I’ve started a series about “lifestyle data management”, which loosely translated means how can I keep dibs on all my e-mail, tweets, facebook updates, friend’s blogs, and news/tech/coding blogs without going insane. You can read the introduction here. My first entry on Netvibes Wasabi can be found here.
As we dig into our toolbox some more, the next tool we come across is Streamy. Streamy lists itself to “discover and share with friends everywhere. … The best stories on the web are here. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more.” Streamy is setup to function as a home page just like Netvibes does. However, there is not the focus on widgets and tabs like Netvibes has. To date, Streamy has only about 3 widgets, for weather, stocks, and most importantly, e-mail. Streamy has taken the approach to be more tightly integrated with some of the most popular social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr, and Friendfeed. Once you setup your account to include your logins to these networks, they will show up as icons along the top of your page, as well as enable some additional widgets for getting to related features of each network.
Streamy allows you to create numerous columns on your front page in which to store your widgets. The leftmost column is the “suggested reading” column that works some kind of magic between your feeds and their main news feeds in order to present to you what they believe you would enjoy reading for news. You are given the ability to hide links that you don’t want to see and exclude news sources that you deem inappropriate (there have been a few instances during the beta where some spam/porn posts slipped into that stream, but they fixed it promptly and I was able to exclude them immediately).
To some extent, I believe the Streamy folks are trying to create a social network of their own, because every news posting you have has the option to share or comment about it. These comments don’t go out to Twitter or Facebook, but instead go into the internal Streamy network of folks. Those that have the same posting displayed will see your comments. It provides a means of seeing what other folks are reading that have like interests and to keep the conversation flowing through that. In addition, there are a lot of user created groups for those to share conversations and news stories that are relevant.
After importing my feeds, adding my accounts, and working with the widgets and columns, I created my home page that looks like this:
As you can see, I created two additional columns to the main feed. Once contains a live feed of all of my blog subscriptions, and another that has the widgets for my Twitter and Facebook updates. I added the weather for fun and e-mail because I wanted that for live updates. It took me a while to figure out the master blog feed, but THAT right there was the biggest benefit, since it allowed me to keep a basic bead on the latest news without having to go into my subscriptions section. It should be worth noting that the sections on the left (Home) and right (Status/Contacts) can be collapsed to give you a little more screen space to work with. One thing I stumbled upon during my initial setup was that I could add my Instant Messenger accounts for MSN, AIM, Google Talk, and Yahoo messenger. This was a great find! I don’t use IM all that much anymore, but I do have a few friends still out there and having a simple web chat window to talk with them is quite nice. If anything, it prevents me from having to install anything else. The window itself is unobtrusive when using it and can easily be minimized if I need to focus on other things on the page. The main page updates itself every minute or so and everything is quickly accessible. I should also point out that there is some text that says “expand” next to each Twitter/Facebook post, which gives you quick access to reply/retweet if you need to.
When I need to do a little more in depth Twittering or Facebooking, I simply click the appropriate icon near the streamy logo. Here’s what it looks like for Facebook:
and for Twitter (I added a few widgets to it):
I should also point out now that if I click on my profile in the top right corner, I can update my status and have it to post to any of the social networks I’ve registered with in Streamy. This is a nice feature that prevents you from having to go to Ping.fm or other sites.
Not to brush over these items, but they’re pretty straightforward and simple, which I like. The real meat and potatoes here is when I go to my subscriptions. Streamy will automatically import your Bloglines or Google Reader subscriptions (by providing account info) or if you have an OPML file, it will import that as well. Importing my OPML file went fast and my groups were created for me. By clicking the “Subscriptions” text next to the Streamy logo, I’m brought to my subscriptions page:
I was really impressed with how clean and simple the layout it. I have a master list of all my feeds showing, with the breakdown of categories on the left hand side and the number of unread items. Similarly, selecting a particular group will expand it to display the new feeds for each group:
Streamy has a nice keyboard based navigation built in to its news feeds. I can hit the “A” key to open the news item at the top of page, then tap “S” key to close it (marking it read). I next hit the “F” key to move to the next item, or the “D” key to move to the previous. Navigating in this fashion makes it very quick and easy to go through all of my posts. Viewing an individual post gives you an overlay to your main feed, so that you don’t lose your place:
You’ll see that in the top right hand is an icon to close the post (right) or make it a favorite (left). The middle icon, is the share icon, which I find really innovative. It brings up a small window that allows you to share it with friends you have in your Streamy network or any of the networks you’ve configured in your profile. The combination of the sharing and the commenting built into the feeds has often given Streamy a comparison to FriendFeed, but with a lot more benefits. While I haven’t done much interaction with FriendFeed, I can definitely see how the comparison applies. With the merging of Facebook and FriendFeed, Streamy might be able to take up the banner and provide those services a lot of users are looking for.
That’s all there is to it. In my opinion, Streamy is simple, clean, and straightforward. This is a very good quality to have in a web application. I’ve seen plenty of web sites and web applications out there that try to out glitz you with too many banners or effects. I’ve also seen too many web sites and web applications out there that pack up so much functionality that you’re left with a really bad layout or a site that runs too slow because it is trying to do 20 different things at once. Streamy threads this needle perfectly. As a programmer, I consider this high praise, though it sounds rather bland when reading it here.
I did have a fair share of concerns though with Streamy to be noted. I was never impressed with the suggested stories feed. It could be just my taste in news, which I try to keep diverse, but I felt like I was getting peppered with too many celebrity or advertising style news articles in this feed. Over the course of the month I did notice that the quality of the articles was getting better, but nothing I was interested in seeing. To that extent, I tried to simply minimize the area that has the suggested news and move my master blog feed into that column, but Streamy does not allow this. I then started running to some clutter issues on my main page. In addition, I had some continual issues trying to import certain feeds into my account. It wasn’t related to only one site, and multiple attempts over time proved not to help. The final thing I noted was that when you bring up a post in the master feed, there are little icons to read the next and previous news items, which is a nice alternative to the keyboard approach, but doesn’t appear anywhere else, when viewing posts through the groups or an individual feed. I think that would work great anywhere you are viewing posts.
None of these are deal breakers and Streamy is a very solid app worth checking out! I’m not going to make comparisons between all of the products until I finish my reviews. As mentioned previously, if you’re using Streamy, or are checking it out after reading this, add a comment and let me know your thoughts.