My friend You Mon Tsang is finally taking the covers off of Boxxet, his third startup since I first met him a decade ago. It looks very promising. Boxxet takes aim at one of the problems I targeted in the livable web manifesto: that the World Wide Web as viewed through Google is just too big, too filled with spam and garbage, and too hard for most people to manage.
Or, as You Mon puts it, the web is filled with “rants layered on opinions layered on analysis layered on rumors.” There’s a ton of good information out there, but how do you find the good stuff? One way is by creating sites that collect only high-quality information on narrow topics.
Boxxet uses a “bionic” combination of human intelligence and computer-based textual analysis to create focused fan sites, or “boxxets.” (“Box sets” — get it? Domain names must have been hard to come up with.) Each boxxet contains lots of useful, prefiltered information on a specific topic. For instance, the boxxet for Madonna has news about her ridiculous African adoption, pictures of Madonna, and Madonna forums. There’s a list of the top blogs and top bookmarks about the star. Naturally there’s a tab to buy Madonna-related merchandise.
Similar collections exist for big-league sports teams, TV shows, Disneyland, and even some technology topics like Web 2.0. The textual analysis isn’t perfect, but it’s surprisingly good, and if you’re a fan of one of the topics covered by Boxxet, this could be a very easy way to stay in the loop.
Of course each Boxxet has its own RSS feed, so you can drop it right into your favorite newsreader.
Boxxet’s biggest shortcoming right now is the limited number of topics it covers. You Mon tells me they’re deliberately limiting the topics because of the large amount of processing power it takes to create and maintain a boxxet. But over time, the site will need to expand its topic coverage massively in order to succeed.
I’d also like to see more opportunities for individual tuning of Boxxets, so I could create variants on my favorite topics or even combine boxxets (San Francisco Giants AND Oakland A’s, Johnny Depp OR Keanu Reeves).
Boxxet is superficially similar to About.com or Squidoo, in that it collects a bunch of micro-sites that guide you through the thickets of the web in a (relatively) trustworthy way. But About and Squidoo are highly dependent on the quality of their individual editors, however, and a bad or lazy editor can make a topic useless — with no opportunity for any recourse or second opinions.
With Boxxet, the topic is not in the hands of a single capricious individual, which should help things: Instead, computer algorithms (continually enhanced by occasional human ratings) do the filtering, which may ensure a more consistent quality for Boxxet’s topics. I hope so.
Check it out: I think Boxxet has a lot of potential to make the web easier to navigate on a topic-by-topic basis. It will be interesting to see how it develops. And in the meantime, there’s a killer collection of Scarlett Johanssen news and photos I have to go check out.