The Product Guy: Astonishin’ in 2010!

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Wow! Another year of The Product Guy is now coming to a close… an awesomely astonishin’ 2010! Together we explored many exciting products and enjoyed the perspectives from very smart guest bloggers, from startups to user experience to modular innovation and more — all while getting to meat and speak with many of The Product Guy’s steadily growing readership.

And, once again, let’s take a brief look at the top posts that made this year on The Product Guy so awesomely astonishin’…

#10 Stribe to be Instantly More Social

Recently, The Product Guy had the opportunity to interview Kamel Zeroual, CEO of Stribe — Gold prize winner at Le Web ‘09. And he covered topics ranging from this Paris-based startup’s origins to where it is going and how it is planning to get there.

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#9 brainmates Interview with The Product Guy

Two weeks ago I was interviewed by Janey Wong over at brainmates for their brainrants blog. We touched on some really good Product Management topics in which I think you would be interested.

So, here it is, reblogged straight from Australia…

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#8 Why Startups are Agile and Opportunistic – Pivoting the Business Model

Startups are inherently chaotic. The rapid shifts in the business model is what differentiates a startup from an established company. Pivots are the essence of entrepreneurship and the key to startup success. If you can’t pivot or pivot quickly, chances are you will fail.

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#7 Quick-MI Worksheet: Spreadsheet to Sustained Online Success

Over the past few years I’ve been discussing Quick-MI. Now, through the help of Google Docs, I’m sharing the Quick MI Worksheet to make it even easier for you to apply Quick-MI to your products, track progress, and share the results with your team. The Quick-MI Worksheet automatically performs all the necessary calculations and summarizes the product for you.

#6 Modular Innovation 201

The products and concepts that constitute Modular Innovation are those that connect, enable, produce, enhance, extend, and make use of these relationships and, in turn, users’ online experiences with them. Let’s get to understand them better.

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#5 Facebook PDQ

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental part. Facebook is one such excellent example of a web product with Prompt Page Load Time.

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#4 Automating the Path to a Better User Experience

Quick-UX evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 3 questions: Can I use it? (Usability), Should I use it? (Usefulness), and Do I want to use it? (Desirability). Now, through the help of Google Docs, as I did the other week with the release of the Quick-MI Worksheet, I’m sharing the Quick-UX Worksheet to make it even easier and faster …

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#3 jQuery ThreeDots: yayQuery Plugin of the Week!

I’ve been a fan of yayQuery since shortly after their initial podcast episode. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise and elation when I heard them announce that my ThreeDots plugin was this week’s jQuery Plugin of the Week… almost falling down the stairs as I listened this past Friday while entering the subway here in NYC.

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#2 jQuery Plugin: CuteTime, C’est Magnifique! (v 1.1) [UPDATE]

I am very pleased to announce the latest major update to the CuteTime jQuery plugin. CuteTime provides the ability to easily: convert timestamps to ‘cuter’ language-styled forms (e.g. yesterday, 2 hours ago, last year, in the future!), customize the time scales and output formatting, and update automatically and/or manually the displayed CuteTime(s).

In addition to the inclusion of French CuteTime in this latest release, version 1.1 features: ISO8601 date timestamp compliance, insertions using the %CT% pattern of computed numbers within the CuteTime cuteness, support for all foreign language characters and HTML, Spanish CuteTime translations, courtesy of Alex Hernandez, richer demos and test, improved settings flexibility of the CuteTime function, documentation updates (corrections and clarifications).

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#1 jQuery Plugin: Give Your Characters a NobleCount

In my quest I have been on the lookout for a jQuery plugin that would provide the ability to: (1) provide real-time character counts, (2) enable easy to customize visual behaviors, and … While there are other similar tools out there, none adequately met these goals. Therefore, I created the jQuery NobleCount plugin.

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This year The Product Group grew beyond all possible expectations! Now with 600+ active members in NYC we Product People of all sorts and levels of experience to meet, interact, and network, in a laid-back, conversational environment on first Thursday of each month. Thank you to our sponsors, Balsamiq Studios, RYMA Technology, and Sunshine Suites, and to every one of you who attend, engage and help make The Product Group the astonishin’ success it has become!

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Happy New Year!

Jeremy Horn 
The Product Guy

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The Product Guy: Superfine in 09

Snowman&Bell The Product Guy had another superfine year in 2009, sharing and exploring products, their experiences, and many innovative startups and the founders behind them, while getting to meet and speak with many of The Product Guy’s steadily growing readership.

