Managing the information flood

* Filtrbox is an outstanding tool for managing info floods

A major market driver that is emerging is the need to intelligently reduce the flood of comments and news that any consumer of news feeds, Twitter, blogs and so on has to deal with if they aim to have any kind of grasp on what their markets and constituents are talking and thinking about.

I’ve just spent some time looking at a new entrant in this field, Filtrbox, that just went live just and I was wowed not only by how effective Filtrbox’s filtering is, but also by the user interface design which is so good it should immediately be given an award.

Built using Flex, the Filtrbox UI uses drag and drop, asynchronous and background updates, sophisticated graphing, user input validation, and dynamic screen layout to provide a smooth, low-drag user experience. This UI demonstrates that no matter how good your AJAX UI might be Flex will run rings around it.

Anyway, Filtrbox is, as you might expect from the preceding, really easy to use. You create filters (for example ‘web’) and then add search modifiers to include (‘application OR service’ – ANDs can be also used) and modifiers to exclude. Once you save your filter, Filtrbox goes to working mining the sources you select and finds those items that match your criteria.

When I first saw the demo I immediately saw Filtrbox as Yahoo Pipes on steroids. While there’s some validity to this, Filtrbox is actually much more than an RSS feed filter as compared to Yahoo Pipes it vastly simplifies the whole process of creating filters and then adds analytical views of the filtered content that makes the results actually useful.

The sources that Filtrbox can draw upon include newsfeeds from the mainstream media, content from the blogosphere, Twitter ‘tweets’ via Summize (covered in this newsletter a few issues ago) and traffic from Friendfeed along with any other custom RSS feeds you might specifically want to include.

In the articles view you set up your filters and can examine the results sorted by ranking (relevancy) and the time window in which they were found (1 to 15 days). You can also sort the results and view them in either a grid or list format.

The analyze view allows graphing of the activity of the results of your filters so you can look for trends. For example, you launch a new product and by filtering on the product name using Filtrbox you can see the mentions and break them down by source. From this you can visually gauge not only the market’s response, but also which channels are following you most effectively. As a strategy for planning future advertising spends and PR activity Filtrbox should be a great tool.

One deficiency here: There’s no export or print feature for the analytical graphing which would be useful for creating reports. I’d also like to see Filtrbox extend into sentiment analysis which would make the service phenomenally useful.

You can create your own RSS feeds from your Filtrbox filtered data and display the results using a blog/Web widget that Filtrbox generates for you and notify other users by e-mail or new results (there’s even an iPhone friendly e-mail digest format option).

There are three types of accounts: Free, a single user account which allows you to have 5 filters and retains 15 days of history; Pro, $20 per month or $200 per annum, which is again single user but with 25 filters and 45 days of history; and Team, $100 per month or $1,000 per annum, which supports up to six users with up to 100 filters and 365 days of history.

Filtrbox is outstanding for both its design and its functionality. For marketing, PR, political analysis and news research there’s nothing quite like it.

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