November 1st, 2007
Marcelo Calbucci, the founder of Sampa produces a monthly list chronicling tech startups in Seattle, and ranking them according to their ratings in Alexa and Compete. These ratings are notoriously inaccurate, but most people consider them “better than nothing” and it’s cool to see all of the startups tracked in a single list.
October 29th, 2007
If you missed it, the video is online here: Client-side Website Optimization with YSlow.
If you want a copy of the slides, they are here. There are also more details in the slide notes in some cases. The presentation covers:
- What YSlow is, how you use it, and what it does for you
- How browser caching works - the Expires header, Etags, and Conditional GETs
- Simple compression techniques for minimizing bandwidth usage
- Strategies for optimizing HTTP requests
- Techniques for modifying web page structure to improve performance
October 17th, 2007
A lot of sites, including ours, use Google Analytics to study how people are interacting with the site. It’s overboard for simply measuring visitors, but if you want to track specific conversion goals (like how many new visitors who hit the front page ultimately sign up for an account) it’s great.
September 9th, 2007
Like movies? So do we. That’s why we’re pleased to be sponsoring the next RAWSTOCK film festival coming up on Friday, September 14th at the ACT Theatre here in sunny Seattle. A swanky new venue, over twenty short films, a live band, and an in-theater bar all hint toward a night that won’t leave you thinking “I wish I had just stayed home and watched Gilmore Girls”.
Tickets are $15 per person and can be ordered online at the ACT Theatre website or from the theater box office located at 700 Union Street.
Hope to see you there!
September 7th, 2007
It all started 5 months ago, when an early beta tester reported that these headphones mysteriously appeared on her list. I looked into it and they didn’t seem out of the ordinary, aside from the fact that they didn’t have a rating (and back in those days, we didn’t have the little green check marks, so everything had to have a rating). Months went by and there were no similar issues. Eventually, the headphones started popping up on other people’s lists. No other item in the entire catalog of wishes had ever done this. Just those headphones, and just certain people. If they deleted them, eventually they’d come back. The headphones were unstoppable.
Pouring through the logs, the best clue I had was that this was happening at night, probably during our scheduled Amazon sync. The users who were affected also happened to be users who had linked Amazon wishlists, although not every user with a linked Amazon wishlist got the headphones. The headphones aren’t even interesting. There are no weird characters in the name, and they didn’t even have a particularly special ID (it’s 4). Today, at long last, the mystery was solved.
August 22nd, 2007
Last week John and I gave the first ever public demo of Wishlisting at the Seattle Tech Startups group (sorry for not blogging about it in advance!). It went very well and we met a lot of great people. We’ve been attending those meetings since the very beginning, and I was happy that our first public demo of the site took place there. For those of you who have never been, I’d definitely recommend signing up for their mailing list and checking out the meetings (although they end up packed - show up early!). Gaurav and Chuck do a great job with them.
Last night we met another group of people (and saw some familiar faces) at the nPost.com networking event at Del Rey in downtown Seattle. That’s another get-together I’d recommend if you’re interested in meeting people on the startup scene. The first time I went to one, a friend of mine got a job with one of the companies she met there. Nathan has even opened up a job board on the site which is worth checking out.
We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback, and appreciate all of it.
UPDATE: The video of our presentation was posted at Google Video here if you want to check it out. It’s difficult to see exactly what’s happening on the screen, but the audio is clear and you should be able to follow along.
July 26th, 2007
On Tuesday we switched servers back to the grid, and released a substantial update to wishlisting.
Here’s a rundown of the new features you’ll find:
- Updated look - The images were re-formatted to pop off the page, and the layout of the site now makes better use of the browser’s screen real estate. The comments and discussions were totally updated with a sexier look. There are a lot of little graphical updates all over the site.
- Far better information on an item - This was the biggest overhaul. When you click on the details of an item, you can see who else wants/has it right on the home screen. Also, if there are changes in price, that too is visible right on there. We do automatic price-checking for quite a few stores. As we see people adding wishes at various sites, we add price checking support for them as well.