And, as 2009 comes to a close, as I did last year, let’s take a brief look at the top posts that made this year on The Product Guy so totally superfine….

 

#9 Quick-UX Credibility from Likexo to Etsy

Quick-UX Credibility is a measure of the starting point, the foundation of a product’s Credibility. A look at the popular (and not so popular) examples of web product Credibility online.

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#8 World’s Best Programmer is… [w/ Respect]

The World’s Best Programmer wants respect.

And, respect is just one of those conditions prevalent within the environment of the World’s Best Programmer. In this last post in the series The Product Guy reveals just who exactly is World’s Best Programmer, and where/how they thrive!!

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#7 Converted by an Android. A short story of Gmail, in parts.

Part 1 in a series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook, what brought about this conversion, why it took so long, and what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption.

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#6 jQuery Plugin: It’s CuteTime!

Many online social products, and more continue to, avoid a formal timestamp format… 2009-10-10 23:14:17 and Thu, October 29, 2004 12:14:19 PM … opting for more user friendly, "warm and fuzzy," human-readable styles… 9 days ago and 5 years ago.

As a result, the time has come for the jQuery CuteTime plugin. CuteTime goes beyond similar tools and lets you easily: convert timestamps to ‘cuter’ language-styled forms (e.g. yesterday, 2 hours ago, last year, in the future!), customize the time scales and output formatting, and dynamically update the displayed CuteTime(s) upon request and/or automatically.

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#5 The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the extent of the then existent exercising of resistance. Now, with such resistance eroded, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, an exploration into the Future of Gmail and the ‘Should Do’ … Readability, Simplify, Organize, Integration and Consistency.

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#4 Google: True Colors Shine Through

In answering the question of Desirability, "Do I want it?" the sub-category of Color Scheme plays an important role. Google Search is an outstanding example of a Good Color Scheme demonstrating alignment of both colors and messaging. Learn from it.

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#3 Stardoll: Lost and Naked

When you look at a web page, the various elements of the page can often be seen coalescing into distinguishable regions and groups. Intentionally structured, or otherwise, these groups that constitute the page Layout play an important role in the web product’s Desirability. Stardoll is a great example of a web product with Poor Sequential Flow.

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#2 ThreeDots: The jQuery Ellipsis Plugin

Many online products employ ellipses within their products to improve various aspects of the User Experience, such as: allowing for easy summary scanning of page content, and fitting more diversity of content into a smaller space.

As a result, the time has come for the jQuery ThreeDots plugin. ThreeDots goes beyond similar tools and lets you easily and smartly truncate text for when: text is too long, text doesn’t fit within the available space, you want to employ highly configurable and flexible ellipses within your web product.

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#1 Quick-UX. Quick Heuristics for User eXperience.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX), consisting of the core components of Usability (‘Can I use it?’), Usefulness (‘Should I use it?’), and Desirability (‘Do I want to use it?’). 

Quick-UX provides a sure-fire, rapid way to obtain concrete and comparable means by which to assess a single product or compare its strengths and weaknesses to other products.

Growing in popularity by leaps and bounds since its original posting in 2008, this posting has earned prime placement amongst other, more recent, articles that made this year, 2009, SUPERFINE.

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This year also saw the launch of The Product Group (sponsored by Balsamiq Studios) in NYC as an opportunity for Product People of all sorts and levels of experience to meet, interact, and network, in a laid-back, conversational environment.  I am certain 2010 will bring many more exciting gatherings, discoveries, and opportunities; and for those reasons, this too, also helped make 2009 for both Product People and The Product Guy, superfine!

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Happy Holidays!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Guy’s Great in ’08

Christmas-Bell The Product Guy had a great 2008, sharing and exploring products, their experiences, and many innovative startups and the founders behind them, while getting to meet and speak with many of The Product Guy’s steadily growing readership.

And, as 2008 comes to a close, let’s take a brief look at the top 5 posts of 2008 (by popularity) on The Product Guy, starting with…

modular innovation#5 Modular Innovation 101

Modular Innovations lead to users’ information that is Portable, Shareable, Interoperable, Customizable, Redundant, Accessible and, basically, their own. Here The Product Guy explored the various flavors and concepts behind Modular Innovation.

