Category Archives: clipmarks

Shaking things up on clipmarks.com

For the past couple of years we have tried very hard to create a web site where people’s interests, curiosities and expertise could blend together to create a harmony of content that showcased the great diversity of mankind. We have tried to think outside the box, enabling anyone to post clips, pop clips or comment on clips. Rather than try to create some kind of algorithm that churned out a master list on our home page (like sites such as digg, reddit and many others do), we took a leap of faith and allowed our home page to be determined by the latest pops of each and every user. Miraculously and splendidly, this often produced a high quality ever-changing stream of content that we believe educated and entertained people, opened minds to new ideas, and made connections with information and people that otherwise may never have happened. For this we have been very proud.

Unfortunately, we have recently become increasingly concerned that the site has become overly antagonistic and inappropriately controlled by a disproportionately loud group of users. In all honesty, we no longer feel that the processes of our site are producing a unique, high quality blend of content. Instead, the magical blending of diverse topics on the Clipmarks home page has seemed to dissolve into a battleground for extremely hostile politically oriented users who are overwhelming the rest of the site. Because of this we are working on making some fundamental changes to the way the Clipmarks site works. We will do our best to make changes that improve the site and will continue to iterate until we are comfortable that it is just right.

Whenever we have intervened in matters on the site, we have often been accused of censorship; specifically in ways that people believe further our personal views. To those people, let me say that you couldn’t be more wrong. We have always been grateful for those users and clips that caused us to rethink some of our ways, see things from different perspectives, learn something new or most importantly, realize that we were wrong. I think it’s obvious to anyone who understands the way clipmarks.com works that if we wanted a web site that solely reflected our views and opinions, we never would have created clipmarks.com in the manner we did. Second, our decision to substantially alter the way the home page content is determined is something that everyone who works at clipmarks unanimously and passionately supports…and that includes people on both sides of the political aisle.

The changes we’re working on will hopefully be introduced very soon. We just wanted to give you advance notice of these changes and the reasons behind them.

Advertisements

List mode and “clip widgets”

Last night we uploaded some changes to the ClipCast to make it faster, and to add a bit of new functionality. You’ll notice that ClipCasts now default to list mode, allowing you to get an overview of what’s inside before you have to page through each clip.

If you prefer to keep using clip mode, you’ll now find options for switching the default in the settings of our iGoogle and Netvibes widgets, and also on getaclipcast.clipmarks.com .

We’ve also changed the name of the ClipCast to simply be the “Clipmarks Clip Widget”. While we liked the name ClipCast, it was confusing to new users, and the word “widget” is becoming widely understood as a small application that you can take and embed elsewhere to display information. At the core, that’s exactly what our Clip Widget does, so we’ve changed the name to match.

Along with the name change, stay tuned to this blog for more updates as we roll out changes to the site over the coming weeks!

Changes at Clipmarks…

So, last week we went live with Clipmarks 3.0; a HUGE set of new features, functionality and user interface changes. This was definitely the most challenging time we ever experienced, as it literally felt like there were a million pieces to the assemble. Overall, I feel really good about how everything went. That said, there were a few things I wish we handled better. Tonight, we’re introducing the first in a series of updates aimed at improving upon the initial release of V3.0. These are based in large part on amazing feedback we received from our users. So, here are some of the big changes:

  1. The home page is back to the Classic View. We had tried to change it to a page that was more focused on getting our messaging across, but at the end of the day, we just missed the old home page too much to live without it…it’s back!! 🙂
  2. We have redesigned the style and navigation of the site header. There’s no doubt the header was confusing so we gave it another shot. I think this one is much more effective.
  3. When a clipper adds remarks to their clip, the remarks are now shown at the bottom of the clipped content inside the ClipCast. This one is awesome!!
  4. On Facebook, we made a number of design changes to our app, including showing you which one of your friends popped a clip when you’re looking at the Pops by My Friends ClipCast.
  5. We’re currently having a problem displaying video in ClipCasts, so for now, we have added a link that will take you to the video.
  6. We worked out a ton of other issues that are each too small to get into here, but that together make Clipmarks a much steadier ship.

Thank you to everyone for giving us your feedback and caring so much about Clipmarks. We’ve got a lot more coming…

Clip on!

eric

An update to our users regarding ClipCast

In response to feedback we have received from many of you, I just want to reiterate that we did not create the ClipCast to compete with our traditional web site (what we are now calling “classic view”). The reason we developed the ClipCast is so that you could effectively take clipmarks with you when you go somewhere else – anywhere else – on the web. There are two main reasons to use a ClipCast. First, if you want to have your friends elsewhere see your clips, put a ClipCast of your clips on facebook, MySpace, your blog, or any other site. Second, if you want to be able to follow clips from all clippers or your favorite clippers, put a ClipCast of any feed on sites like iGoogle and Netvibes.

