These days, it sometimes feels like I sign up for a new social network every single week. So many people I know work on a daily basis with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Flickr, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube…the list goes on. Often, managing those networks is as big of a task as the actual work you have to get done. As a result, we’ve seen growth in an obvious market for apps and services that consolidate those networks and let you manage what gets shared and where.
Life Stream is a (very) young contender in this space, developed by Bloop. It attempts to integrate all of your social networks into one stream of social media information. How well does it execute this premise? Hit that “more” link to find out.
Naturally, the first thing you’ll need to do after running Life Stream is connect it with some (or all, support allowing) of your social networks. The app connects using each networks public API, which is both comforting as well as indicative of the exclusion of certain networks.
Presently, Life Stream supports Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, Google Buzz, Instagram, Flickr, Gowalla, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and Gmail, but Bloop has promised integration of more networks as development continues.
It’s important to note here that Life Stream does not support posting to your accounts (though it will let you comment on certain things like YouTube videos and Facebook posts)–it is solely for monitoring the activity on your social networks. While I appreciate what this could do for productivity, this would need to change if Life Stream is to become my main social media hub application.
There are a lot of places that Life Stream falls short of becoming my go-to social media aggregator, but the interface really isn’t one of them. It is bold, clean, and looks really good.
A list of all supported accounts is displayed on the left side of the window (the blue icons are the ones that I have connected). Additionally, each icon will display a red indicator if there is a problem connecting, or a yellow indicator if that account is in the process of syncing.
Next to the accounts bar is the stream. This is where the main functionality of Life Stream is located. All of your connected accounts funnel into one consolidated stream of information. The Life Stream window can be adjusted to three different layouts with the buttons on the bottom, the first of these only showing the stream pane. I found this to be the most useful view, as it would let me keep an eye on all of my social media accounts while working. The inability to post actually came in handy here, as I was able to keep tabs on my networks without getting too off-task from my work.
The second window view shows the content pane, which will display the content of which ever item from the stream you click on. This is where comment boxes are displayed if the networks supports it. Also, YouTube videos will display in this pane, as well as videos posted to Facebook. For some reason, content that includes links (such as tweets) won’t display the link, but rather an icon (literally displayed as “Link”) that will open the link in a new browser window, or in the third pane, if enabled.
The third pane is for in-app web browsing. As far as I can tell, it does a decent job supporting browsing, but the inability of content in the content pane to resize itself makes viewing Life Stream in three-pane mode absurdly wide. This may not be an issue on some of the larger iMacs, but I certainly couldn’t fit the full width of Life Stream on my 15” MacBook screen.
While you can search your stream with the search bar at the top, the one major interface change I would like to see added to Life Stream is the ability to view your incoming information by account. Currently, there is no way to separate the posts coming in from each of your networks–they can only be viewed in the consolidated stream.
We’ve seen developers try to tackle this obvious app/service niche before. Admittedly, I had really high hopes for Life Stream, and while I can forgive it for being such a young project, it has a long way to go before it lands a permanent spot on my dock. The main thing I see in this app is potential.
Life Stream, as I mentioned, is still a relatively new application, and as more networks get integrated, it could definitely get better. The concept for the app is brilliant, and while we’ve seen it in both app and web-service form, I still await a suitable desktop application. The two most important things in such an application, in my opinion, would be overwhelming support for all of my social networks, as well as an interface that gives me easy access to all of the information I want to see and the ability to contribute to those networks.
What would you look for in a social media management app?
As a relatively young app, Life Stream consolidates your incoming streams of social media. It may still be a little weak right now, but it shows nothing but the utmost potential.6
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