Trends and other primordial indicators of the emergence of Modular Innovation can be found in many products that are out there, or in development, today on the Internet. This year demonstrated a clear evolution of existing online products, and an emergence of many others, implementing and embracing, to a ever increasing degree, Modular Innovation.

 

01_amazon#4 Overgrown Amazon

As part of the series exploring the quantification of product User Experience via Quick-UX, the Aesthetics of Amazon.com were explored.

Every single feature does NOT have to be crammed into the interface. A smart minimalist design will provide just enough of the core functionality up front, and allow for the gradual introduction of deeper features and extras as the user interacts with the product. Amazon.com is a great example of poor Aesthetics.

 

Configuration#3 Quick-UX. Quick Heuristics for User eXperience.

In 2008, I introduced the world to a process I use when quickly evaluating products. In subsequent posts in 2008 (and more to come in 2009) The Product Guy continued to provide examples and elaborate upon the underlying concepts and variables that make up Quick-UX.

The Product Guy’s introduction to performing quick, quantitative assessments of product/user experience.

 

pbwiki#2 Best Free Online Wiki Announced!

With so many wiki choices available, how do you choose? The Product Guy explored and ranked the free, hosted wikis available to both the individual and company.

And, just as PBwiki was about to achieve their own personal user base milestone, they too were recognized as the best, free online wiki.

 

00_yahoo_homepage#1 Yahoo News. #1 Online News Site.

Yahoo News represented the first news web product whose experience was studied in a 4 part series on the pros, cons, and suggested improvements (some of which have been implemented) of the top websites’ User Experiences.

Based on popularity, Yahoo News, at the end of 2007, was #1. And in 2008, this article delving into Yahoo’s News experience was the #1 most popular article at The Product Guy.

 

Happy New Year!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Somewhat Less Del.icio.us

deliciouslogo_thumb3…because Delicious is synonymous with tagging online. With all of the improvements made within the latest upgrade to Delicious, the functionality and procedures surrounding tagging remain minimally and indirectly altered. Primarily, the changes to Delicious (its domain name included) were limited to desirability and usability (discussed last week), with its usefulness marginally augmented.

Lacking

There were no improvements nor innovations of any parts related to tagging. I look forward to seeing a more innovative stance from Delicious and seeing resolute efforts made to…

  • Encourage and facilitate more tagging,
  • Add structure and order to the tagging process, and
  • Improve the searching, exploration, and discovery process.

By no means are any of these (Delicious) next steps trivial, but rather they are steps (most specifically related to the Usefulness of the product) that will need to be continually presented and refined, by whichever company that desires to be a leader in describing the context and content of the web.

Encourage

Tagging is critical to Delicious. Central to success for a user and to the Delicious community- at- large, is the frequent and descriptive usage of tags. With less tagging, or less accurate tagging, users will have a more difficult time locating older content. With more tagging, users are able to better organize, filter, and find saved and new information. With more tagging, the community will be able to better understand the extent of the existing system-wide knowledge, and how it is evolving, as well as the potential it has for impacting themselves.

Today, Delicious encourages tagging by way of simple user interface presentations, inline editing…

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…and the display of Popular tags and Recommended tags within the full-screen edit of new content…

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In addition, the new Sidebars, by allowing for easier, to both modify and view, access of tags, also facilitate their bundling and usage.

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In some sense Delicious has made tagging a little bit easier to understand, read, and do. Substantial in encouraging any sort of online activity is the simplification of that activity. In this sense, there are many avenues to explore. Some of them being…

Make tag suggestions based on the actual content of the new destination page being submitted to Delicious. Then, let the user select tags they feel are appropriate — it is much easier to click a suggestion, than think up a word and type it (e.g. corrected spelling, finer-tuned additions, alternate similar tags). More information can be coaxed from the user with the simple encouragement via intelligent suggestions, which can be appended to a new (or existing) entry with the click of the mouse.

Infer deeper meta information, again based, on the context of the target page or tags already typed. For example, if the user is typing “New York, ” suggest “state” and “city.” Continuing this example, should the user select “city,” additional geo-tags can then be automatically appended.

Identify potential sub-tags based on the context of the already entered tags, leveraging the power of the crowd, and offer suggestions of tags that are frequently related. If an individual enters the tag “person,” suggest some common types of people. If someone types “person” and “moon,” Delicious may identify the other related tags like “scientist,” “astronaut,” and “astronomer.”

