuable interaction. So it’s no surprise someone (Digital Surgeons to be precise) crafted a Facebook vs. Twitter infographic. For me, the biggest surprise was the similarity in demographics. Here it is, in all its staggering numerical glory:

Your Mobile-Social Inbox

On the move and moving on, mobile usage is on a steep rise. What a coincidence, so is social networking. With email, messaging, chat, Facebook, Twitter and other conduits of communication, you need to be ready 24-7 to read and respond.

I admit it. I do a lot of my virtual social interaction when I am in line at the grocery checkout, waiting for my kids, between meetings or hanging out in waiting rooms. On my phone. Why not? My phone is pretty smart.

Well, for social addicts with iPhones, the phone is getting even smarter. Two new apps have brought the social inbox to your phone, organizing your friends messages and status updates in ways that improve efficiencies and interactions.

One such app, Twezr (link here), I have been using for more than a month now. The second, Friends, I just learned about a few days ago, but have yet to try.

What exactly is a social inbox? Think about your email inbox, add layers of social connections and provide the means to reach out to your contacts via any of those social conduits from one place.

Twezr combines your social media and your email in a single interface. It supports a lot of different email addresses, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. You can also access Twitter and Facebook, including multiple accounts. The value-add to Twezr is its automatic prioritization – your contacts and their messages and status updates (which are organized in separate tabs) are ranked based on the frequency of your interactions. Twezr applies this ranking to the messages as well as the Facebook and Twitter updates. Twezr also matches your iPhone contacts with your social lists to create unified contacts – when I click on a friend’s Facebook or Twitter status update, I am given buttons to communicate with her by phone call, SMS or email.  Talk about a communications mash-up! If I happen on a particular friend’s status update on Facebook in Twezr, but I know she is an SMS kind of gal, I can respond to her update via SMS within the app, rather than send a Facebook message from within the Facebook app. Very, very cool indeed. THe built in Twitter and Facebook clients are not bad either, you won’t find yourself insanely frustrated by a poor feature set – the necessary functions are all there.

Twezr also allows you to run full-text searches across e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. So if you remember your friend pinging you about a particular event, but you can’t remember which email account or social network you saw the info on, just search in Twezr and you hit all the major hiding places in one fell swoop. Best of all, Twezr is free.  It has become a regular go-to app on my phone to get the latest info and messages from my growing list of contacts. Note, though, that it takes Twezr a while to get up and running, particularly if you have a lot of contacts. It needs to pull your data, analyze it and spit it back out, Twezr style and that can take a while. I initially thought the app was defective. Lo and behold, three days later, I had the full-on Twezr experience.

Next up, Friends (link here). Like Twezr, Friends offers contact management across your phone’s address book, Twitter and Facebook, but adds LinkedIn, and MySpace. Like Twezr, Friends allows you to also see your social streams and update your social status within the Friends app.  Although I do not have the app yet, screenshots show a very pretty user interface, might snazzier than the free Twezr. Oh, I should mention that Friends costs a whopping $1.99, which they clearly put into the visuals. It is a super way to browse shared content, with comments and commenting within the app as well. Of course, you can place calls within the app too, which then leverages the iPhone’s own phone functions.

Essentially, these apps bring an experience to the mobile phone that Threadsy (link here) brings to your browser and Xobni (link here) brings to your Outlook inbox and what Facebook is hoping to do with its new social inbox product that it intends to roll out soon – one stop shopping for your social and communications needs. And with the quickening pace of life, you really can’t have too many shortcuts.