Lately, I've noticed a growth in aggregation tools. For me, SocialThing leads the way.
Last October I wrote about my concerns with the incredible number of social media tools out there.
Rather than diving into more and more tools, I wrote that I needed to find tools that would bring all my information flows together.
Here's a (very top-level) look at a few.
Jaiku nearly didn't make the list as its been around for a while and I've written about it in the past. I'd feel weird leaving it out though.
Jaiku has done this kind of thing for a while. With Twitter-like conversation and the options to plug in other RSS feeds and comment on other peoples' posts, it had a lot of potential. I hear it's pretty big in Europe. Unfortunately flaws in its implementation, combined with limited access after the Google acquisition, have hobbled the service for me.
Spokeo was another service that caught my eye last year. It bills itself as "a friend finder/tracker that automatically brings you friends' updates across the web." Perfect!
Unfortunately, Spokeo is spooky. You can follow people without them knowing. All you need is their email address and you can find their Twitter updates, their Pandora music, their Flickr photos and their Digg favourites.
If your friends sign up for online services using multiple email addresses, Spokeo makes it hard to bring them together.
Spokeo is also largely a one-way tool - you can reply to and share updates, but only via email to the contacts.
FriendFeed is the darling-of-the-minute for the kool aid kids. It lets you share content from 28 different services via a single stream, and subscribe to the streams of your friends. You can also indicate which updates you like and post comments on FriendFeed. The service is very clean and easy to use, which seems to have contributed to its popularity.
Interestingly, from the feedback I've received, many people are just subscribing to an RSS feed of their 'streams' rather than frequently using the site itself. It's a good step forward from older services, but I wonder how sustainable interest in the site will prove.
Unfortunately for SocialThing, it got overshadowed at its launch by FriendFeed. However, having played around with it, SocialThing is the closest I've come to a one-stop solution for aggregating my services.
Let's start with the negatives.
SocialThing currently only allows you to aggregate six services, compared to FriendFeed's 28. That's a big difference, and one that people have seized on.
FriendFeed has a cleaner, simpler interface that leaves less room for confusion. However, once you're used to it, SocialThing looks better and is relatively easy to navigate.
Ok, that's the negatives. Here's the positive:
SocialThing lets you reply to updates on the original site.
This is my number one desired feature, and SocialThing has it. I just don't have the time to add more services to my Twitku does a similar thing with Jaiku and Pownce; really, Twitku is the only reason I still use those two services. The feature is limited right now - you can only reply to Twitter and Pownce on the original sites, but the service is still in invite-only alpha so hopefully the list will grow.
I'd like to see a few things added to SocialThing, which would get it much more attention:
- More sites. Let's face it, FriendFeed's 28 services is a big draw. I don't think they're all necessary, but SocialThing needs to add more over time to compete as a lifestream
- More direct replies. I've already given the service access to my Facebook and Flickr profiles; I'd like to be able to comment directly on my contacts' photos or post to their walls. Not all services will allow such direct access. For those that do, though, I'd like to see that functionality available through SocialThing
- Move the "post" feature to the lifestream page. Don't hide it away on another tab! Let me post while viewing my full stream
- Frequent screen refreshes. To be honest, I haven't checked to see how quickly the screen refreshes. However, for the site to be truly useful, it needs to update as often as popular Twitter tools like TwitBin. One of Jaiku's big flaws is its inability to pull updates frequently and in a timely way.
If SocialThing strengthens its service in these areas, it would catapult to the top of my must-visit sites.
I know I'm missing a bunch of sites off this list. Tumblr is an obvious candidate. If you've tried out similar services, let us know what you think of them in the comments.
Do you like the look of SocialThing? Do you prefer FriendFeed? Why? Do you care about any of these services?
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