Encourage alternate or corrected tags (spelling, more common or specific descriptors)

Add

The most obvious injection of structure is introduced to the tagging process within the latest update via the orderless tags of the Tag Bar…

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From more structure comes a reduction in the information / content noise. Presenting just a little bit of structure, or means of organization, has a significant impact on the system utility – from the introduction of a minimally common way of thinking and organizing to helping people focus their tagging descriptions and find new information within different, and possibly foreign, domains.

Simple personal structure, like folders and private tags, would have a greater impact upon this goal — and for those people, and there are more than a handful that use multiple Delicious accounts to organize their bookmarks, they would be able to use a single account to accomplish everything (and probably more, especially without the burden of maintaining multiple accounts).

On the non-personal, i.e. public, additions of increased structure, merely a level or two of hierarchical guidance (e.g. tag categories) could exist to help the user quickly zero in on an accurate description of the new content directly resulting in reducing the “strain” on the user to figure out the right tags to assign, as well as letting them come back later and add more details as they occur to the user, all while still being able to filter and zero back in on the item in the future.

Improve

The latest upgrade added the ability for context-based searching and Tag Bar usability enhancements in an effort to improve the searching, exploration, and knowledge discovery processes.

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In the end, this upgrade was quite incremental in nature in so far as the purpose of exploration and discovery are concerned. Here too, knowledge discovery and searching can greatly benefit from an increase in simplification.

Instead of entering, or guessing, one tag at a time, to browse or find content, semi-hierarchical tag clusters, representing concepts and groups of varying scope, could be automatically generated. Individuals would be able to gain broader understanding of the current state of the Delicious environment, the coalescing of tags and ideas, and use them as an alternate means of drilling down.

Another method of simplifying the discovery and search actions can be done through the offering of suggestions for alternate and additional words related to the tags being entered for the search (just like those suggestions that can be made when submitting new content).

Improving the exploration and discovery processes will directly lead to the increased utility and usefulness of Delicious.

…and…

Since Delicious had been acquired by Yahoo (Dec. 2005) change has come very slowly to the product and created a plethora of opportunities within the tagging (and semantic tagging) space that have yet to be fully taken advantage of — but, eventually, either Delicious will choose to lead or other companies, like flickr or twine.

Delicious accomplished a good deal in the way of improving the tagging experience. Now they need to continue, and evolve the functionality of Delicious, (the tagging) and improve the usefulness — lest the mantel for tagging leadership be taken up by other innovators, like flickr, twine, or another up-and-comer.

Share & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Somewhat More Del.icio.us

delicious-logo With the delivery of the Delicious version 2.0, 9 months after everyone received the initial sneak peak, also came the formal changing of the product name from del.icio.us to delicious.com (no more funny period punctuation) — making the domain name easier to remember, type, and use.

And this is the theme that enjoyably permeates all aspects of the Delicious upgrade – improving the usability and desirability of everything Delicious. Delicious has made wonderful use of color, contrast, flow, and balance. All this results in simplifying all aspects of interaction, providing more intuitive control, as well as bringing to light features that many, including myself, never knew existed.

As part of bringing to light these “secret” or lesser used features, Delicious has made a serious effort in raising the level of social interaction and sense of community. Wherever you look and interact, there is always a sense of connectedness to other people, from the new look of the bookmarks…

…to more intuitive access to other people’s tags and notes on your bookmarks…

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…and the priority level navigation to people…

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… and their networks…

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Throughout the new UX, from the tag bar to context-based searching to editing bookmarks, everything is zippier (also with less page loading and more ajax) and the interactions much more enjoyable.

Known for tagging

The improvements don’t introduce much in the way of new features or enhancements to the concepts of tagging — but, as I continue to find out, these improvements have brought to light many features that always existed and makes others easier to notice and use. That is why, as I denote in the title, the long awaited upgrade is tagged with ‘somewhat.’ Delicious has been known for its leadership in the tagging of the Internet. Will this leadership continue? Has the mantel already been wrested by fresher upstarts?

Next week, I will continue with part 2 (of 2) of our discussion of Delicious, this latest product update, and look further at how Delicious 2.0 has taken tagging to the next level.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring Delicious 2.0 as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Best Free Online Wiki Announced!

my_documents_thumb1(Part 7 of 7) For several weeks I have explored and shared both the Enjoyable and Disappointing of free, online wikis from the most popular to a couple of up-and-comers.

