If you ever feel like you're drowning in all of the information that social networks like Facebook and Twitter provide, you're not alone. That's where Bottllenose can help: This free online service helps you make sense of all the information that social media delivers. But its own feature set is so dense that it may overwhelm you at first, too.
Bottlenose takes all of the information that you get from social media--it supports Facebook, Google Reader, LinkedIn, and Twitter--and groups it into a series of streams. The streams, which are listed in a panel on the left side of Bottlenose's neatly-organized Web-based dashboard, are organized by the type of information they contain. "All" contains info from all your social networks, while "Inbox" lists messages and updates directed at you. Other streams include Private, @Mentions, Notifications, Suggested for You, and Popular. Bottlenose also includes several Filters, which are pre-defined streams that find information based on the content type, such as News, Tech News, Entertainment News, Videos, and more,
While simply scanning these streams will present you with plenty of information from your social networks, what's really interesting about Bottlenose is how it allows you to visualize the information in different ways. It includes two features, Sonar and Newspaper, that take the information from your social networks and arrange all of it in a visual format. When you click the Sonar option, Bottlenose analyzes all of the information in that stream and organizes it by concept. The results are laid out in a radar-like view, which shows you the most popular concepts and links them together when appropriate. You can click one of the topics to explore it further, or to see what additional topics are related to the original term. All of the analysis is done on your own machine, not on Bottlenose's servers, which the company says allows for "instant results." And Bottlenose really did perform very quickly: While some of the results weren't quite instantaneous, it never left me waiting for information to appear on my screen.
Similarly, Bottlenose's Newspaper feature analyzes a selected stream and presents its information in an easy-to-see format: as, you guessed it, a newspaper. You can scroll through the page, scanning headlines or clicking on articles for more information.
Bottlenose also includes plenty of advanced search features, including the ability for the user to create their own streams, using a set of rules that allow for sophisticated analysis. In fact, some of the rules and options are so sophisticated that discovering and understanding all of them may be quite difficult, especially for new users. Bottlenose does offer tutorials for new users and posts how-to videos on the company's YouTube channel; I highly recommend taking advantage of these resources in order to learn your way around.
While Bottlenose offers plenty of sophisticated ways for users to consume information from social media, its authoring tools aren't quite as advanced. In the current beta, users can post status updates and compose tweets, but they can't be scheduled for future posting. And you're restricted to using Bottlenose's own shortener when your Tweets run too long. Future updates will include support for the bitly shortener, rich text, and scheduled posts, the company says.
The current beta is free, and the company plans to retain a free version alongside a paid plan when Bottlenose exits beta later this year. But even in beta, this tool offers some of the best tools around for consuming social media, provided you can live with its authoring limitations for now.
Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you can use this Web-based software.
-- Liane Cassavoy