There was literally no way in the world we could build ALL the functionality and ease of our entire site into the ClipCast. But quite honestly, I think the team did an incredible job coming close. I’m not saying this to be defensive, just saying it because I think to compare the functionality of an entire web site to that of a Flash application is unrealistic. The bottom line is that I hope you won’t look at the ClipCast and Classic View with an eye to compare them to each other. Rather, I hope you will look at them as serving two entirely different purposes. You can obviously use one or both of them, depending on your needs.

I am very excited about how the ClipCast empowers our users to easily spread their knowledge and ideas beyond the borders of clipmarks.com. I think in time it will allow all of us to have greater influence and impact on the proliferation of information around the web without having any negative impact on the quality of the experience on clipmarks.com.

— eric

Clipmarks 3.0 – Introducing ClipCast

One of the greatest users of Clipmarks stated on his blog, “The 21st century marks the beginning of the ‘new information age’, at which, nothing will be hidden under the sun. If in this new era the entire world is about to witness a dramatic change on how the information is created and shared, the pioneers of this revolution should be emerging all over the world right now.” Well, the pioneers of this revolution are all of us…we the people who use the web. We are on it 24 hours a day; searching, finding, uncovering, discovering, teaching, sharing, learning.

At Clipmarks, our mission is to help empower people to make greater use of the information they discover on the web. Specifically, we want to make that information more portable and easier to consume. With that in mind, we went back to the drawing board in January, 2007, aiming to create a solution that better accomplished our goals. Eleven-and-a-half months later, we are now lifting the curtain on a new version of Clipmarks. Version 3.0 – centered around our new ClipCast technology – is all about opening up the Clipmarks experience to people wherever they go on the web.

Specifically, Clipmarks 3.0 enables users of Facebook, MySpace and any other web site to easily and instantly share anything they clip from the web directly with their friends on any other web site. In effect, everyone one of us becomes a hunter for cool, interesting information that our friends should see. With Clipmarks, any piece of information found on the web is now literally a click away from being shared with friends on any other web site.

We hope that by making information more portable and easier to consume, all people will be able to gain a bit of knowledge about a wider variety of topics than ever before. In the spirit of Invictus’ quote above, it is truly the responsibility of each and every one of us to discover and share the world’s information. We hope that Clipmarks 3.0 is a step towards making that more possible.

— eric

A couple of updates on the site

This morning, we uploaded a few changes to the site. There are two that I’ll briefly mention and then one that I want to discuss a bit more in depth.

1) Featured Popper: Each day, we will now have a Featured Popper on the site (below the Featured Clipper on the right side of the home page). We’re looking for ways to recognize users who consistently pop clips on the site. It’s currently difficult for them to get the appreciation they deserve, simply because popping is a more anonymous act than clipping. However, just as the site wouldn’t function without the great contributions of clippers, it also relies on people who pop the most interesting clips so that everyone else can have a better chance of seeing them. Adding a Featured Popper to the site each day is our first step in giving greater recognition to our poppers.

2) Who’s following who: Under each open clip (just to the right of the clipper’s username) you will see a little button that displays the number of followers the clipper has. Clicking this number will open a window that lists each of the users who are following that clipper. By making it easier for people to see who is following each clipper, we hope to also make it easier for everyone to connect with more users . The idea here is that if you know that a bunch of users who you like and respect are following a particular user, then you would likely be interested in learning more about that user and perhaps following his/her clips too. Over the next few weeks we’re going to try making each users My Clippers list a much greater focus of the site.

3) Ignore clippers: We have always taken great pride in the open nature of our system. Other than a few rare exceptions, we have tried to create a site that is completely in the hands of its users. Users contribute the clips…users pop their favorites for others to see…and users are free to add their own comments to any clip. Though we are very passionate about the concept of a completely open system without any limitations on user behavior, based on our observations of the Clipmarks site as well as other sites, we feel that it’s necessary to embrace some rules and boundaries in order to maintain harmony as the size of our user base grows. I anticipate this being an ongoing process where we do our best to react to site dynamics with measures that honor the idealism with which we started Clipmarks but also address some of the realities that come with a growing user base on the Web. As I indicated in this video clip, we have recently begun introducing a number of measures on the site aimed at dealing with this issue.

