Onaswarm is a new lifestreaming application from Toronto's David Janes and BlogMatrix. Lifestreaming is something people do with a growing class of services that let you display all your activities across different websites, through aggregating the RSS feeds from your accounts on one page. Onaswarm a smart, interesting service that combines groups, microformats and flashes of really good usability.
The service is in private beta, but readers here who request accounts and include the letters RWW in their entries to the request form will be given accounts promptly.
It's very text-centric and clearly better for geeks than it is for the artists who like Tumblr, for example. The Onaswarm site architecture and navigation need a substantial overhaul to improve usability, despite some nice touches. That said, it's still in better shape than lifestrea.ms was when I reviewed that competing service.
The feed discovery process is very nice; Onaswarm lets you enter various usernames you use on different sites, then searches for RSS feeds based on those usernames. I like it.
Item display is a bit unorthodox but I think I like it. The most recent time that a certain feed updated is displayed, followed by other updates from that same feed from earlier in the day, followed by the second most recent feed to have updated. It's hard to explain and it wasn't completely clear to me, but after asking for clarification it makes sense.
You can view all of someone's updates or just "front page" level, or high priority, updates. That's a nice touch.
Adding friends should give you an opportunity to send them a message, but it doesn't.
OpenID login is supported, the calendaring is microformats-based and the note writing process is good. I'd like to get the geeks in Portland, Oregon to join the Portland Swarm so we can keep track of each other's blog posts, tweets, tags and events. Swarm members have group posting privileges, a common calendar and item aggregation.
Onaswarm is a potentially powerful tool. It's like a gestural feed reader for groups. If usability and aesthetics can improve just enough, then this one could become a valued service for many groups of people online.