Gist is a new service that tracks your contact lists from email and social networks, prioritizes them and helps you quickly view what those people have been up to across blogs, Twitter and elsewhere. The company just released an iPhone app this morning (iTunes link) and what more could you ask for? Instant context for people you're just about to call, meet with or have on your mind?
Unfortunately, the service doesn't work very well yet. The social web is a mess of disconnected identity and activity data; cleaning it all up, tying it together and delivering it on the fly to your phone is an ambitious goal, but that's one of the things Gist is trying to do.
reviewed the Gist web app last month and liked what we saw so far.Gist lets you see all kinds of data from contacts, key companies and event attendees. Right now there is some value in what the app serves up. If you're willing to spend some time manually fixing up the streams associated with various contacts, then you could get a lot out of it right away. We
Unfortunately, it's very hard for any app like this to determine which social network profiles are really associated with the same people and which news coverage about a person is worth reading. (Hopefully the WebFinger protocol will help solve this problem for everyone someday.) If you try out the app you'll see that the signal-to-noise ratio is too weak to make for efficient, quick reading - but a quick scan for a contact's information could still help unearth some relevant information. It may be limited, a few weeks late and often incorrect - but savvy early adopters can still get some value out of it already. It's frustrating in more ways than I'm sure anyone cares to read about, but it's also worth trying out in hopes that the company will really nail it down the road. I know I sure want this to work.
Gist told me today that it is working with the Google Social Graph API for account discovery and MSpoke for disambiguation and content recommendations. Cleaning up the data is still the company's biggest challenge and one they've been working on from the start. The Google Social Graph API is a particularly gnarly tool for many startups like this - it's dependent on markup that too few people use and even fewer people use correctly.
None the less, you should give the Gist app a try if you'd like to see a vision of where the future could go. The fact that a team of very smart people with a good sum of venture capital invested is going to require more time to try and really nail the discovery of relevant, high-quality person-centric streams of information demonstrates what a challenge this important task really is.