February 07, 2011

knowabout.it: For The Links You Might Have Missed

Solving the information overload problem in the fast-moving world of social media is an incredible task - one that seems to be increasing as we take on more networks, more followers and more places to get impacted, from our PCs to tablets and mobile phones. Even the most focused among us can't get to every great link that gets passed to us from friends, which is why the "news will find me" strategy of years past simply doesn't pass muster any more. In this gap is coming a flotilla of personalization engines, but also services that look deep into your streams and find the best links for you. The newest is a two-man operation called "Know About It" at the simple URL: http://knowabout.it. Their goal? Find the links you might have missed.

One of the company's calls to action is that the noisiest people with the most followers who update with the most frequency can "drown out the ones who are more selective and thoughtful with what they share." With this in mind, the product surfaces recommendations both inside and outside your social streams, and provides a unique wrinkle called "potentially missed" shared from "some of the quietest people" in your network.

Top Items I Might Have Missed from My Social Streams

Unlike some services which require a good amount of explicit information filled out to feed the system, or others who claim to watch your behavior and find the best based on your preferences, Knowabout.it already has recommendations for you when you first enter the site, even if all you brought was your Twitter account.

Top Links Shared from Quieter Folks I Follow

For me, someone who is close to constantly connected in combination with my focus on my6sense, you would be hard pressed to find great stuff from my network I hadn't yet seen, but Know About It's recommendations aren't bad at all. Top links came from Marshall Kirkpatrick about predictions from Quora and Akula talking about more engineering heads at Microsoft, as well as a Hacker News article on Twitter's onboarding process. It wasn't a perfect run on the first try, but a hit rate of more than 2/3rd is very good.

Selecting Sources to Feed Knowabout.it

The site, founded by Kevin Marshall and Will Cole (@falicon and @willcole), doesn't exactly make it clear why some items are selected for you, but a post on the service's blog from January 27th starts to provide hints, saying they are watching popular posts that rise due to frequency of links, retweets, clicks from within the site and bit.ly stats. But their focus on quieter sources promises to go beyond the noise and to find the best from all the streams.

A Top Link Outside My Usual Streams

The site seems to be focused on finding some great links, and leveraging content from friends' streams to see what you might like as well. For example, I can "Peek" and see updates from Atul Arora's collection or Pete Warden, but the refresh rate won't keep you around long. It's not clear that reading an article dismisses it from your stream, and from my looking, my collection takes more than an hour to update, so realtime it's not - at least, not until the founders increase the polling speed.

Of interest, you can also build saved searches to update you on keywords that enter your stream. You can get an email or RSS feed for watched terms, and if aggressive, you can get them up to every 15 minutes, so if you set up monitor for a top keyword like iPhone or Android, prepare for your in box to get hit early and often.

If you have that nagging feeling that even through your usual use of the Web, you're not getting to all the good stuff, knowabout.it might find you some of those missing pieces. It's early days for the service, and it's still not open to everyone, but you should get your name on the list for the time the doors open.

Disclosure: I am VP of Marketing at my6sense, a service focused on providing personally relevant items from your social and news streams. It could be assumed some of our services overlap in the public eye.