Bottlenose Launch: A Smarter Way to Skim the Stream (Invites)

Another memorable startup from Nova Spivack and co-founder Dominiek Ter Heide hits the interwebs today, called Bottlenose, this time in the form of a stream reader.  Spivack feels the current market for stream readers doesn’t solve the issue of content overload, and he’s applying some natural language technology (one of those areas he’s keen on) to intelligently address the problem.  Bottlenose is launching in private beta today and we have invites for our faithful readers–use the invite code “siliconangle” before they run out.

The core of Bottlenose’s interface is Sonar, similar to a tag cloud based on your content and queries.  At first glance you’ll immediately pick up on the influence of one of Spivack’s earlier companies, Twine, which was sold to Evri last year.  Twine was a collaborative bookmarking tool that made searching and organizing your interests on the web a relatively simpler task.  If you recall, Twine was quite adept at making connections across your content, and Bottlenose does the same, branching out your stream content in a visual tree that’s interactive and quite telling of your networked activity.

Start with the dashboard, which pulls your streams from Twitter, Facebook and a host of other sources, into a central location (no RSS yet, but we can’t wait for it to be added).  This provides a holistic view of your streams, and automatically sorts content based on type and topic.  You can easily filter from here, launching a search query and even writing action-based rules to hone in on the content you want for a given topic.  These rules can be used to create specialized streams, and offers some extensive control over your content.

“Right now, ‘more’ is bad on the social web; but ‘more’ should be good. You should feel free to subscribe to more information without being overloaded, and you should be able to follow your interests without working so hard.” said Spivack, co-founder and CEO of Bottlenose.

“Other social media dashboards out there merely replicate the problem — they’re coping mechanisms at best. We’re actually solving the problem by bringing streams together, adding a powerful layer of intelligence and putting groundbreaking social assistance capabilities at your fingertips.”

The challenge of natural language in social media

As I mentioned earlier, Sonar is key to Bottlenose’s user experience, changing the way our stream is presented.  During Spivack’s demo, he wrote a rule to search my Twitter stream and I could immediately see my most frequently tweeted topic in the past week–Christmas.  Though Sonar is the visual aid for Bottlenose’s technology, it’s the heavy use of natural language that will help this startup to stand out from the growing crowd of stream readers.  Their team of ten is well-versed in natural language, artificial intelligence, NoSQL and Javascript.  In fact, Bottlenose ended up building their own natural language engine to deal with the specific obstacles of understanding stream content.  Just think about the typical tweet; its character limit often forces us to abbreviate our words, and shortened URLs can be tricky for an AI system to contextualize for natural language purposes.  Additionally Bottlenose’s natural language engine can run on the browser, so the company can scale without burdening the server.

Bottlenose’s natural language approach is two-fold.  “We have a way to recognize a bunch of types of different messages,” Spivack explains.  “The system knows how to find different things like patterns, words, forms of expressions, so it can figure out if something’s a review, complaint, how-to, a recipie, an opinion, a Q&A, or an event.  The second part is finding things you don’t know you’re looking for–we’re reading the message and determining the concepts here.”

One feature that didn’t tag along from the days of Twine is extensive social collaboration, though this will be a next step for Bottlenose.  It’s not a dealbreaker at this point, but collaboration capabilities are being layered into several curation-oriented services.  And while Bottlenose aims to be a hub for power users, fully aware that communication and media consumption is moving away from email, Bottlenose has plans to incorporate more email functionality as well.  This will be a perk for me, and for Bottlenose as well.  Spivack seemed equally excited at the prospect of email integration because Bottlenose will get smarter even faster when it’s able to learn your content behavior from a direct source.  “You shouldn’t have to spend so much time finding the things you want,” Spivack says.  “Get back to being productive.”