Over the last 3 years I have spent the majority of my time covering the tools and services that provide ways for us to record and distribute our Lifestreams across the web. Over that timeframe we’ve seen the adoption rate of such services increase exponentially. The problem that began to surface pretty quickly is how can we find good ways to consume this mountain of data being generated by the people we follow. Two recurring themes that you’ve probably heard often over the last several years is how do we reduce noise and how can we filter the relevant data for us.
While I may visit a few Lifestreaming sites every day to track my friends content daily I also still find myself visiting many other social destinations to find the content my friends are creating and recommending across those services. This is an inefficient and time consuming process and often I may not discover items that have fallen off the timeline. I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to this issue and have started to develop thoughts on a web service that may be able to help provide a solution to this problem.
Several services have come along aiming to tackle this problem on either a single service or media type basis. They also use many different methods to analyze and personalize data for you. What I want to see built is a way to analyze all the data being generated by my social graph (the people I follow) on multiple social media services (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Last.fm, etc.) and prioritize the content and display it to me in a meaningful way while also allowing me to tweak the initial logic that automates this.
Ok so that concept may sound a bit confusing and I’ve encountered quite a few “deer in the headlights” looks when trying to explain it to the many developers and bloggers and other technologists that I’ve spoken to about it lately. So I am going to provide a breakdown with details on a way to build this type of service.
A service that I’ve grown to really love which takes a similar approach to what I’m proposing is Twitter Times. The premise behind their site is that you provide them with your Twitter account and they in turn build a real-time newspaper styled page customized to provide content based on the links within the Tweets & Retweets being sent out by the people you follow. It also sorts the content based on the number of followers linking to the content. I have days where I don’t visit twitter for long periods of time and I always have the fear of having missed something being discussed that’s important to me. With Twitter Times I don’t have that anxiety because I can visit the page at any time and it’s archived those important items my friends have identified.
So I love the base logic behind Twitter Times but it’s limited to one service and just a slice of my social graph. I would love to include the people I follow and the content they’re sharing from Facebook, Google Reader, Delicious, Digg and other sites to also be incorporated into this page. And then to take it a step further I also want different media types to be presented separately on the page so that I have videos, books, music, and photos also displayed on the page by my followers using related services.
So what are my thoughts on the logic that would power such a site? Well I’ll provide some examples that can explain methods to do this. Let’s start by displaying how Twitter Times provides a personalized page for you.
Ok, as I stated before I’d like to see more services (Google Reader, Delicious, Digg, etc.) incorporated adding a larger sample size based on my followers on those services. So I’ll demonstrate that by moving on to how this could be achieved by also applying this additional logic for videos. But also allow for not just links but also gestures made by those I follow on the source services. So as an example a tweet might link to a YouTube video, but also a friend may have favorited the video directly on YouTube, and yet another commented on it over at Digg.
Yet another method to aggregate data could be used in cases where you have to pull data from multiple sources that don’t link to a distinct url / content type. My example here could be used for music where we may have either scrobbled or favorited tracks on Last.fm or perhaps we used Blip.fm and sent a Tweet out to a song or perhaps we made a purchase on iTunes or Amazon (friends and data available via Blippy). All of these data points with multiple gestures to associated content on different services. Here another option would be to normalize the data at the band / artist level. Pretty challenging but yet another great way to find out what our friends are paying attention to with regards to music.
So these are just some examples that could be taken to many other content types. You could add books based on friends and gestures across GoodReads, Amazon Wish Lists, or Librarything. You could add restaurants based on data pulled from Yelp, Foursquare, and Foodspotting. Apply similar methods to gadgets, photos, tv shows, etc. I think you get the point.
So while this provides a high level view of ways to create automated logic to pull the relevant data specifically tailored by our social graph, no automation will be perfect. In fact depending on how you use each service, there’s a chance that the data may not be as relevant as you would like. For instance if you auto-follow everyone on Twitter then there’s a good chance that the data from there may offer some chaotic patterns for you. These are some issues to keep in mind.
So how do you correct a situation like that or even provide some better ways to allow someone to tweak the data better. Why by adding some knobs, buttons and levers of course. Providing a way to add or subtract weight from individual users or even block them could be very useful. It would be nice to offer that at the content type level though and not globally. Adding the ability to create categories based on the meta data from the content and then offering ways to tweak that would also be great. There are plenty of other ways that could offer methods to filter and prioritize the data.
So anyways these are just some of the rough ideas I have that have bouncing around in my head. I, and I assume many of you have enjoyed the ease by which we can now share and aggregate data but this has gotten very messy. If anything things will continue to get worse with the proliferation of mobile and the additional ways we can now share from anywhere we go. So we need to now put the focus back on finding ways to make sense and add relevance to the information. I’m really hoping that someone out there is thinking somewhat along the same lines and is starting to build the perfect Lifestream reader so that we can all enjoy the fruits of our over-sharing.
So if you or someone you know is currently working or thinking about building such a service, I’m ready and willing to provide any help and support I can. I’ll be waiting and hope you come a knocking.