Sneak peek at Strings: A social tracker with a twist

A new social tracking tool called Strings lets you share and track activity from other people online, then get recommendations for things you might like.

This week we got a sneak peek at a new social tracking site that's launching a little later this year. Called Strings, it's made up of tools that let you passively share your various on- and offline activities with others online, all in the hopes of both getting and giving recommendations from its online community.

In many ways Strings feels a lot like FriendFeed. For example, just like FriendFeed you're able to tie Strings into to various services you're using like Amazon, Netflix, and social-bookmarking tools so that it can implicitly share information about what you're doing on each of those services with others. And like FriendFeed, this information can be tracked and filtered depending on what type of content it is, and what group of friends it's coming from.

Where it differs though, is that this data feed begins with complete anonymity; nobody ever has to know it's you who is feeding the site. If and when you decide you want to start identifying data as your own, Strings has a very deep set of privacy controls to protect what other people can see.

The front page of Strings tracks activity in one of many silos. Seen here are all the music reviews from your friends or just other people on the service. (Click to enlarge.) CNET / Strings

It's also a lot more focused on filters, and filtering not just where content is coming from, but how users have interacted with it. This goes beyond things like a thumbs up or thumbs down, by telling you how they absorbed it. For something like a video this would tell you both that they watched it, as well as if they commented on it, made it a favorite, then shared it elsewhere--all in one note.

To keep this from being an information overload, users can go into each service and pick out which specific things they want to share, as well as who they want to share them with. And as they continue to make connections with other people on the service, they're given quick option to set what bits of that feed the other person is able to access.

For their allegiance to the site, users get a way to see what others are up as well as a way to get recommendations for things they might be interested in. These recommendations are sourced by users the service coins as "trend setters," anonymous users that are only defined by their activities. This means you can be a trendsetter for someone else without even knowing it. The site then picks up on what's becoming popular and puts it into that feed, weighing certain items more or less heavily depending on your own level of activity.

Each piece of content gets its own page on Strings, which breaks down how users have interacted with it. CNET / Strings

Beyond Web sites, Strings has a broader goal of tracking things you do while away from the computer. This includes a plug-in for TiVo which will share your DVR history, and a mobile phone app that will be able to share places you've visited. The company is also working on getting together a tool for shopping sites that will be able to scan the inventory and offer up suggestions of things you might like to buy based on your past purchasing history. The same technology can be used to recommend content on a blog, news site, and video- and photo-hosting services.

In the meantime though, there's work to be done. The version we saw still had a few things unfinished, including a Firefox add-on that gives users a heads up when they're on a service that can be tracked, along with more granular controls to tweak their sharing settings for that particular browsing session.

We'll have a full hands-on when the service opens up next month.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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