- Tools page - Instructions for installing our browser tools, fully illustrated.
- Browse all popular items - You might not have noticed, but the filter buttons at the top are now active on the home page. If you start playing with them, you can explore the most popular things on the site. For example, if you go to the home page and choose the “stuff people want” filter, you’ll get back all of the most popular stuff on the site that people want.
- Email notifications - By default, you’re notified when a friend leaves a comment on one of your items now. There are a bunch of new settings to allow you to control what you get e-mailed about, and how often. You can even set it up to only notify you weekly with a summary of all of your comments, for example.
- “Stuff I have” no longer hidden - One of the things that often confused people is that when they marked something as “I have it” it seemed to disappear. This is because, by default, your wishlist was only showing stuff you want. The new default is to show it all, in two different groups. So, you can see what happens more clearly when you move stuff from “I want it” to “I have it”.
- Customize the default view of your wishlist - Anytime you change the filters on your wishlist, you can “freeze” that view as the view you want when you come look at your wishlist by default. So, if you don’t like seeing both your “want it” and “have it” items all the time, you can just filter on “want it” and you’ll see an option in the left-hand side to set that as your default view. That view will only apply to you when looking at your own wishlist. It will not affect what other people see.
- You can control when someone finds out about a gift purchase - When you reserve an item for someone, now you can tell the site when that person is allowed to see that information. You can choose to never tell them, tell them on their birthday, or pick any date of your choosing. When that date rolls around, they’ll get an e-mail (if they want one) and they’ll be able to see, on their wishlist, that the item has been reserved.
- Items reserved for you are separated out - When you look at someone’s wishlist, there is a separate group of items that the person “wants” but have been reserved for him/her. So, it’s immediately obvious what’s left to buy, and what isn’t. When the person looks at his/her own list, they may see a smaller set of items here, however. We don’t ruin surprises for people. The buyer controls when the recipient finds out about a purchase.
- New gifts given/received tables on your profile - You can track what gifts you’ve given and what you’ve received right on your profile page. No one can see this but you. When someone reserves something for you, we have added a new field for “where did you buy it?” which will also show up in this table. That way, if you need to return something, you can see where the person bought it without having to ask them.
- Help section - If you get stuck, you can come here for help. We’ll be updating it with more pictures eventually, and we’ll update the contents depending upon where people need the most help.
- See consolidated reviews - There is no need to go to each person’s wish to find out what they think of an item, there is a new “reviews” link where you can see all reviews of an item.
Almost all of these changes were motivated by feedback from our beta users - so thank you! There is a lot more to come. Please play around and send feedback with any comments/ideas/insults/thoughts you might have.
July 11th, 2007
What each of these does is provide a simple installation of the browser button, without having to drag a bookmarklet to your toolbar or any of that. When you’re done, you’ll end up with a shiny new button in your toolbar which you can use to add stuff to your wishlist from anywhere.
In Firefox, you can decide if you want the button:
- In the toolbar at the top (default)
- In the statusbar at the bottom
- In the tools menu of the browser
In Internet Explorer the button will show up in the toolbar at the top, as well as in the “tools” menu.
On both platforms, the buttons are fully uninstallable. The Firefox extension uses the built-in firefox uninstall mechanism, and the Internet Explorer add-on can be removed via the “Add/Remove Programs” control panel in Windows.
One of the biggest pain points for people has been getting the browser button installed, and we’re hoping this will resolve a good chunk of those difficulties.
Getting the next big push of features out has taken longer than expected, but we’re on the home stretch now. Look for a post from me next week!
May 23rd, 2007
I haven’t posted in a while, but we’ve been busy working on some new features which I think people are really going to enjoy. In the last month, we’ve quietly fixed and updated a lot of smaller things. For example…
- At long last, with a lot of help from Kate and Shuttle, the browser button in Internet Explorer doesn’t produce cookie errors that prevented it from working. There are still bugs that need to be fixed with it, but the cookie thing was really bad.
