Note that we will have the amazing opportunity to have the CEO of YourVersion speaking to the class on Tuesday 4.13. Please prepare some questions/ideas!

Assignment
Create a yourversion.com account. Play around with it for awhile (at least an hour). Make sure to:
  • Enter an interest you currently have and actively pursue.
  • Enter an interest you currently have but don't actively pursue.
  • Read a few recommended articles. Give the system feedback.
  • Experiment with the features of the YourVersion recommendation bar.
  • Think about what the signal to noise ratio was. Did the service recommend interesting articles to you?
  • Add a friend, and explore related functionality.
  • Add Bookmarks (from delicious or otherwise).

Deliverables
By 13 Apr Tuesday noon, submit a 1-2 page write up to mse237@gmail.com:
Subject: DF1
Answer at least the following questions:
  • What problem does Yourversion solve for you (that wasn't solved before)?
  • What was a hurdle; what made it hard to use?
  • What would you change to improve the service?


Selected Answers:
  • What problem does Yourversion solve for you (that wasn't solved before)?
"I regularly use Google News for news, Youtube for videos, Amazon for products, and read a few choice blogs from subscriptions. To be honest though, I would not use this website over looking at all these things in separate tabs in my browser. I would only use this sort of service if there was something “special” provided, or if the aggregation or UI was exceptional. Nowadays, I’ll only use a new service if it’s really “cool”, I don’t see the wow factor here."

"The built-in share and bookmark function allows me to revisit specific resources at a later point of time. Additionally, I can also add bookmarks and discover content directly through a custom Firefox toolbar and bookmarklet."

" I categorize my surfing habits into two main categories: surfing out of boredom, and surfing out of need. I think the app does an amazing job of improving my surfing experience when I surf out of boredom."
  • What was a hurdle; what made it hard to use?
"The sites they recommended are usually terrible. Most are really short, low quality articles with a lot of ads. Out of the 20+ articles read, only 3 or 4 were moderately interesting."

"the content/spam ratio is horrendous, and the interface is cluttered at best."

"The add a friend functionality is bad. I should be able to browse through people who have made their profiles public, or by entering my Facebook Connect info, be linked up with my friends. I don’t want to enter the first name, last name, and email address of random friends who might not be on the service. It seems like it’s trying to make me spam my friends, which I don’t like. "

"I used Facebook Connect to connect to the service and was surprised that the service suggested none of my current Facebooks friends to me. I had to go the rather complicated route of importing my Gmail address book. The company should think about using the existing link graphs rather than rebuilding already existing connection."

" In my opinion, one of the main hurdles to the service is the user interface. Like many other aggregation websites, there are just way too many icons and tags, and share links all over the place."

"Each of the channels I use to find content uses its own methodology. Some sites like Buzz, Twitter, and Facebook, rely on my network of friends or followers/leaders. Google Reader Play relies on the blogs I follow and learns (supposedly) from my feedback. AbovetheLaw serves up content based on my interest in the legal industry. StumbleUpon serves up interesting sites based on my own interests, feedbacks, and combines those of others (much like Digg). YourVersion seems to apply mostly text searching with little attention to making connections between my interests, geolocation, or disambiguation. For example, my interests related to Silicon Valley (e.g., “startups,” “web 2.0,” etc.), seemed as likely to serve up articles from the Jerusalem Post as sources closer to the Valley. "

"When I tried to add friends, I was completely confused by the process."

"I also found that lack of proper search to be frustrating. It is easy enough to add an interest, but if I have to do that for every search I want to perform, my list of interests is going to become cluttered and the recommended stories will also become diluted. It would obviously be possible to delete interests after performing a search, but this is cumbersome. I realize there is the option to "Discover" in the toolbar, but I don't like adding toolbars to my browsers, so a search-like feature on the main page would be helpful."

"I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t use the ampersand (&) in the interest field. This made certain interests such as McKinsey & Company very difficult to get across. I had to put in McKinsey or McKinsey and Company, both of which led to a lot of spurious results. "

"Attempting to share a webpage with a friend (copy + pasting link) sent a YourVersion link to; necessitating them to sign up for the service to see my link. Only later did I discover the copy/paste original url link button at the top of a webpage"

  • What would you change to improve the service?
"While YourVersion worked perfectly when I would give them one search term, when I would give it two or three search terms it would give me empty results. E.g. when I searched “Kobe Bryant”, I got a plethora of blogs, but when I searched “Kobe Bryant, Basketball”, I got 0 found sites."

"Another difficulty is phrasing my interests properly. I typed in 'Family Guy' and it churned out all articles with the words family and guy in it just like what Google would do. Thus, one thing I would like to see is YourVersion being able to recognize phrases instead of filtering by individual words."

"In improving the service, I'd like Yourversion to distinguish between credible news sources, and random blogs. Perhaps there would be a list of high-quality domains (such as nytimes.com, iht.com, newyorker.com, etc) whose content is floated to the top of the service. I would randomly insert less-illustrious content in the midst of these heavyweights, and let users vote to keep it in or put it out with the trash."

"1)There is a lot of empty space on the home site. I don’t recommend cluttering the site, but it appears that only 5 articles are shown in the viewing window at a time. It would be convenient to skim ~10 articles or more at once without having to hit “next page”
2) Several times the website “froze” when I attempted to switch interests under the News tab. In each time, the processing icon appeared, and I had to wait ~1minute to continue the service
3) Allow users to customize the font color of the different Interests. This would allow me to more easily and quickly identify them at the top of the page (and it’s always nice to be able to customize some part of a site)"

"I would change their UI and make it simpler. Perhaps use of side navigating bars instead of putting all navigation options at the top (for instance, move “Discover”, “Bookmarks”, “Thumbed”, etc, into a left side bar, that way the user can quickly glance to the side and maneuver between those options, instead of having to look at the top and strain themselves to pick out where those links are, relative to the other 3 layers of links/options."

"When you click on one of the articles, YourVersion opens the page in an iFrame. This is a very bad move and ruins the user's entire Internet experience. This is what Digg tried to do with the DiggBar and it ultimately led to Kevin Rose taking back the CEO position and killing the DiggBar"

"With the evolution of web browsers, people do not bookmark pages as much as before. For instance, I am using Safari and it recalls the websites I visited; as a result, I do not need to bookmark the pages I am visiting often (Gmail, Facebook but also the news or my bank websites). Since we want to deduce the taste of a customer through her/his bookmarks, Yourversion should probably use her/his customers’ web pages history to have a better and more viable algorithm. Another argument is that with this method, we could introduce a weight on time: the more recent was the visit on this website, the greater the weight. This weight does not make much sense on the bookmark since the older the bookmark does not necessarily implied the less interesting. "