At last Friday’s TechCrunch event, several startups were featured with some even launching or releasing new products that very day. LazyFeed just happened to be one of them, but with an interesting twist. Don’t let the name fool you. LazyFeed isn’t some “crazy web application that outsources the services to India where they’ll report back what feeds are interesting to you.” On the contrary, LazyFeed brings the most current and up-to-date information right to your stream and then YOU can decide whether you want to keep it or leave it.
Subscription to a feed? Not something new, is it?
Now you might be thinking that it’s nothing more than just another competitor for Google Reader. As a matter of fact, I think it sort of is, but it isn’t. In a Network Solutions blog post I wrote last week, I had spoken with the CEO of LazyFeed, Ethan Gahng, about the fact that his product looks and sounds similar to Google Reader and he said it wasn’t. In fact, it’s all about the “accidental discovery”. A great point he made was that with Google, you already know what feeds you want, but with LazyFeed, you’re actually searching based on tags for feeds to subscribe to. That’s your main interest and it makes absolute sense now with the popularity of social media. Everything these days is tags this, tags that and, did I forget to mention, tags?
These tags are basically search keywords. You’re going to look for these tags in LazyFeed and it’s going to pull up not the blogs that have the tags scattered around somewhere. Rather, it will give you specific blog posts, videos, photos, and other relevant content current to that time that you can either bookmark, pass over, or whatever.
So how does it all work? What’s so fascinating about it?
When you first log into the site, you’re greeted with a two column environment – almost looks like the 90s era of web development when using frames in websites was really cool. But actually they pull it off much better here in LazyFeed and use better technology than what was done back then.
The interface is split into two columns: your left-hand side is where your favorited (or “added”) tags, blog posts, etc are kept. The right-hand side is the main column. This is where most of your activity will occur. Upon first logging in, you’re greeted with a giant box area that tells you what the hot topics are online and it is all reported in real-time. There is no refresh button you need to click. Had this site been up a couple of weeks ago, you would have probably seen the rise of the “Michael Jackson”, “Farrah Fawcett”, and even “Sarah Palin” trends. Some may find this incredibly helpful because if you’re not sure what tags to look for regarding a particular subject, then this would enable you to easily click and read what people are saying in real-time (e.g. there are numerous variations and tags for the “Michael Jackson” tragedy. Tags could range from “MJ” to “Jacko” to “MichaelJackson”).
Another part of the right-hand column holds a nice cool feature where you can connect your LazyFeed account with one of your social media sites. Unfortunately it’s not like Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect. Rather, it’s just pulling in the feeds from sites like Twitter, Del.icio.us, Flickr and any website with an RSS feed. Basically what it does is it pulls the tags out from your posts and scours the web and corresponds any interesting news relevant to that tag to the information pulled from the sites you’ve connected to. So take this blog post for example. If I connected this to my LazyFeed account, it will pull the tag “lazyfeed” from this post and then on my home screen on LazyFeed, I’ll receive blog posts, photos and video all tagged with “lazyfeed”.
Looking back, this is actually a quite ingenious way to find information you’re interested in. For me, I love to learn more about social media, photography, marketing, etc. and I hope this blog covers that. But I want to know what others are doing and saying at the same time, so I can connect my blog to LazyFeed and instantly I’ll be able to see other content of considerable interest to me. Success!
Once you’ve entered the tag you wish to search, the above image is representative of the result you get. As you can see, it gives you the latest content with the associated tags, but also gives you some other related topics/tags that you might be interested in – as I had entered in “advertising”, I’ve been offered “marketing”, “business”, “internet”, etc. From here, you can do one of two things, add the tag to the left-hand column by simply clicking on the green “Add” button, or scroll down and look at the entries before you. Keep in mind that they are the latest bits of content and the site is all in real-time. So as soon as something new is published on the web and becomes noticed by LazyFeed, all the existing content will immediately be pushed to the bottom of the screen – fresh and new content always at your fingertips.
If you choose to look at one of the feed results, note that you can read the synopsis on LazyFeed or view the website itself by clicking on the “external website” link offered next to the headline. Depending on the RSS settings by each website, you may only be privy to an abridged version of the content. If there are videos or photos, you’ll be able to watch them all without leaving the LazyFeed environment. From there, if you like the blog post, video or photo, you can just click on the green “add” button and it will also be added to the left-hand column.
Okay. So what’s the catch? Where’s the bad news?
There really isn’t any bad news to this. For the most part, LazyFeed seems to have all the potential to be a really big hit in the social media/real-time space. It even has a really great evangelist in Louis Gray like FriendFeed has in Robert Scoble. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a couple of things that I want to see and what may trouble some people:
- No sharing? Unfortunately there’s no sharing of content with other LazyFeed users. Right now imagine the site as purely private for you, as the individual, only. If you want to share the search results from a query or an awesome video or photo you saw on the site, go to the source of the content and email that to your friends or colleagues or perhaps just have them see it on your computer.
