Knitting the Social

It has been just about a month since I decided to launch wholeheartedly into the social networking scene.  I have discovered, very quickly, what an incredibly disjointed experience this whole social networking thing is.

I aggregate, consume and disseminate information through my Windows Live blog, SkyDrive Photo Albums, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  However, I’m finding it incredibly hard to integrate these disparate services together.  Also, in the age of pretty user-interfaces, seeing web pages as ugly as the examples below is slightly disappointing:

Facebook  Twitter

Having had a poke about the interweb, I’ve evaluated some new tools which allow me to attempt to knit my social networks together.  There’s the Microsoft Silverlight 4 Client for Facebook, Seesmic Look, Spindex, sobees web, and Seesmic Desktop.  Each has their own pros and cons, but here’s a very quick tour of them all…

 

Microsoft Silverlight 4 Client for Facebook

Microsoft Silverlight 4 Client for Facebook

This is a very nice Silverlight client that runs locally on the desktop (either Windows or Mac).  A very slick interface – slick enough for me to actually make a video tour rather than write some meaningless text about the swish interface…

I also like the fact that you can configure Outlook-style notifications:

Silverlight 4 Client for Facebook Notification

But…  The spoiler is in the name – this is very much for Facebook only.  So – a great replacement for the official Facebook web page, but hardly the social aggregator I’m looking for.  Still – very slick and shows great promise if they can integrate it with Twitter, YouTube and others…  You can download here…

 

Seesmic Look

Seesmic Look

Seesmic Look is another Silverlight client that can also run on the desktop.  Again – it also has a slick interface, so I’ve posted up another quick video tour of this…

Like the Silverlight Client for Facebook, though, the Seesmic Look client is currently very limited as it only pulls information from Twitter…  Back to the drawing board for me, but don’t let that stop you from trying it out yourself…

 

Spindex

Spindex

Spindex was the first real “aggregator” I tested out.  Released by Microsoft FUSE Labs (FUSE standing for FUture Social Experiences), it does not really knit content together in a traditional sense.  The focus is very much on search and the connectivity of information – it searches through your various social networking interactions (in my case Facebook and Twitter) and brings to the surface common themes and trends.  Again – best explained by a video:

I like Spindex, but it is very weird and sometimes illogical.  Although it collates all the information I need from various sources, it presents this info to me in what it deems the most relevant to me.  Being a logical, methodical and anal type, I like sifting through all my information myself and making calls on what I think is and is not worth my attention…  Give it a shot and see what you think…

[Update: OK – it appears that the ordering of the links was not deliberately “illogical”.  Spindex should interleave all my posts from Facebook/Twitter/others and order them chronologically, which makes much more sense.  However, this currently doesn’t happen for quite a few folk…  http://bit.ly/aw22rj  A big thumbs-up to the Spindex team for responding so quickly – they’re now looking into the issue…]

 

sobees web

sobees web

sobees web is an interesting technology application, but boring practical application.  It is again based on Silverlight, and can be run on the web or on the local desktop.  Like Spindex, it also uses Windows Azure in the back-end – which hooks into various social networks (in addition to Facebook and Twitter, I also find that LinkedIn is supported).

Unfortunately, it only appears to provide basic (and separately listed) feeds, as you can see in the screenshot above.  It also only really handles basic text feeds well – the navigation of friends, events, connections and so forth is pretty basic and poor.  And forget about viewing photos and videos – trying to access these just launches a web browser back to the web-based interface of Facebook et. all.

Too boring for a video, I’m afraid – but feel free to try it out yourself…

 

Seesmic Desktop (2 preview)

Seesmic Desktop 2 preview

This is similar to sobees web – better in some respects and worse in others.  Seesmic Desktop is another Silverlight application (seeing a theme here?).  It does aggregate feeds and presents them in one list (see screenshot above).  Like sobees web – this is it’s main (only?) strength.

Again – there’s not much slick interaction – it’s not easy to navigate your list of friends, quickly view photos, perform searches, etc.  Having said that – I’d still encourage folk to try it out…

 

Closing Thoughts

Well – I have to admit that I almost wet myself when I came across the Silverlight 4 Client for Facebook – the interface is extremely slick, fast and intuitive.  Navigating around is easy and the Facebook information is incredibly well-presented.  The downside is that it doesn’t quite aggregate any other data at the moment.  In an ideal world, this client would be expanded to support other social networks – add a sprinkling of the clever search integration in Spindex and I’d have the perfect client for knitting together my online social life.

Coming on the horizon, though, are further attempts to mash-up the social networks…  Windows Phone 7 will bring this to the mobile phone in a far slicker way than any device so far, and I hear good things about the tight integration of social networks in Windows Live “Wave 4”, which is due out in the next few months…  However, I’m personally really excited about the social integration within Windows Phone 7:

 

In the meantime, I’ll still struggle along with a combination of the Facebook and Twitter interfaces on the web browser and mobile phone, as well as using the Silverlight 4 Client for Facebook and Spindex.

Anyone else come across any interesting aggregators…?

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