These highlights have consisted of the positives as well as negatives, the latter of which will hopefully be addressed by each respective wiki. Before I announce the best wiki, I want to first touch on those areas, the “to do” items, that represent some of the most important and helpful changes for current and potential users of these wikis.

A few of the points below were previously mentioned when discussing a particular wiki’s Disappointing elements. I only mention them again, to emphasize the significance of these items, as more than things that should be seen as To Do, but are more accurately represented as Must Do’s.

Wikia’s To Do

  • 00 wikia_home Reducing the sense of information overload and page clutter, will go a long way toward improving the overall Wikia User eXperience (UX). With so many choices, so much content, numerous ads, and an incoherent visual flow, one is forced to spend an inordinate amount of time scanning pages to find desired actions and navigation choices.
  • Expand the type of authority and control a user can have over their created wiki. If someone can be a wiki administrator, then, as administrator, they should be able to decide which edits are allowed to remain, and by whom those edits can be made. Furthermore, authority should allow for a variety of access permissions for its members, as well as the ability for the wiki owner to CHOOSE whether or not to have it be part of the larger wiki community or exist as a private, secure wiki.
  • WYSIWYG. I know that a user interface that allows for WYSIWYG editing of pages is in the works and becoming partially available on Wikia, but its full implementation is an absolute requirement in today’s wiki landscape.

Wetpaint’s To Do

  • wetpaint Wetpaint presents a very well refined and enjoyable User eXperience (UX) with the need to smooth out some rough edges…
    • Any good wiki eventually develops a high level of traffic and, more notably, content changes. The ‘What’s New’ dashboard provides for a high level of access to everything going on within the wiki over the last 30 days. Wiki users should be able to both (a) receive wiki change information by email, with full change details (what was added, what was removed), and (b) subscribe to site-wide changes or to specific sub-sections of the wiki hierarchy.
    • The entire wiki can be easily exported for local editing and storage. Wetpaint should also allow for the re-importing of all, or part, of the previously exported content, thereby allowing offline editing of the wiki.
    • Wetpaint has a social-consumer orientation. With the inclusion of productivity widgets (e.g. table of contents), Wetpaint can easily expand its attractiveness to a broader market.

PBwiki’s To Do

  • 00-pbwiki-homepage PBwiki provides robust functionality for both editing wiki pages as well viewing those changes. However, it still maintains parts that can be identified as needing improvement…
    • Improve the visual representation of content changes. For example, when showing changes that have occurred within a table, provide cues as to which rows and columns were altered.
    • PBwiki comes with a variety of useful wiki page templates; displayed in list form, the templates are useless to anyone who does not already know the appearance and function of each. Allowing for inline previewing of these templates when creating new pages would enhance the User eXperience (UX)
    • When renaming a page, a user should not be penalized if that page is linked to by many other wiki pages. Renaming of a page should automatically result in the seamless updating of all relevant links.
    • Beyond the occasional formatting problems encountered within the WYSIWYG editor, there are further issues surrounding the area of usability that warrant attention, most notably with respect to the editing of tables. When selecting multiple cells of a table and then proceeding to change the text color, highlighting, or other formatting is applied, all of the selected cells should be affected, not just the first of the selected cells.
  • Wiki comments, just as occurs with created and modified pages, should generate, and be included in, email alerts to users. Furthermore, the users should be able to receive the comments independent of content changes and be able to submit replies that will appear within the appropriate wiki page comment thread. (update: as of today, comments can now be received via email)

Google Sites’ To Do

  • 00-google-sites-homepage Google Sites allow for viewing the change history of most content pages, except their special, and very useful, List Pages. List Pages should be treated like all other pages of content and have a browsable change history of adds, deletes, and other modifications.
  • Creating and using tables is a way to implement a historically trackable version of List Pages. However, various table options, such as ‘clear format’ can result in broken formatting throughout the wiki page. Also, the table form factor should be compatible with the page layouts (i.e. not break) that it is permitted to be used within, e.g., multi-column layouts.
  • While allowing for the changing of a Title of a page, but not the URL/filename can have its benefits, these benefits do not outweigh the ability to rename the page. There are many strong exemplary cases, such as where the content of the page no longer fits with its name or where there exists a typo within the page name.
  • TOS! Terms of Service (TOS), previously mentioned as an Undesirable, must change before people can believe a Google Site private wiki is actually private. This is a top To Do item and an absolute requirement before anyone can create a private Google Site and have the requisite trust and confidence in this product.