- No custom URL? Again a small bummer. When you log into LazyFeed, you’re noticing that it says “lazyfeed.com/discover”, not “lazyfeed.com/kenneth/discover”. It just adds a bit more to the aura of personalization and making it mine and to distinguish my account from others.
- Archiving? No way! When I spoke with their CEO, I asked about what happens if you wanted to look at a blog post that appeared on your LazyFeed account an hour ago but you didn’t bookmark it, you needed to keep scrolling and scrolling but in the end it might be futile. There’s no way to reference it. LazyFeed is all about the here and now. Anything that happens after five minutes is ancient history. I’ve been told to “look for it on Google”.
- Usability might be out to lunch. When looking at the site during the preview, I realized that the site often required at least one more than the commonly-accepted best practice of “two clicks or less”. That might turn away people from using the site who think that by clicking more than needed means not being lazy.
- Clutter, clutter, everywhere! If you do try LazyFeed, I do encourage you to add as many tags as you want to the left-hand column (almost like your “favorites” or “bookmark” section). Next, go find blog posts and other content you want to add to the column as well. After a while you’re going to realize that it might seem a bit clutter and unorganized, especially what that column also is updated in real-time. When a new post or entry is made in relation to any of those items in the column, that item highlights and then moves to the top of the column. Might be a bit confusing.
- Tweet? Tweet? Anyone? Search results do not include any tweets from Twitter?
Where’s the business applicability?
To be honest, I was wondering what the hell LazyFeed would be used for from a business perspective. It can’t be that this application was meant for only consumers, right? Well looking at the site a bit further I think there is some interesting possibilities, but nothing that is to the scale of how companies would use Facebook, Myspace or even YouTube. Rather, it’s for two reasons, and two reasons alone: buzz monitoring and internal research. Here’s what I mean…
With buzz monitoring, companies can enter in tags that they want to monitor. Of course these tags would be something like their product name, brand name, any key employees or stakeholder that has influence, etc.
For example, by now I’m sure that you may have heard of the incident surrounding United Airlines? If not, long story short, the airline broke a band member’s expensive guitar, wouldn’t pay, now band seek retribution by putting the airline’s brand further in the toilet with a hit song. So if I was an employee at United Airlines, I might enter in the tag “UnitedAirlines” and get an up-to-date report on the “sentiment” on my company.
If you’re running a conference or event and want to know what people are saying about you during or after the event, then do a search for the commonly used tag. For those of you in the technology or social media space or perhaps use Twitter a lot, you’re aware of the term hashtag. When creating content, be it blog posts, video, podcasts, photos, music, etc about an event/meeting, you’re always “supposed” to use a hashtag. Well that same hashtag can also be entered into LazyFeed to produce interesting results.
In the above image, I did a query on what people have been saying or posting about the Real-Time Stream CrunchUp event hosted by TechCrunch last Friday. As you can see, there are at least one recent blog posts written about the event and several photos that are online to mark the event. Perhaps LazyFeed has become a more potent weapon for gathering research on which media is writing about your event and which ones aren’t. There’s no further need to scour the web aimlessly or using search engines to gather your data. Just plop in the tags you want and you’ll get your articles and content effortlessly.
As it relates to internal research, I often find myself wanting to know more about a particular subject but often times I don’t know where to look. Sure, I can do some research on sites like Wikipedia, CNN, Encarta, Yahoo, Bing and Google, but there are millions, if not, billions of people posting their unsolicited insights and I want to take advantage of it and learn. So what can I do? Plug in a tag into LazyFeed and see what’s going on. For companies wanting to gain an upper hand over their competitors to understand what’s happening in the industry from other “insiders”, this is probably a perfect tool at their disposal.
Having spent several years in the tourism and web industry, I’m aware of the constant changes that can happen. Luckily, with LazyFeed, I’m able to look at what others are predicting for the industry and learn to grow with it. Maybe there’s new technology that a competitor is using that made it onto a blog but not mainstream media – then through LazyFeed, I’d be the first to know, wouldn’t I?
Another way to look at it is to gauge how your product or campaign is doing BEFORE receiving the news from a journalist who got it from a blogger in the first place. I’m sure that with the release this month of the new Blackberry Tour, the blogosphere is abuzz about what’s cool about this new phone. Should the company (Research in Motion) be using LazyFeed, they might see real-time content updates surrounding what people are saying and quite possibly reply back immediately – showing incredible customer service and hedging off any issues that may arise.
So what’s the verdict?
I’d say that LazyFeed holds water. It’s definitely got some long-term potential and I’d think that when you have a chance, you should try it out. Right now they’re in the beta stage and offering invites on a periodic basis, it seems. You can add your name to the “waitlist” and when they open it up to more people, they’ll issue out “promotional codes” for you to register.