Founded Choon-Hong Peck, former Director of Engineering at video platform Brightcove, Thingbuzz launches today with free accounts and will offer premium accounts with further customization soon. The company says its interface was inspired by the related articles fly-in on The New York Times site, and the similarities are clear. I expect this is a widget that many site owners will be interested in using. It will be all the more appealing once a few key problems with the service are solved.
Above, you can see what the Thingbuzz pop-up looks like when users click on it. By default it is closed and only shows sharing options, but users can change that. The styling can be overwritten by a site's own stylesheet. I haven't tested that yet, but I hope it's easy to make substantial changes - the widget is too small by default and the messages shown are too buried to be seen regularly.
Premium account holders can perform a variety of sophisticated functions, like sticking certain messages at the top of the list regardless of what new messages come through. The widget on each page will display the 40 most recent messages. By default only messages deemed positive by the Thingbuzz sentiment analysis engine will be shown, but that's a setting that can be changed as well.
The biggest problem I see with the service is the lack of quality control on the messages. This may not be as big an issue for sites that publish less content than ReadWriteWeb, but Twitter is filled with pointless automated messages republishing our content. I suggested to Thingbuzz that the company add blocking automated Tweets published through Twitterfeed to its spam algorithm. Right now, clicking through the messages that appear in the Thingbuzz widget on ReadWriteWeb, most of the messages that are served up are pretty boring. The Tweet posted above, for example, is positive but doesn't add much to our site. In fact, I think it detracts from the overall professional tone we try to keep here.
The idea is great, though, and if the selection algorithm can be fine-tuned, I think website publishers will love it.