Versionate’s To Do

  • 00-homepage Having a more customizable homepage, allowing for a standard editable wiki page, file-folder interface, or some combination of the two, would go a long way in reducing the learning curve associated with their unique experience.
  • Versionate should go beyond their basic RSS feed for change notifications. Allow for email updates, showing the before and after differences, of all wiki changes.
  • Accessibility, Redundancy, and Interoperability are critical in the wiki world. Along all these lines, Versionate will have to take large strides; from the allowing of a site backup (that can actually occur in less than 2 weeks time!) to allowing for 3rd-party interaction with its components.
  • Credibility. For any online company, credibility is key to success. In the past year, the only updates that have occurred are within comments posted to 3rd-party sites (for example, The Product Guy and Digg) in response to articles. There have been zero formal posts to the Versionate blog, nor notifications that (a) the founders have moved on to another company, (b) they plan to continue support of the Versionate product, and (c) they may give it new features. Before focusing on the concrete challenges of new or improved features, the solution to the softer challenge of restoring trust and credibility in this promising product must be nurtured and reestablished over a long period of time.

Of course

Of course, those that use a wiki certainly will have a preference of one over another. Everyone has different needs, and those needs align with different features and strengths of each wiki discussed, and possibly even among others not discussed within this series.

This adventure into the world of wikis has been a broad based attempt at teasing out the basic and general features and functionality that the average wiki user finds most appealing and beneficial. Some people place extra value in wikis with strong social communities, others, like Dean Collins, want to be able to manage multiple wikis from a centralized dashboard.

There is more to life than Wiki

There are many, many wikis that were not included within this survey of the wiki space. (Confluence, Wikispaces, etc.) To perform this assessment it was critical to adhere to strict rules that would result in a manageable set of wikis. Of course, I could have reviewed the top 5, the top 10, top 100, or more popular wikis — I could have spent the remainder of my life doing so. The top 3 wikis along with the up-and-comers provide a very comprehensive set of the types of wikis that are free and hosted. If you have experiences with other wikis, please feel free to share with the other readers of this blog ; share the good, as well as the bad experiences you have had with various wikis. Time and resources and the desire to not spend the rest of the year (or lifetime) looking at only wiki products were all factors in determining the scope of this wiki product series.

And, most importantly…

The Best Free Online Wiki Experience is PBwiki for the reasons stated throughout this series, as well as having: (1) a firm grasp on the usability needs of a wiki user, (2) the most comprehensive feature set, and (3) providing outstanding support to its user base, not just in the form of addressing problems, but also in actively communicating status, product updates, and other helpful news via their product blog.

Think & Share…

What other wikis have you enjoyed using? Why?
What features do you feel a wiki must have?

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

More Information

Enjoy & Discuss & Share!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Versionate is Dead.

versionate-logo (part 6 of 7) Wikia, Wetpaint, PBwiki, Google Sites, and Versionate. There are literally hundreds of different wikis available, each offering unique online experiences and presenting different interpretations of what it means to be a wiki. Within this series we have been exploring and discussing the top 3 most popular, free, online wikis as we seek out the best online wiki experience.

Versionate presents a hybrid experience of sorts, one of a wiki coupled with the feel of a friendly web-based document editor.

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Versionate, an up-and-comer, may already be at the end of its road. While there was great fanfare and numerous product updates back around the time of their launch in July of 2007, there have been ZERO updates or announcements since then. It has almost been a year without anything new from this start-up and no signs of life from within the company. So, while the product holds promise and is something to keep an eye out for in the future, it is also highly questionable (unfortunately) as to whether or not there is a future to behold for Versionate.

Good

  • A common habit among many people who use desktop-based word processing software is to frequently save their files, lest the computer or application crash, resulting in the loss of all their work. Versionate allows for the re-saving of an open document, inline and without the need to close and re-open the current wiki page.
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  • Often, when editing content within a wiki, there is a need to edit a sequence of pages at the same time, adding a link and description, adding a new page and content, adding another related page, etc. The tabbed UI makes editing multiple pages, cross linking , updating, easy and fluid.
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  • Any wiki page can be downloaded as PDF, DOC, HTML, RTF, and ODT, edited offline and then re-submitted to the wiki.
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Undesirable