This morning, we added a little “x” next to each username in the comments section of each clip. If you click the “x” a little window will open that allows you to hide that user’s clip and/or comments as well as block them from commenting on your clips. Though these options can be used at each user’s discretion, I strongly ask of you not to use it to block people on the grounds that they disagree with you or who present views that challenge your own. It is through the presentation of differing views that we learn, so please, lets not use this as a way to censor those who don’t advocate our own way of seeing things.

We are offering this feature because of some consistent user complaints as well as our own observations that some comments on the site seem overly antagonistic. There have certainly been times when i have read comments on a clip and felt bad for the user who posted the clip because the comments seemed so inappropriately harsh. I’ve struggled with the decision of whether to simply allow this to continue because of my desire to keep clipmarks as open as possible or to try to curb it. Ultimately, we decided that each user should be free to make these decisions for themselves.

If you relate this to the Don Imus situation, our goal is to remove our own discretion from the equation as much as possible so that unlike CBS that chose to yank Imus off the airwaves, users will be able to make the choice about who they interact with on the site. Lastly, I’m hopeful that simply knowing that others can block you from commenting on your clips will spur people to maintain a greater level of respect for each other…even through their debates and disagreements. One suggestion/request I’d like to propose is to not use this measure immediately based on people’s past comments. Give this new system a chance to have an impact on how people comment and then use it when you feel necessary.

Like all of our work, nothing is permanent. If we come to believe this is a mistake or that there is a better approach, we will gladly make adjustments.

Introducing ClipSearch

This is a big one for us. So far, Clipmarks has relied solely on user-generated tags to power our search. But after a number of requests from our users, it finally sunk in, “why the heck aren’t we letting people do keyword searches based on the content inside of clips?” Talk about the easiest, most powerful way to keep track of the stuff you find online! Just clip things you find and have them automatically added to your own keyword searchable library. Each clipper is literally filtering the web to their liking and should have a search engine that lets them easily sort through it all. Brilliant! Well, today I am very excited to announce the introduction of ClipSearch!!

ClipSearch doesn’t only apply to each user’s library of clips. It also powers the search in the public library of clips on our site. So, anytime you want to find clips about something you’re interested in, you can find matching ones regardless of whether they have matching tags.

And in a tip-of-the-cap to StumbleUpon, we wanted to let visitors to the site jump around from topic to topic, without knowing what would come next. So we’ve introduced the “Surprise Me” button. The idea here is that you don’t always know what topic you’re interested in, but you’d like to explore until you find one. It’s just like turning on the tv and not knowing what you want to watch, but using the remote control to change the channel until you find something good.

In addition to ClipSearch and Surprise Me, we made a couple of other changes to the Clipmarks web site…

1) Live update: The list of results no longer updates in real time unless you want it to. We’ve started to worry lately that the list is moving a bit too quickly (accidentally clicking on the wrong clip title became a too familiar occurrence for us 🙂 ). But, if you want the live update on, just switch it on in the lower-left corner of the Clip List and check the “remember this” box in the window that opens.

2) 40 instead of 100: Each set of results now lists 40 clips instead of 100. The reason for this (aside from slightly less load on our server which will speed things up a bit) is that we just think 100 choices is too many to make. It’s like those chapters in a book that are so short and sweet you just feel good reading them. I would much rather read 5 chapters that are 6 pages each than one 30 page chapter. That’s kind of the thinking behind the change to showing 40 results at a time.

3) 3rd Line: Instead of showing who the latest user to pop a clip was, the third line of each clip in the list on the home page now displays the clipper’s original remarks. The main issue we’re addressing with this change is the desire to give greater attention to a clipper’s remarks, as we believe they play a big roll in defining a clip. Another reason for this change is some feedback we’ve received from users who said they often held back from popping clips that they thought deserved to be popped because they didn’t want to be perceived as taking over the home page clip-list. While we certainly hope people still use discretion when deciding what clips to pop, we don’t want to make anyone feel tentative about having their name show up too much. I have to admit, I’m very uncertain and nervous about this change. But, one of the beautiful things about developing something on the web is that you can always react quickly if you change your mind or make a mistake. So, we’ll be watching and listening closely to see what kind of impact this has.

I hope you like the changes we’re introducing today. FYI…if you need some tips on doing a ClipSearch, visit this page.

Ready to get surprised? Try it now:
Surprise Me

More soon.

— eric