We recently covered Daylife, a beautifully designed (some would say overdesigned) guide to the day's news. We called it the "anti-Digg," due to its editor-driven content and its focus on design. Today, another content packager launches: Boxxet.
Boxxet collects information on popular topics--sports teams, popular TV shows, consumer products, and so on. Each Boxxet topic (or set) gets links to related news stories, photos, stuff to buy, a Digg-like list of bookmarks, forums, and its own RSS feed.
The organizational scheme is good, and the pages are easy to navigate considering the amount of info they contain. For Boxxet to work, though, it needs content, and this is where the site breaks with current thinking. Unlike social bookmarking services and also unlike community topic sites such as Squidoo, Boxxet's pages are run partly by machine and partly by editors. Boxxet has harvesting technology that collates items into its pages, and its editors and volunteers rate items for applicability. CEO You Mon Tsang calls this "bionic" editing and claims that it can maintain quality in the most popular topic areas.
In other words, users can help fine-tune the items Boxxet includes in its pages. But they can't create all-new sets on their own (at least not yet). Boxxet thus covers not the voguish "long tail" of content but rather the "short snout"--just those areas that the company knows are popular and that are worth the effort and money to create sets for. Boxxet is a good resource for exploring a topic it has a set on, but it's frustrating when you search for a term (such as "Deadwood") and come up dry, because there's nothing you can do except e-mail the company and request that it start a new set for you. In that way Boxxet is a very un-Web 2.0 experience--it's reminiscent of About.com.
There have been some interesting pieces written on Boxxet's different philosophy for creating online resources, including this story from the MIT Technology Review. But the question we ask at Webware.com is practical, not philosophical: Is the site useful? So far, it is. In many ways Boxxet is what a Web portal should be. For topics it has coverage of, its pages are useful, up-to-date, and nicely organized. It's worth a try.