I'm on the hunt for five great tools to filter the social Web. The fourth product I'm looking at is Bottlenose, a social media dashboard that allows you to filter content by topic. For example: Andy Murray winning his first Grand Slam tennis title today.
Bottlenose was founded by well-regarded Semantic Web geek Nova Spivack. At first glance, it seems like a jumble of information: messages, links, topics, comments, streams and who knows what else. But once I got over that hurdle, Bottlenose delivered me relevant news and social media discussion about Andy Murray - and other topics of interest.
Essentially Bottlenose is a social media dashboard, allowing you to manage your Twitter, Facebook and a few other social streams. You can read and share from your Twitter and Facebook accounts using Bottlenose, much as you would do in a similar dashboard product like TweetDeck and Hootsuite. What makes Bottlenose different is that it attempts to automatically filter the information you see from your social accounts.
Like Spivack's previous product, the knowledge management service Twine, Bottlenose uses semantic web technologies and machine learning to sort and filter information. Unfortunately Twine was plagued by usability issues, so I was curious to see whether Bottlenose would suffer the same problems.
The Murray Test
One of the trending topics in my social network when I tested Bottlenose was "Murray." I was rather hoping this would be about the talkative Flight of The Conchords manager, Murray Hewitt, but it turned out to be about British tennis player Andy Murray. He just won the US Open title, so he is understandably trending on Twitter and Facebook right now.
The default view, when you click the "Murray" tag, is a 3-column page of Andy Murray related content entitled "Now." It's a mix of news and social media information. The left-hand side of the page has a list of news articles. If you click one, the beginning of the article slides out from the right-hand side of the webpage. The middle column features trending Twitter topics related to Andy Murray. Below that is a list of the most relevant Twitter users, including the official Twitter account of the man himself: @andy_murray. The column to the right of the page features comments, mainly from Twitter in this case - but it could include Facebook and any other social network you connect.
So if you're looking for the latest news and discussion about Murray's US Open victory, then Bottlenose certainly obliges.
And that's just the "Now" view. There are four other views: Stream, Paper, Pictures, Sonar. The Stream is a straight chronological list of the latest activity for the "Murray" tag; Paper is a Flipboard-like view; Pictures is...well, you can guess; Sonar is a graphical layout of keywords related to "Murray."
As well as trending topics from your own Twitter and Facebook social networks, you can see what the global trends are (click "Global Trends" in the main navigation). Say you want to see the latest news and social chatter about Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate. Clicking the "Romney" tag brings up some interesting information, both news and discussions on social media.
I also searched for several topics of interest to me personally and Bottlenose presented a lot of useful information. Note though that (at least for me) the "Save to Dashboard" link did not work.
Bottlenose has a lot of other features, which Our Jon Mitchell described in detail last December. Check out his review if you have power user tendencies.
So is Bottlenose easy to use? While it took a couple of minutes of clicking around for me to make sense of the homepage, after that I found it much easier to understand than Twine. My one suggestion for Bottlenose would be to find a way to make the product less forbidding on first glance. Perhaps highlight a trending topic on the homepage, which would give new users an easier entry point.
As to whether Bottlenose is useful, in my tests Bottlenose delivered a relevant mix of news and social media content about topics of interest to me. But, as with Engagio, check back with me in a month or so to see if I'm still using it. In the meantime, I recommend you give Bottlenose a try yourself and see if it meets your needs as a social media filter.