Corporate knowledge workers may find themselves overwhelmed by the many networks they have joined, and some startups are looking to alleviate these information overload pains with software tools that help users manage their inboxes.
Gist launched as a beta Sept. 15 with a new twist on e-mail management. While applications such as Xobni help users search for e-mail in their Outlook inboxes, Gist is a free Web service that lets users better manage their personal and professional contacts in Microsoft Outlook, Google Gmail and Salesforce.com.
Gist is a kind of social network profile aggregator, pulling profile information on people and companies from networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as from more than 20 million blogs and more than 50,000 news sources. Rather than making users jump from Outlook to Twitter, then Facebook, then LinkedIn and back to Outlook to find contacts, Gist aggregates the network information in the user's e-mail home base.
But it's not just a simple aggregator. Like Xobni, Gist analyzes the contacts, then ranks and prioritizes the importance of contacts based on the frequency and timing of messaging interaction with the Gist user.
"Those who I e-mail most frequently with are deemed more important than those who I do not, with the goal being to aggregate large sums and pieces of content and serve that up to the user in an automated way," Gist Vice President of Marketing Robert Pease told eWEEK.
User profiles are updated on the fly as new information becomes available from the social networks, blogs and other news sources.
For example, Gist will scour its users' Outlook or Google Calendar applications (or both) to find the most timely meetings. Contacts with whom the Gist user has scheduled a meeting that day will get a higher priority than contacts with whom the user has scheduled a meeting for the following day, Gist founder and CEO T.A. McCann told eWEEK.
Gist hits a social network management sweet spot. Over the long haul, this could save users a heap of time and stress, and it will certainly free up computing resources so that users don't have to bring up multiple browsers to access all of their networks.
Gist isn't launching willy-nilly; it's been battle-tested, with 10,000 business users trying it out in a limited release. One might almost call today's beta test a Beta 2.0.
McCann told eWEEK Gist plans to embrace the "fremium" model and charge on a monthly basis for premium Gist services in the future. However, what those will be is unclear at this time. One thing is certain: There won't be any advertising in Gist, McCann said.
McCann said he is focused on the crowd that uses CRM applications like Salesforce.com and who access work data from Apple iPhones or RIM BlackBerry smartphones on the road. As a result, Gist is also accessible from mobile smartphones, and the company plans to launch an iPhone application in October (approval process pending).