I rarely do tech reviews but I wanted to provide my experiences with three recent test drives, Microsoft 365, Kyoo and the controversial new Triberr application.

Microsoft 365

I have really been looking forward to this cloud-based office productivity application.

As a small business owner, putting my office management and document suite into the cloud can solve a lot of problems. I use a variety of access points — laptop, desktop, smart phone and iPad.  I’m tired of all the syncing and not syncing and this is the future of efficient business management and communication.

The price is really sweet. I can get all the basic functionality for $6/month, This includes web conferencing, which I am currently shelling our $49/month to achieve through Citrix. It’s worth the price of admission just for that.  The basic Outlook functionality works great and office tools like Excel and PowerPoint offer most of the great features of the original.

And for that price, I am thinking of bringing all my freelance partners together under the same Sharepoint umbrella offered in this suite. Hey, I can act like a big company now.

It is going to take some time to really optimize this and learn how to leverage the capabilities — and that is the basic downfall.  When I sign up for something like this, I want it to go POOF and magically integrate with my current Outlook software and basically just lay itself at my feet and say “Use me.”  Nope. First, there are instructions for the “administrator.”  The email tutorial includes comforting words like, “don’t worry about set-up, your administrator will take care of that.”

Dude.  I AM the administrator.

There is no POOF.  After several hours of manual setting manipulation and malfunctions, I am still not synched up all the way. I am especially having difficulty with multiple email accounts on Gmail and Yahoo.  Coordinating the Google Apps seems much simpler.  I’m wondering if MS rushed this to market to be cloud-worthy?  Online support is nearly non-existent.

I’m hanging in there because long-term I know this is the way to go — and the cost/benefit is tremendous – but it has been frustrating for a small business owner to spend so much time on set-up.

Kyoo Channels

I first saw this technology in action at Social Slam. It was an eye-popping interface that organized the social media wall of noise in a very compelling way. This channels development is something new and just launched last week.

This is something to use when you want to find and follow all the online buzz about a particular topic.  Let’s use Google as an example.

People are talking about Google, especially with the recent launch of Google+. And while many of us are using networks like Twitter and Facebook, in addition to blog posts and news articles to follow what people are saying about it, it’s historically been hard to follow the buzz around a topic across a variety of social platforms and news sources without having to visit each website individually. Kyoo Channels is hoping to change that.

Channels enables users to easily follow and interact with the online buzz surrounding popular trends and hot topics in real-time. Kyoo.com is a constantly updated content aggregation website that dynamically displays social content, images and videos surrounding a variety of topics, each on its own visual dashboard.

Each “Kyoo” displays the online buzz surrounding a specific topic – from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, social bookmarking websites, major news sources and blogs.

Current “Kyoos” span a variety of topics – from news and political topics such as the Casey Anthony trial and Barack Obama, to celebrities like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, to viral sensations such as “People of Walmart” and Pottermore, to lifestyle trends like extreme couponing and home brewing, and everything in between.

Give it a spin and let me know what you think.

Triberr

Triberr seems to be one of the most controversial developments in blog land.  Simply put it allows you to join a group that automatically tweets all of your new blog posts.

I was an early adopter because my friend Dino Dogan is a founder and asked me to try it out.  I ran into problems early on when the tribe added members who created posts that were inconsistent with what I would normally tweet.  I had to leave the group and start my own hand-picked tribe.

There are a few bloggers who are consistently so excellent I always tweet their posts. People like Stanford Smith, Jeff Bullas, Neicole Crepeau, and Jon Buscall. So we have our own little group going now.

There is a distinct ickiness factor to Triberr because it flies in the face of Twitter authenticity — tweeting a post before reading it.  But from a practical standpoint, it saves me a lot of time. I literally tweet every post from these guys any way so this allows me to offer quality content without digging through my blog reader every single day.

Triberr has added new features constantly, the most important being an option to operate in “manual mode.” This way, you can review queued posts and approve them before you tweet. Without this feature, I never would have bought into Triberr.

The problem is, many people probably won’t go to manual.  So there is a distinct danger of these tribes becoming unwieldy and clogging our streams.  It all gets down to people and their motives and we’ll probably see all flavors of strategies emerge.

In recent days, Triberr has received a lot of coverage, both pro and con but the posts I’ve seen miss an essential point.  Why would people resort to auto-tweeting in the first place? Why don’t they just concentrate on providing insanely good content that people will WANT to tweet?

The simple answer is that the path to breaking into the ranks of elite bloggers is stacked against good content.

With the way blogs are rated, either by Alexa, Post Rank or Ad Age, there is a cumulative effect of backlinks. For example, there was one blog in the Ad Age Top 50 that had not been updated since 2009.  Likewise, a long-time blogger like Chris Brogan may never fall out of the Top 50, even if he never blogs again because of the permanence of the links to his blog.

I also think that in many cases SEO trumps content.  Over the past six months a bevy of SEO blogs have been inexorably marching up the AdAge Power 150 list. I’m not saying they don’t have good content, but I guarantee you they have good SEO.  As an independent, solo blogger, I can’t bring that kind of fire power to my blog. And neither can you. That’s a big reason people are turning to a shortcut like Triberr.   It’s a sprint to get a lot of attention because it’s increasingly unlikely that a marathon of great content will work. My hunch is that if there were 50 SEO-focused blogs all aimed at getting onto the AdAge list, eventually all 50 would get there.

In other words, if you are a new or emerging blogger, it is going to be extremely difficult to get ahead on content alone. I find this a disturbingly sad fact but the reality of the situation. No matter how hard we work, we can’t overcome this legacy of backlinks, if these ratings are important to you.

The current grading systems could drive a focus on SEO gamesmanship over quality content.  We need a better accounting of blog efforts to give everybody a fair perspective of who is delivering great work. For example, a better system would feature a rolling 12 month average of content, comments, tweets, backlinks etc. You would have to “earn” your place every month, not just sit on history. This would at least give people a chance to be the best “now” rather than have to fight against this impenetrable legacy with systems like Triberr.

As for me, I intend to use Triberr in only a very exclusive and limited way as long as my most trusted blogging buddies continue to deliver the goods!

Have you tried any of these tools yet?  What are your thoughts?