Sobees, the social media aggregator we’ve mentioned a couple of times before, has just released a new version. And surprise! This time around, it’s not a desktop app. Instead, the latest edition of the Sobees app now runs in a web browser using the newly released Silverlight 3.0 technology as well as Microsoft’s Azure Services platform to fetch updates from Twitter.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Sobees is known for their desktop .NET/WPF application which aggregates news and updates from across the social web including sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Digg. Using a multi-columned approach similar to that found in Twitter apps Seesmic and TweetDeck, the Sobees desktop app basically acts as a dashboard for the social media junkie.
The Web Application
When you first visit the new web-based application at sobees.com, you’ll be prompted to install Silverlight 3.0 if you haven’t already done so. After a browser restart, you’ll be presented with some configuration options to get the Sobees app set up properly. You’re asked to pick from various template options to determine the layout of your Sobees page and then you configure what service will display in each part of the grid. At the moment your only two choices are “Twitter” and “Real-Time Search” but Facebook is listed as “Coming Soon.” (The web app is still in alpha, after all.)
If you add Twitter, Sobees delivers what is essentially a web-based Twitter client within the selected window. The typical options are present including your friends’ timeline, replies (mentions), direct messages, favorites, and your own timeline. On the side of the window are buttons that let you move between the various views. There are also a couple of unique features to the web app including an “anti-spam” setting that lets you configure words to ban from your view of the timeline – perfect for removing those annoying sponsored hashtags like #moonfruit or any other keyword that you don’t care to see.
Sobees also allows you to create groups, but selecting members involves scrolling through a list of those you follow – way too much of a chore to be useful at this point. They’d be better off implementing a find-as-you-type option and/or search feature for parsing through your numerous Twitter friends. In addition, they should add some sort of option to add folks to groups by clicking or right-clicking on their latest onscreen tweet.
The “Real-Time Search” option is another interesting feature of the new web application. It doesn’t just pull from Twitter, as it turns out, but also from FriendFeed and real-time search engine OneRiot. Of course, since FriendFeed and OneRiot both aggregate tweets, it’s likely you’ll see some duplicate content. However, you can use the buttons on the side to just display one site or another, if desired. Alternately, you can shut off selected sites entirely from the “Options” area under “Services.”
Like the other recently launched Twitter web application from Seesmic, the Sobees web app is designed to sync with the company’s desktop client software, although this feature is not yet available in the alpha version, so I couldn’t test it out.
Hits & Misses
Overall, the Sobees UI still needs a little work. Their banner overpowers the app itself, for example. Also, when you have multiple columns open within the Twitter window, some of the text gets covered up in the columns’ titles. And when you click on a friend’s Twitter username, Sobees launches the website Twitter.com in a separate browser window. I’d prefer seeing something within the app itself. Hopefully, these interface tweaks are the sort of the thing that will be ironed out as the company continues its development of their online application. I’d love to see more supported services in the future, too.
It’s interesting to see what Sobees has managed to do with the Silverlight technology. I particularly like how they’ve configured the app to auto-refresh without having the whole page reload. Of course, if you can’t wait, manual refresh buttons are included too. (Although I’m not sure why the refresh button on the real-time search says the number “10” on it. What’s that about?)
It’s also nice that Sobees seems to remember all your settings even if you close your browser tab then re-open it again or even shut down your browser completely.
At the end of the day, though, Sobees is shaping up to become what may a useful live-updating interface for Twitter, real-time search and maybe in the future, the rest of the social web, too.