Figuring Stuff Out

Feeding the beast

Posted by Mike on April 17, 2007

Hello all. I’ll get back to posting about my adventures with Linux again soonish but for now I thought I would play into the hands of the Internet marketers and talk about two applications that I’ve been fooling around with recently: Joost and Particls. Joost is an attempt to create a viable Internet TV service that depends on short targeted adsJoost GUI (you can read a better description here). It’s in closed beta and I applied to get in a few months ago and recently got an invitation. I’ve played with it a bit and things look pretty reasonable at the moment. The video does occasionally stall (I imagine this is because the user base is not that big yet, it depends on p2p) and the content is a little weird, they have a lot of weak ‘game show’ format stuff from Much Music but also some pretty cool sports movies and indie films. The interface is pretty intuitive to me, which is good because there aren’t a lot of instructions, and it sure is pretty.

The other App I’ve been messing with is called Particls (not a misspelling). It’s a new approach to monitoring your various streams of information on the web. The idea is that it after giving it terms that interest you, along with the RSS feeds that you follow, and letting it look at your browser history it is able to find items that are of interest to you and bring them to your attention, while having the general feeds scroll unobtrusively along the screen (or not it’s all very customizable). It to is in private beta, but again I signed up a few months ago and recently got an invitation. I’ve had a little bit of trouble with this one, it doesn’t seem to actually be displaying most of the info it finds which is a bit frustrating. I’ve found that their support staff is very helpful and quick to respond (although we haven’t figured out what’s gone wrong yet).

On the whole, I’m a little bit more excited about Joost. If they can get some more content and smooth out the hiccups in video delivery it would be really cool (I’d love to come up with a means of cutting my TV cable, so get the CBC to sign up Hockey Night in Canada and I’m there). Particls is a neat idea, but I’ll reserve judgement until I get it up and truly running.

One last interesting discovery I’ve made while participating in these private betas is that they give us invitations that we can pass on to others. I like getting comments on this thing and they seem like a good way to bribe a few of you to do so. With that in mind I’ll give one invite, of the person’s choice, from one or the other to anyone who comments on a different post on this blog (so make sure to leave your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you). I’m not going to announce when I run out of invites, cause I want people to keep commenting (and I might get more), so it’s probably worth a shot.

See you in the comments…

Update: Seems that I have Particls working now (there was something hinky going on with my Firewall, I hate it when tech problems are my fault).  I’ve got a constant stream of information scrolling across my desktop now, although at the moment it seems to all be coming from a few of my feeds (So not that much discovery yet, but that will probably take time).  It seems kind of neat, although I think I will have to turn it off whenever I want to be truly productive, but that is probably mostly the result of my fascination with moving pictures….

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5 Responses to “Feeding the beast”

  1. Chris Saad said

    Joost is very cool 🙂

  2. Sean said

    Mike, I’ve been giving particls a shot… and I think it’s brutal. maybe i haven’t played with the preferences enough yet, but that damn ticker across the top of my screen is so distracting. they talk about time saved, but i think they’ve forgotten a variable in there, that being time lost due to distraction of moving ticker.

    the combination of using google alerts and organizing your feeds into folders should negate the need for this program.

    i’m I getting it all wrong here?

  3. Mike said

    Hey Sean,

    Maybe Chris Saad up there will have something to tell you, he’s the contact I’ve been working with at particls. I do agree with you that the ticker can be mighty distracting and that the existing approaches work pretty well for me too. I think the thing that concerns me the most about it is that it really doesn’t seem to provide a huge variety of information on the ticker. I have it turned off right now, but I noticed that all it really seemed to be doing for me was to roll out the last 20 posts or so sequentially from 6 or 7 of the feeds that I follow, some of which are months old, and other than the particls feed it hasn’t really suggested anything new to me in the whole time I’ve used it. I still like the idea though, the combination of automated dscovery and the potential of a system that alerts me to things that I have a high interest in (and lets me read the rest at my leisure) has great potential. For now I’m just using the pop-ups set to only go off for the highest interest level (which seems to mean not at all right now) and have the ticker turned off. There is a lot of buzz around this app at sites I respect though, I’m not sure if I get it entirely either.

    Oh well, Patience.

  4. Chris Saad said

    Hi Mike and Sean,

    Sean, as Mike suggests Particls can really be used in two modes. In the first (and default) mode it does a lot of discovery for the user to get new users started quickly.

    But the second mode is where you can turn off ‘Automatically Find information for me’ and turn the interruptions level to low and it will actually only ever appear when there is an important piece of content to see (as a popup alert).

    The issue you mentioned about only reading from the top 6 or 7 feeds is actually a known bug that is occurring on some machines and will be fixed in the next version – as a result you should see the quality of the content and popups improve dramatically.

    This sort of feedback is great by the way – we really appreciate it and hope to improve the app with every build based on it.

    Cheers!

  5. Mike said

    Hi Chris,

    I’m quite impressed that you guys take the time to follow blogs this closely, I can tell you that the readership on this blog is quite small so I find it encouraging that you are being this attentive to your users.

    Best of luck,

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