Filtrbox Dials the Noise Way Down

Filtrbox Home PageI hate learning curves. I hate having to futz and fiddle with my apps to figure them out. I want the functionality to be intuitive, and if it is not, I throw up my hands and move on to something else. I attribute this impatience to information overload and don’t want to have to use a crowbar to insert complex instructions for an app into my brain when it is supposed to make my life easier.

That said, I am so glad that I took the time to seek out a demo of Filtrbox. As someone who is a major consumer of information from the Web as part of my Web work, Filtrbox is going to be my new best friend. Initially, I misunderstood its purpose and saw it as another feed reader. But with some hand-holding from the company, I realize that their term “media monitor” truly is a better fit. And I’d add “little miracle worker” and “fire hose diffuser” to the description.

At its most basic, Filtrbox let’s you create filters and filter groups to parse online information based on keywords. The filtering process involves ranking algorithms that you can dial up or dial down based on the level of noise you want to keep out.

The rankings consider:

1. Popularity and credibility of the site or blog where the information was published.

2. Contextual relevance, for example, how many times and how high up in the article or post your keywords appear.

3. Smart attention to how you interact with the data you receive via your filters such as which articles you star and which ones you “x.” And if you keep reading certain types of articles, rank scoring increases for that domain on that particular topic.

At your Filtrbox dashboard, you have two sliders – Filtr Rank and Show days. With Filtr Rank, articles and posts are ranked from 1-10, with 10 being most relevant in every possible way based on the input you’ve given. You can increase the filtering by rank or decrease by simply moving the slider, and you can watch the results from your features appear or disappear depending on the direction you go. In seconds, you can watch the noise disappear and can end up with only the highest ranking articles if you don’t have time to go through a lot at any given time.

With Show days, you can decide how old or new you want the articles and blog posts to be in the filter results. If you only want to read the last day’s worth, slide the slider to one. With the free version of Filtrbox, you get up to 5 Filtrs and 15 days of history for a single user. I know in my industry, often reading something more than two weeks old can be a detriment when I’m looking for the absolute latest on any given event, technology or news.

You can also change the way your filter results are sorted and presented to you. You can Sort by Rank, Title, Date, By Filter or by the ones you have Flagged. You can review results as a list which requires more scrolling but with this view you can star and flag articles, “x” or delete them if they are totally irrelevant, and share them by email (it took me a while before I recognized their email envelope icon as an envelope – one of those little intuitive issues). You can also view your results in a data grid to see ranking, flags, title, corresponding filter name and date at a quick glance.

My Filtrbox PageYou can filter your articles by Sources which include mainstream, blogosphere, twitter and friendfeed. Adding twitter and/or friendfeed greatly increases your results, thus increasing the noise, but knowing what is being said in the most immediate ways via popular microblogs can be very useful when looking for the latest trends.

After making your filter groups and filters, you can turn each one on and off to vary the way information is sliced and diced and delivered to you. To start, I made three groups with a number of filters in each one:

  • Social Media
    • plurk
    • social media
  • Vanity Search
    • Aliza Sherman
    • Cybergrrl Oh
  • Virtual Worlds
    • google lively
    • second life
    • kaneva

Besides an Articles view, you can view your information through the Analyze feature and see how the mentions of topics for each filter you’ve created ranks against other topics you’ve selected. While this is much more than I need to know on a regular basis about the data I filter and consume, I can see using this if I were filtering for a client and wanted to see which campaign or project generated the most online ink. Or when looking to explain to a client how much more popular Second Life is right now as compared to Kaneva or, I could check the rankings to get a snapshot.

For Web publishers and bloggers, you can also embed a Filtrbox widget into your site or blog and provide your filtered news feed as additional content on your site.

According to the company, the purpose of Filtrbox is to drill down, analyze and control the noise. Now that I have a firmer grip on the many ways the company’s application does this, I’m impressed. The application offers two premium levels: Pro provides 25 filters and 45 days of history for a single user for $20/month or $200/year. Team provides 100 filters, 1 year of history, and up to 6 users for $100/month or $1000/year.

At the moment, I’m happy with the free version, but that doesn’t mean I may not upgrade soon. My only worry is that at some point, if I have too many filters, I’ll end up having to filter my filters and then filter the filters that filter my filters. Until that time, I can just let out a nice big sigh of relief as Filtrbox gives me control over the clatter of information noise and helps me to consume more quality stuff.

Disclosure: Filtrbox is backed by True Ventures, also an investor in GigaOmniMedia, the parent company of this blog.