Filtering and Tuning out Noise in Social Media & the Internet

Even though I consider myself an early adopter of consumer internet services, I have yet to find one that can help me prioritize, filter and tune out the less relevant amidst the ever-growing sea of noise on the Internet.  On top of email, I’ve pretty much consolidated my online activities around Facebook (less so) and Twitter (more so), with the occasional visit to Quora and LinkedIn.  These social media services send me the occasional email to remind me of my friends’ birthdays, replies to threads where I’ve left a comment, new followers and replies on my Twitter stream, and requests for new professional connections.  I am also an on-going user of Flickr (photo archival), StumbleUpon (random browsing), Insync (Gdocs + Dropbox-like file syncing), Path (private photo sharing), Paypal (payment), GoWalla/Foursquare/FB Places (geo-location broadcast/logging), Skype (chat/calls), Catch (note-taking/syncing) and 37Signals (work stuff).  I’m sure I have forgotten about a few other services along the way, and am even surer that there can only be more and not less of such implicit social graphs in the years ahead.

ReadWriteWeb wrote about filtering as the next step in Social Media back in 2008, shortly after Twitter’s breakout at SXSW 2007.  We then saw the release of a slew of features, APIs and services that tried to tackle the issue somewhat, i.e. Google Wave, Twitter’s hashtags and Lists, Facebook’s algorithms behind “Top News” versus “Most Recent”, Social Media messengers/aggregators (e.g. Ping/Seesmic, Tweetdeck) and more.  With a few exceptions, they all work decently well, and help us increase our signal-to-noise ratio on Social Media and the Internet.  However, on the whole, these enhancements tend to focus on enhancing the consumer’s experience on just their network and not beyond.

We are already in the midst of a shift in computing towards what I’d like to call the 3-layered cupcake stand buffet model, with (1) increasingly mobile end-devices (smartphones, laptops), (2) online services with ever implicit social graphs and (3) cloud infrastructure (that can only get faster, better and cheaper) as the 3 layers in the model.  As consumers, we will enjoy increasing flexibility to pick and choose the sort of end-devices we prefer to interface through, the online services we dig to satisfy our personal and professional needs, and (for now) for some of us, the sort of cloud infrastructure we need to store our files or to host our code.  Not too different from wolfing down cakes from a 3-layered cupcake stand over high tea eh?

MG Siegler wrote about Boxcar’s release of its Mac client over at TechCrunch 2 days ago.  I’d already been using Boxcar on my iPhone for the past month and am lovin’ it.  I’ve turned off the in-app notification on my Facebook and Twitter clients and have switched exclusively to Boxcar as my unified notification platform.  It’s still early days for the service – the mobile app UI could be tweaked, the Mac client just crashed on my computer and its updates trailed that of the iPhone app – but I think Boxcar could become the Growl-for-the-Cloud.  I see Boxcar as the modern-day web equivalent of SMS gateways used by merchants and telecom operators to SMS-spam mobile phone users, except smarter and more democratized.

Combine Boxcar’s 1-way notification service with some intelligent algorithms for assessing the relevancy of the service to my online habits, or the proximity of the person with respect to my social graphs (manual and/or automated), take care not to go down monetization routes that results in users accusing Boxcar of “selling out”, and Boxcar just might become the next big platform play after Twitter.

Flickr photo courtesy of highteaforalice

About James Chan

James Chan is an entrepreneur, investor, geek, photographer and husband/father based out of Singapore. Apart from frequent travels to Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia for work, James can also be found online via his trusty 15" Retina MacBook Pro or iPhone 6+.