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Nextaris: An Integrated Web Research Dashboard

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Nextaris pulls together all of the tools you need to find, save, and share information with others in a single online location.

I've been seeing a trend develop recently, toward a convergence of online research and collaboration tools. I've written a fair amount over the past year about web research managers that enable you to save, organize, search and share web pages you've visited.

While these tools are great, they have shortcomings. They assume that you've already found information, either through a search engine or otherwise. They also have somewhat limited sharing capabilities. These drawbacks aren't profound, but they mean that you need to use more than one to accomplish most of your online research and communication tasks.

Nextaris, from the same folks that brought you SurfWax, is an initial effort to integrate the various tools we all use in online research. Like other online web research managers, lets you create folders to save cached copies of web pages, and search the content you've saved. There are also tools that allow you to easily publish the content you've found, to a web site or a blog.

What sets Nextaris apart are the additional tools it provides, all accessible via tabs. The search tab gives you access to a few dozen search engines. Unlike SurfWax, which is a meta search engine, you select search sources with radio buttons. Another tab lets you create news trackers which automatically find news and recent information from over 4,000 sources. A separate, personal news page is created and updated twice daily for each NewsTracker.

To me, the most interesting feature Nextaris offers is the ability to share folders with others. This is a true peer-to-peer system, allowing you to collaborate in virtually real-time with others. Beyond sharing folders of saved research with others, Nextaris also has a messaging system that lets you communicate with collaborators, as well.

I can see this being particularly useful for team members that need to work the web together. Business researchers should find Nextaris helpful for doing competitive analysis work, for example. Librarians building web directories will be able to more easily share and maintain their portals with these tools.

Nextaris is still in beta, and has a number of rough edges. Saving pages to Nextaris servers seems slow compared to other web clipping programs. The user interface can get cluttered. And Nextaris sessions time out in an annoyingly brief five minutes, requiring you to log in again to continue using the service. You can increase the timeout length to up to three hours in your account settings, but it's not clear why a research and sharing oriented tool like this should time out at all.

These nits aside, I think Nextaris is blazing a trail for the next generation of web research tools. We don't just surf the web, or search for information, or message others any more. Our online work increasingly combines all of these tasks -- and yet our tools don't play well together, at least not yet. Nextaris is a good initial effort toward integrating a more complete set of tools into a unified "dashboard" for interacting both with the internet and other people.

Happy Birthday, ResearchBuzz!

Congratulations to long-time pal and searcher extrordinare Tara Calishain, who's publishing the 300th issue of ResearchBuzz today. If you aren't a subscriber, you should be.

If you prefer to get your news via RSS feeds, Tara offers a bunch of them including the full ResearchBuzz Feed, and specialized feeds with news about Google and Yahoo.

Tara also maintains a web site organized into 200+ Categories that provides a wealth of great web search resources, including reviews of hundreds of invisible web databases.

Visit the ResearchBuzz New User's Guide to get a full overview of what's at the site.

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