Need insights into what the social world is saying right now? Try Bottlenose2012-07-24
A few years back, real-time search engines were popping up everywhere. Recognizing that the web was transforming from a content archive to a venue for real-time engagement, venture capitalists and other investors starting pumping money into services with names like Collecta, Topsy, Scoopler, Kurrently, 48ers, Leapfish, and Social Mention. Some are long gone. Some linger but without any buzz around them. Social Mention and Topsy have built followings and, for those unable to pump dollars into a sophisticated fee-based service, they’re adequate enough.
But you’d think, given that the nature of the Web—and a huge amount of the value it delivers—is based on its immediacy, somebody would step up and give us the Google of real-time search. Even Google itself has boasted that social is its new field of maneuver. Problem is, they’re more interested in their own social network that anybody else’s. (Have you tried leaving a comment on a YouTube video lately? Google is making next to impossible without signing in to Google+ first and associating your comment with your real identity.) Google hasn’t come close to giving us the comprehensive real-time seach engine we’ve been jonesing for.
Yesterday, a new entry launched in public beta. Obviously these are early days, but Bottlenose may be able to stake its claim the mantle of the Google of real-time search. (The company’s initial salvo was a social media dashboard, introduced late last year.)
The folks behind Bottlenose prefer you don’t even compare it to a search engine, though. It’s a discovery engine, they say. And I can’t argue with that.
At its most basic, without even registering for an account, you can enter a search term and get access to what the online world is sharing right now on that topic. Looking for a juicy search term that wouldn’t also raise any hackles (you know, political, religious, that sort of thing), I settled on “privacy.”
On the left of the default screen are the most recent news reports from outlets like CNet, O’Reilly, Marketing Week and the like. The center column is a stack of portlets. The first contains trending topics related to your search. My “privacy” seach turned up trending topics like security, Black Hat, Facebook, YouTube and a dozen or so more. Below that are thumbnails of related images, and below that are posts from trending people. (They’re not actually all people; more like accounts. The privacy search turned up links to CNet and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, for instance.) The right-hand column contains recent links and recent comments. (For the screen shots, I switched to a search on Penn State.)
This default view appears under the “Now” tab, one of six views. The Stream, which updates whenever something new matches your search (rioght before your very eyes), contains tweets and other updates on the topic. Click one and you’ll get a full view of the message (including the option to repost it, reply to it, and more) along with profile information about the person who wrote it. If it has been retweeted or commented on, that’ll show up, too.
The Paper view takes the articles Bottlenose has found and presents them in a Pinterest-like style. You can see all the related images under the Pictures tab. Scanner is where you get some analysis, such as the kind of sentiment ratios Social Mention provides. You can apply filters and more I haven’t yet had time to play with.
Sonar is a visualization of the topic that puts your search term in the center, with relating topics in orbit around it on a sonar screen. Click one of the orbiting topics and it moves to the centerand the real-time stream to the right repopulates with related content.
Having kicked Bottlenose’s tires for only an hour or so, I can easily see its usefulness for as variety of cases. Marketers will love it (especially if they’re too budget-challenged to pony up the money for a monitoring service). On a whim (since I haven’t had much to eat today), I searched “Cadbury” and learned how the candymaker was being talked about at that moment (with the Olympics set to start, it’s no surprise that much of the conversation had to do wth the games; but plent of other angles bubble up, including people who just love their Cadbury mini eggs, someone who found a product they liked better—that was also raw and sugarless—and a link to Cadbury product images on Pinterest.
We PR types should find plenty of uses, too. What kind of reaction is the press release or organizational announcement getting? Bottlenose will give that feedback.
In politics, you can get a real-time sense of reaction to an announcement, a speech or a gaffe. A journalist can search for people to interview or quote. A product reviewer can get a sense of what others have thought. Even a plain old blogger can figure out what topic or angle might resonate with readers; I plan to take it out for a spin the next time I come down with a case of writer’s block.
Bottlenose doesn’t stop with these tools, though. By registering, you can connect your Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader and LinkedIn accounts and use it as a hub for your own social engagement while also finding out what your own network thinks about whatever topic you’re searching.
With an account, you also get a dashboard to which you can save your searches, and the default page presents a search based on the various topics the people in your community are talking about.
The search…er…discovery engine’s algorithm, “StreamSense,” applies in-house natural language processing, personalization and semantic techniques to identify what’s trending. According to a VentureBeat article, only seven people work for the company headed up by CEO Nova Spivack; funding so far has totaled a paltry $700,000 (according to All Things D).
Given the less than stellar history of real-time search tools, some are questioning whether Bottlenose can outperform its predecessors enough to become a habit. The company claims that the service has already attracted 60,000 “algorithmically-selected” users who spend an average of 90 minutes a day on the site. These probably aren’t the same types who spend equal amounts of time on Buzzfeed, but for those looking for a deep view of what people are talking about and sharing right now, Bottlenose is the best free option I’ve seen yet.
Here’s the Bottlenose introductory video: