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Bill Bennett

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Gist beats Xobni tackling email, Twitter overload

Gist cuts through the deluge of incoming email, tweets and other messages. It sorts, highlights and presents your most important material in a simple format.

After one day of using the application I can see it has potential. But I’m not yet  convinced I’ll use it over the long-term. Here’s why:

Gist works with Gmail, Google Calendar, Outlook inboxes, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Salesforce. The software is a free web-delivered or cloud application. There’s a paid subscription version in the pipeline.

Like Xobni, Gist digs through your past emails and organises information, appointments and correspondence. Unlike Xobni it pulls together a range of information sources. That’s smart, email is only one of a number of information channels most people deal with.

Gist displays data on a dashboard where you can quickly see what the software decides is your most important messages. You can also view the information by the contact name.

Gist analyses your contacts then ranks them based on the number of communications with each person. The idea is to help you automatically filter out noise and focus on the most significant material.

Gist simplifies

In practice, it works, but only up to a point.

Here’s what it does well:

  • Gist does a great job of pulling together incoming material from different sources. I’m testing it with Gmail, Twitter and LinkedIn. Between the three I may have hundreds of incoming messages each day — in fact these are mainly tweets. Putting them all in one place is helpful.
  • My contacts have been automatically ordered in a league table, with the most important at the top. The list is good, but it’s not perfect. The people I’m working with are all on the first page, but there are people on the page who I don’t know well.
    And I’m not impressed to see Gist’s TA McCann as my most important contact.
  • I don’t use Salesforce and I haven’t yet tried Gist with Outlook so I feel a fraud for including this under the what Gist does well heading, but the software appears integrate smoothly with these applications – which will certainly make it a powerful option for those people using either product.

Here’s what’s not so great:

  • While Gist is good at deciding who your most important contacts are, it can’t decide which material from those contacts is the most important. In my industry there’s a lot of chatter on Twitter and the occasional gem. Material from LinkedIn contacts is important but not vital, yet most incoming emails are vital. I’d like to tell Gist to give incoming email more weight than tweets – perhaps I can do this and I just haven’t found out how, it’s only been on my machine for 24 hours.
  • I still feel deluged. It’s easier to get at some of the important material. I could use Gist instead of Tweetdeck. And it’s a better way of checking out LinkedIn updates than the RSS feed I use. But Gist is probably not going to replace my email inbox soon.

Better than Xobni

The headline says Gist is better than Xobni. The last time I looked Xobni only worked with Outlook, although it can pull personal information from Facebook and LinkedIn. Gist adds Gmail and Twitter putting it way out in front.

Xobni integrates with Outlook, but the composite screen is cramped on my desktop display and hard to view on my laptop. Gist on the other hand is browser-based (although there are integrated versions) and is easier to read.

Lastly, I found Xobni was slow to use and I suspected it slowed down Outlook as well – although I couldn’t quantify this.

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