The elusive Me Collector
Amy Gahran says, "I want one place for all my content: Pipe dream?" She mentioned this at BlogHer as well. Is she looking for the aggregator-of-me? Is it more than a good feed aggregator?
I keep having this vision. I hope it will come about someday. There’s no way I’m the only person who’d want this.
The basics of the problem are pretty familiar: content I generate is scattered across many websites of varying degrees of openness. Blogs, wikis, forums, social networks, paid publications, mailing lists, photos, videos, podcasts, ... But there isn't a place where all of that stuff comes together. At the high level the needs are: automatic; item-level controls; permanence; tags; re-mixability.
I have seen some people attempt to use their blogs as a partial answer to this - doing things like posting comments made as regular blogs posts as well. But this requires active management of the far flung content, adding steps to work that should be happening behind the scenes. And many people have been incorporating feeds from other sources into their websites (Flickr widget, Twitter, ...). Assuming those services survive, the content will have a permanent location.
I've seen discussions about this in many forms, and I think the key for a lot of the discussions is that each location needs to provide a web feed for the content, so that it can be consumed. But then what about sites that don't have a feed?
At a first pass, if I can get or make web feeds for all my content, then the obvious place to collect it all is in a feed aggregator, either online or on my computer. However, There are several services that are madenningly close to this with my online life. Here are some, please chime in with what you know about others.
- I suspect Ziki might be the closest match. Luis Suarez really likes it (my profile), which is a nice place that centralizes a lot of my online life. One can add links from just about any service, and it has to be done service-by-service. If it has a web feed, then Ziki will incorporate that into your Ziki page.
- I just discovered Lijit (at BlogHer), which is primarily a service that helps you create customized search, centered around your online life (my Lijit search). The thing I liked about the setup, is that it went out to the common web services and found profiles that appeared to match me. (I am "jackvinson" just about everywhere, it was able to do so.) If I give Lijit access to my profile on social networking services, it will incorporate my network into the search. Lijit appears to operate off web feeds, and it will take web feeds from anywhere to add to the search, including an list of my regular reads. Of course, since Lijit is designed around search, it isn't really set up to work as a repository in the way Amy suggests.
- A piece of the pie is content that doesn't necessarily have web feeds, such as comments I leave on other blogs. Comment aggregators (co.mments and coComment) provide a central place to track articles where I am interested in the comments, even for services that don't offer a feed of the comments. Not only this, but they also offer a feed of the aggregated comments, so I can slurp them into my Me Aggregator.
- Many web-based fora offer feeds of the comment streams, but the variation in quality and availability is mightily frustrating for someone who wants to collect content into one place. Maybe a well-designed YahooPipe that slurps all my forum content and then filters only for those posts I have written or contributed to. And then dump that into the Me Collector.
- And there are many other sites and services that remain walled off or have other protection (rightly so). For some, I could imagine setting up an HTML-to-RSS scraper, but it would be a site-by-site effort.
- Any mailing list can be dumped into a mail-to-RSS service (described by Robin Good in 2004). YahooGroups was offering RSS, but I can't find the setting in a group I own -- it is not turned on by default.
- Here is a long shot: Spock. It doesn't provide the content collection, but I was surprised to find that it did some auto-discovery to find like "jack vinson" profiles out there (my profile). This suggests that a service like the Me Collector is possible to automate at some level. I have some Spock invites, which seem to be a dime a dozen.
- There are many other feed-collecting services (Grazr, Feed Digest, ...) that could be used to filter and or collect feeds from many locations. There is still the question of putting the content somewhere and being able to do something with it.
- And if something like this really exists in the RSS world, I bet Marjolein Hoekstra already knows about it.
I don't think anything I've run across, beyond your standard feed aggregator, has the ability to do something with the resulting aggregated content. Amy suggested that she would like to be able to categorize / tag the content, selectively share it, re-mix it, analyze it, feed it out to something else.... Essentially, "it's my stuff, let me play with it."
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