I’m aggregating, aggregating (a shiny show special)

Image: Different uses of tools from last post, created in Gliffy

Following on from my last post, I have been looking at tools which allow users to collect together different online resources for sharing. What I'm interested in is aggregating and sequencing content together so you can distribute your sequence to others easily, a kind of flash mini-course creator. Scott Leslie twittered the other day, asking a similar thing and pointed me at the wiki scratchpad for his upcoming educator as DJ talk. So I worked through some of these, and here si my experience:

Tumblr – as I mentioned in my previous post, I've rather taken to Tumblr. It's real selling point is the ease of use, simply install the toolbar button and you can easily add anything into your Tumblr blog. It is thus ideal for harvesting all the web paraphernalia you encounter in any one day. I see it more as a personal record, like Liam I see it as a kind of digital scrapbook. But it seems a very personal, slightly anarchic tool, so not really suited to my aim of sharing a defined sequence of resources. Here is my version of Tumblr.

Posterous AJ Cann is a fan of Posterous, and like Tumblr it's easy to use and ideal for instant sharing and harvesting. Functionally there isn't much to use between the two, I could try and justify my preference for Tumblr but it would be post-hoc rationalisation. Maybe it was the aesthetics of the themes in Tumblr, I'm a shallow kind of guy, but it's often an emotional 'decision' between similar software. Here is my Posterous.

Suprglu – this is a site for aggregating the various social data elements you create in other sites and presenting them in one nice package, sort of like your Facebook/MySpace profile, but prettier. So you can add in RSS, your LastFM tracks, Flickr, delicious, etc. It generates some tags from your content also. It's easy to use, and if you are active with different tools and what an easy to create central hub to represent your identity, it works well. It isn't about sharing a sequence of resources as such, but I guess you could create a suprglu page for a project or subject, and not an individual, which would create a dynamic set of resources. Here is my suprglu page.

Glogster – I covered this in a previous Shiny Show. It lets you embed various resources into a multi-media poster. This is probably closer to what I was after, but you can't get a sequence from it.

SecondBrain -I signed up for SecondBrain ages ago, but didn't really get it. Like suprglu it is a self-aggregation (definitely not to be confused with self-flagellation) site, but rather more extensive with password authentication agreements across a number of sites so you can pull in your content from everywhere. My initial confusion over it remains however, I'm still not quite sure what it's for. While suprglu gives you a nicely presented site, SecondBrain seems to be offering too much, it is partly a conversation and partly a resource share, and I'm not sure it works as either. But it may work for some as an archive of your online activity. Here is my SecondBrain site.

FriendFeed – again, I've not really taken to FriendFeed, although I know some people swear by it. Initially I viewed it as a twitter rival, but it has become more of an aggregator, pulling in various streams from yourself and others. The use of FriendFeed 'rooms' which allow you to gather together several streams may go some way to providing the sort of dynamic content around a particular subject, but it doesn't provide the predetermined, shareable sequence I was after. Here is my FriendFeed.

Trailfire – this lets you create shareable trails across the web, with associated comments, so on each page a trailfire link is added, allowing you to read my comments, add those of your own, and then move on to the next resource. This is close to what I want, although the interface definitely needs a bit of work, and I'm not sure how robust it is. Like most tools it has an easy to use toolbar button, so I can quickly add any site into a particular trail. I'd like it to be exportable as embed code, but this is the closest to what I had in mind, so have a look and see if it works for you. I created a trail for the sites in this post.


  1. I see a fork in your tool road. On one side are the automated aggregators which merely gather your streams via RSS or things you pop in like Tumblr, in reverse chronological order.
    I have tumblr, Superglu, SecondBrain sites for years that I have not touched in a long time, or even looked at. At the same time, I am not really convinced they have much value or return attraction for me. I will say one compelling feature of Posterous is the ease of posting, by email if it comes down to it, plus I think they added some group capability.
    Another interesting variant in this class is SweetCron– http://www.sweetcron.com/ which performs the same function, except you run on your own server, so you actually end up with a copy of all your “stuff” rather than it being floating in the clouds. I have one at http://cogdogblog.com/sweet/ — again, it runs and accumulates with zero attention. Interesting feature is its tag clouds built across the services it yanks from.
    The other fork is seemingly more of what you seek, aggregators that have re-sequencing or re-packaging tools. I’ve not played much with these, but am thinking of storytlr http://storytlr.com/ and Capzles http://capzles.com/ and likely more that lurk out there.
    I have enjoyed following your own analysis of the different ways and purposes for publishing “stuff” especially with the avoidance of any TLAs.

  2. Hi Alan – interesting you mention SweetCron, I know it but it hadn’t occurred to me to put it in this category, as I had it in my mental ‘CMS, Drupal like stuff’ box. But of course, you are right, and indeed Drupal could go in there too. Which illustrates that the categories we have for software are blurred to a greater extent than they used to be. For the resource sharing task then you can have the complete range from using Twitter to a full blown system like Drupal.
    Many thanks for the other tips, just what I was hoping I’d get from the post, will check them out.

  3. Martin,
    Don’t forget that a self-hosted WordPress site for $6 a month (Dreamhost) and a LifeStreaming plugin can do a decent job of this, too:
    Requires next-to-no technical expertise as the WordPress site is set up with one-click by your host and the plugin can be installed via WordPress’ internal plugin search feature.

  4. I agree that we frequently make instinctive “gut” judgments over software choices. I played with Tumblr a long time ago and I aware of the loyalty it inspires in many users, but to me, it never felt comfortable. I loved Posterous as soon as I tried it. Go figure. Choice is good? Ownership of tools promotes engagement? The workers control them means of production?

  5. @Joss – thanks. That wouldn’t have occurred to me either to include in this category as I was trying to move away from blogs, but now you mention it, I’ve seen people use this in the manner I describe.
    @AJ – and when you started Son of SOTI I posted something along the lines of ‘why bother?’. See I didn’t get it either. That’s actually a significant factor in education – people always talk about putting the pedagogy/need first, but I didn’t feel a _need_ for Tumblr. Rather I started using it and found a niche.

  6. I’d like to see Sweetcron installs for topic areas as well as people. So a stream of syndicated multimedia content around, say, education technology would be good – curation and filtering. (However interesting somebody is in a topic area, I’m not always interested in their “lifestream” if it’s random YouTube and Flickr faves!)
    FriendFeed feels like a big mess at the moment. But the killer app for me is FriendFeed search.
    For tweets it’s often better than the actual Twitter Search for tweets. I get frustrated with Twitter Search sometimes. With FriendFeed, you can search by all these criteria
    Although obviously not every Twitter account is being pulled in.
    Cheers for round-up.

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