- The friends page was reworked so you could fit more friends into one page, and you can see their birthdays and their last login time. For a good time, try searching within that section. You’ll find your results grouped by friend. Interested in buying a camera? See what cameras your friends have, and what they think of them. Oh, your friends should now be in alphabetical order by username, instead of random order.
- The search feature was updated to return more accurate results. User exsoccer91 stumbled onto a flaw in the algorithm which has since been addressed.
- The “create a new item” page was simplified, and shortened.
- The upload control used to upload your avatar and custom images has been totally reworked, and there is no longer an “upload” button. Just pick a file and the upload happens automatically. You also now have the ability to delete any image you’ve uploaded.
- If you’re in a position where you’ve tried and failed to associate with your Amazon wishlist via an e-mail address, you’ve now got another way to do it. Go to your settings page to see it. People who associated with Amazon fine won’t see any change.
- Marysharon reported that she would sometimes see a “this wish may not exist yet” message after rating an item. That problem has been fixed.
- Pulling up an individual wish was really slow for a while, which had to do with how we were fetching an item’s alternate images. That has been addressed, so pulling up items should be reasonably speedy now.
- The ability to edit your profile was pushed out to a top-level item under your image on the left, rather than being a link that’s buried in your profile.
- Juice and Kstar found some sweet typos which were fixed. Wait, you mean “account” has two c’s?
There are a lot of other little fixes, plus more to come before we release a second sweep of features. I’ll keep you posted!
April 13th, 2007
There are a few questions we’ve heard a number of times. Here are a few of them, answered for all to see:
- Q: Who designed all the graphics - they’re pretty!
A: Wishlisting co-founder, John.
- Q: How does the search work? What is it searching?
A: The search on the front page will search all of the wishes on the site, and augment those results with results from Amazon.com. Eventually, when we have lots of wishes, we’d love to simply search them all without going to Amazon. For the time being, we want to do our best to find exactly what you’re looking for, even if no one has wished for it. The search takes longer than we’d like, with the hope that we’ll be presenting you with more relevant information. (Even still, the Amazon.com search engine has some relevance issues which I’ll save for another post.)
- Q: Okay, I signed up… now what, exactly?
A: A lot of the work we’ll be doing in the next few months is to help make it clearer what the site can be used for and how to get up and running with it. At the most basic level, what you’re doing is building a wishlist. You can put things on to your wishlist in one of 3 ways:
- Search for it on our site, and add it.
- Use the browser button (Firefox/IE extensions coming soon) to add anything from any other store to your list.
- Create a totally new custom item called whatever you want with whatever picture you want.
- Q: How do you guys make money?
A: We don’t! Ok, (half) joking. The site is free to use and will always be free. We make money two ways:
- When people buy things from affiliated stores. Currently, that means when they buy things at Amazon.com by following links on our site, and over time more stores will be hooked up. Our plan is to affiliate with the stores you like best, versus other sites which affiliate with whoever pays them the most money. The stores that appear on the site are all either Amazon (because they augment our search results) or sites that our users have entered. That’s it.
- Advertising. We don’t want to litter the site with ads. There are currently no ads on the home page, individual list pages, profile pages, etc. We currently have ads on individual wishes (you have to click into one) and the ads should be targeted to they’re relevant to the wish you’re looking at. We’ll be doing some experimenting with ad placement to figure out what’s the best compromise between aesthetics and visibility. Long-time beta testers probably remember when the ad used to be in the black banner.
- Q: Are you going to grant me wishes?
A: Maybe. If you’re good.
Also… a few more bugfixes and site updates:
- marthasoft noticed that our list of top reviewers was wrong, and someone with zero reviews was in there. Now it’s fixed, and now marthasoft is in there (coincidence?)
- I noticed that the “most popular” things on the front page really weren’t all that popular. That’s fixed now, and appropriately The Alphabet of Manliness is the most popular item.
- The front page used to flicker and show whenever you navigated to another link, like a person’s list, directly. No more!
- Kate pointed out that while you’re pulling up someone’s profile, the text said you were pulling up their wishlist, which wasn’t right. Fixed.