Blastfeed is the latest in RSS filter products to cross my virtual desk. Back in April I looked at this space and at the time noted that filtering would be a hot topic in 2006. Why? Because it's the next step up from RSS aggregation, as many of us now have too much information coming at us.
But we're now at the end of November and really, to be frank, there hasn't been much progress made in the RSS filtering space.
First a bit of background about why information filtering is so important. Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a post this week explaining how he monitors RSS feeds to get the latest news of interest to him. Like Marshall, I'm an Information Omnivore (I'll devour anything and everything!), but it's important for my business that I not get overwhelmed with information. As it is, I'm guilty of not replying to too many emails - let alone keeping up with the hundreds of RSS feeds I subscribe to. And OK, both Marshall and I are RSS-obsessed bloggers - but in reality nearly everyone is overloaded with information these days, RSS or not.
So what to do to overcome info overload? Marshall hinted in his post that he uses filtering and similar methods:
"I haven't included any discussion about small things like filtering feeds, scraping feeds or using RSS and email together but there's a lot more that can be done with RSS for research than I feel like writing about this morning."
Blastfeed is one of those new kinds of filtering tools. Developed by Paris company 2or3things, Blastfeed enables people to filter individual RSS feeds or groups of feeds. Patrick Ferran from 2or3things told me they're aiming the product at "info-consumers (like yourself) and for the corporate world."
As of now Blastfeed does pretty much the same things as FeedRinse, the RSS filter service I profiled back in April [disclosure: I did a very short bit of consulting to FeedRinse in May]. Both services allow you to input a set of feeds and do filtering on them - essentially creating new feeds, which you then add to your regular RSS Reader. Blastfeed also lets you create email alerts, or a widget for your blog - and IM/SMS notifications are coming soon. In that sense, Blastfeed also has similarities with ZapTxt, which recently introduced new features such as publisher widgets and custom RSS feeds.
One problem with all of these specialist filtering tools is that you can't filter and read in the same place. In my view, RSS filter services are crying out to be full-blown RSS Readers too. Although granted, that's not the case for IM/SMS based services such as ZapTxt. But if you're going to offer a filtering service with RSS output, why not integrate a full-featured RSS Reader?
In other words, I want to do my filtering and reading from the same service. Some of the popular RSS Readers already allow you to do this - think FeedDemon, Blogbridge and Google Reader. So while Blastfeed and FeedRinse are both great services, I question whether I'd want to do my filtering in a separate application to my reading.
Having said that, I like where Blastfeed is heading and I can certainly see a future for advanced stand-alone RSS filtering services. According to Patrick, here is part of what they have planned for the future:
"One other direction we want to take Blastfeed to would be to use it as a platform to manage all kinds of media generating/powering RSS. For instance, TV / VOD providers could send their programs in RSS, and users could actually set a channel for such specific topic of interest. Whenever a TV / VOD content described in the RSS feeds matches the users requirements it could trigger a notification to an application that would record the film for later viewing, etc. Combination with other media assets (Podcasts, videocast, news and blogs feeds, company feeds, etc.) can then be envisaged as well."
So this is an excellent way forward. In summary, while I'd like to have my filtering/reading wrapped up in one service - I also see the benefits of focusing on advanced filtering functionality.