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Aggregate Your Social Networks with EventBox

Aggregate Your Social Networks with EventBox

    Dealing with social media and networking is a chore. There’s so much going on in too many different places, and keeping track of all that information is hard enough; managing your own is another story. EventBox, a beta application for Mac OS X Leopard, is designed with this problem in mind. The purpose of EventBox is to aggregate the various social networks you utilize in one handy desktop application, much like feed readers did for all the sites you frequent.

    EventBox currently supports Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Reddit, and also possesses RSS aggregation features. EventBox did support Pownce and Digg, but Pownce is shutting down, and Digg have done something to interfere with the way the application uses the API and thus Digg support is temporarily unavailable. So EventBox has a pretty short list of supported websites at this time because of these issues, but it’s important to remember that the app is in beta and growing every day. When it hits the big 1.0, it will support plenty of popular networks, and if it doesn’t, we’ll have a right to ask why the most popular services aren’t there. When software is in early beta, it’s a bit presumptuous and ignorant to complain that there isn’t support for enough services or the app is “complete rubbish” because it doesn’t have Feature X.

    Support for Google Reader, Delicious, Last.fm and Orkut are apparently coming in the future. If this means you can pull your feeds from Google Reader and read them from the application I’ll be very pleased. Last.fm is also a cool service I’ve been using for years and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in this department.

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    User Interface

      The user interface is slick and fits in right at home in OS X. It reminds me of Things, the task management application for OS X, which has also been admired by many for its attractive interface. Intuitive, easy on the eyes, everything in its right place and features accessible without looking cluttered — what more could you want?

      Well, there is something I could want — it’s minor but I’d love to see it changed. If you’re running the trial, to the right of the window’s title bar, there’s a little notice that tells you how many days you have left until you’ve got to part with cash. This is great because I always forget about trial expirations and get stuck with an app I’ve been using that won’t load up. But clicking on that text, even when the app is not the window in focus, will open your web browser and take you to the app website, and since the right corner of the window title bar is where most people click to drag the app or call it into focus, you can end up accidentally opening a browser with a saved session of 50 tabs every few minutes out of habit.

      It’s a small gripe in the midst of an excellent interface, but one I’d love to see fixed up (even if it’s fixed after I pay for the application).

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      Unread & Recent

      The first two panes available in the sidebar are Unread and Recent. They do what it sounds like they’d do: Unread shows you information and events from the various networks that you haven’t seen yet, and Recent shows you everything both read and unread that happened recently — useful if you saw a Tweet or responded to a Facebook comment recently, and can’t seem to relocate them.

      These two panes do a good job at giving you an overview of what’s happening in each of your networks in one place. It also allows you to power through everything in one view, instead of going by and checking everything out service-by-service. This is much the same approach I take with feed reading; get them all in one list instead of reading feed-by-feed, and power through them faster than should be possible with the help of the good old space bar.

      Social News Sites

      Sites like Digg and Reddit are useful sites for many people, and can be a good way to fill in spare time (hah, like you’ve got spare time to fill!). And while the implementation in EventBox is good, and probably useful to many, I can’t see myself keeping up with these sites in the same application I would like to use to aggregate my social activity. The concepts don’t seem to mesh because there is nothing especially tailored to you about these services; sure, you can check out certain Reddit channels, but there’s still very broad strokes. When it comes to feed reading, you can be selective and subscribe to only the things that interest you. With social news sites, you get what you’re given.

      While these services will be useful to some and it probably would be impossible to deem the app complete without them, I like to think of EventBox as a way to catch up on much more relevant, targeted material — much of it personal — than what these sites provide.

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      Twitter & Facebook

      Twitter and Facebook are the features of this app that really make it worthwhile and point to promising things for the future. They show how proper social aggregation should be done. The Facebook pane is a little light on features at the moment, but that will probably change as the application matures; last I checked you could only see people’s statuses and post your own, and view your friend’s pictures.

      Twitter is fairly well-rounded and allows you to do most anything you could do on the site. Twitter Search is right there built-in and that’s pretty useful. There’s a Profile Peek feature that allows you to keep an eye on any individual twitterer’s tweets, and tabs to monitor @replies directed to you and direct messages. TwitPic integration would be a great addition.

      RSS

      The RSS reader is well-implemented and uses the familiar two-pane view to navigate and read posts: on top you can see all the posts in your reader or an individual feed, and in the bottom pane you read the content of that feed. You can get to some basic functions by right clicking a post — email, open or copy the link, delete the entry from the view, and so on. For my tastes, it’s a little basic, as I like to make the most of a reader’s power features to get through the information faster. However, it will suit most people just fine and keeps everything in one place which is well worth the switch on its own.

      Keeping Users in the Loop

      The developers are responsive and listen to the needs of users. They’re active on Twitter and get involved in conversation. This is all great.

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      But when it comes to finding information, there’s a bit more difficulty.

      There’s no blog or way of checking recent news. Using Twitter and openly communicating is excellent, but it’s not the best for news and information. When I wondered why the Digg support promised on the application’s website was missing from the application, I had to resort to Twitter Search because there’s not enough info on the site. A blog could’ve made this much easier. Twitter doesn’t allow one to convey information in any amount of detail and it’s hard to find any tweets that are older than a couple of days.

      There’s also no information on using the program. Even a brief, one-page walkthrough on actually using the software would be better than nothing, but you’re entirely left to your own devices and need to figure out which features are and are not there for yourself. I would’ve loved to see release notes, but I couldn’t find them online, or find a way to get to them from within the application.

      The lack of documentation is excusable; this is beta software and time spent writing documentation would be time wasted. But I have to say I think every app needs a blog or some way of conveying information on-site, and if any app needs it most, it’s an app in beta.

      Final Thoughts

      EventBox is a great application. Where it does support services, it supports them well. It’s essential to remember that this is beta software and should be evaluated as such. I’m going to keep using it even if only to aggregate a couple of services in one place, and I know it’s going to be even better with a few more services supported.

      That’s all it would take to make this app awesome: more supported services, a blog, and a bit of documentation. What’s there is great. We just need more of it! Looking forward to the 1.0 release.

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      Last Updated on May 14, 2019

      8 Replacements for Google Notebook

      8 Replacements for Google Notebook

      Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

      1. Zoho Notebook
        If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
      2. Evernote
        The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
      3. Net Notes
        If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
      4. i-Lighter
        You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
      5. Clipmarks
        For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
      6. UberNote
        If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
      7. iLeonardo
        iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
      8. Zotero
        Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

      I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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      In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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