  • A wiki, at its most basic level, is all about knowledge storage and management and how all of that knowledge relates to each other. To understand the relationships and simply navigate a wiki, links are (of course) used. Links within Versionate are primarily visible upon mouse-over of the link. Other than mouse-over, links are barely distinguishable from all other text within the wiki.
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  • The homepage requires a bit of interaction and learning. It displays a fixed layout with 2 nearly equal, and completely independent, navigation choices. At the top of the page is the option to navigate by file and folder. At the bottom of the page is a smaller region dedicated to, the more typical, link-based wiki navigation.
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  • Some formats, like PDF and Excel, are not editable within the wiki, but are instead converted into graphics so that they can still be internally viewed and linked. However, the conversion process can often result in generating results that are very difficult to read.
06-ppt

 

Versionate is an up-and-coming wiki that has seen little to no development nor news since its launch last year. It is a dead online product. Versionate possesses the potential for becoming a strong wiki marketplace player, but until signs of life re-emerge, may it rest in peace.

 

Be sure to check back very soon for the final installment in this wiki series and the big announcement of the Wiki Winner, the wiki that will be recognized as having the Best, Free, Online Wiki Experience!

Think & Share…

What do you think is the best free wiki online?

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring best online wiki User eXperiences as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

More Information

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Google Sites. All open. Now what?

googlesites-logo (part 5 of 7) Wikia, Wetpaint, PBwiki, Google Sites, and Versionate. There are literally hundreds of different wikis available, each offering unique online experiences and presenting different interpretations of what it means to be a wiki. Within this series we have been exploring and discussing the top 3 most popular, free, online wikis as we seek out the best online wiki experience.

Today, we will look into one of the up-and-comers within the wiki space, Google Sites.

00-google-sites-homepage

 

Previously known as the highly successful JotSpot, now Google Sites is back and available to everyone as a very different product. Google Sites appears to have undergone a bit of re-writing and re-imagining.

Earlier this year, Google Sites was exclusively released to Google Apps users. On May 21, 2008, Google Sites‘ expanded the release to include everyone. Clearly, through the expanded release, Google Sites seeks to accelerate the growth of this “new” wiki product. However, it remains too early to accurately gauge the eventual rate and level of adoption of Google Sites.

Enjoyable

  • Google Sites delivers a quick and streamlined User eXperience (UX). Navigation and interaction both benefit from quick page loading and good use of Ajax for such activities as page editing.
01-speedy

 

  • Wikis can greatly improve an organization’s knowledge management capabilities. Very common to knowledge management is the management of lists for anything from action items to features and employees. Google Sites has a unique implementation of lists, by way of special list pages, allowing for the customization of all list fields as well as a simple interface for adding, removing and editing list elements.
02-list-page

 

  • Google Sites has various levels of enforced hierarchy, from the display of a page’s subpages to direct navigation to a page’s parent via breadcrumbs.
03-navigation

 

Disappointing or Unsatisfying

  • A good feature of Google Sites is that it allows for both public and private wikis. However, even if the wiki is private, Google reserves the right of ownership of ALL the wiki’s content as well as the right to publicly PUBLISH your content.
04-TOS

 

  • Tight integration with the other Google properties would be both a large positive feature of Google Sites and a major plus to wiki user productivity. However, Google Sites falls far short on delivering on what the UI implies. Content from other wiki properties must be made public and the full URL must be copy-and-pasted into place. The very loose integration does not even provide a list of available content stored within other Google services, and the requirement to make Google service content public is independent of the public/private nature of the current wiki.
05-integration

 

  • A user can either be an owner, collaborator, or viewer for the entire site. Each user type is very broadly defined, putting the administrator in the position of often having to make a decision whether or not to allow a user too much or too little access and sharing permissions. Too much permission can result in undesired deletions; too little can result in loss of productivity.
06-sharing

 

Google Sites is still young, when measured from the point of its re-introduction to the world. It provides for a very simple (and spartan) introduction to the world of wikis, especially to potential, non-technical audiences. There remains a good deal of work ahead for the Google Sites development team, but with the strength of Google behind them they remain an obvious wiki to keep an eye on.

In the next post of the series I will share with you another, fairly unique, up-and-coming wiki, Versionate.

Think & Share…

What are some reasons that stop you from using a (or any) wiki? Security? Controlling access? Ownership (and/or portability) of wiki content? Other?

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring best online wiki User eXperiences as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

More Information

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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PBwikis. Sticky for almost 500,000.

pbwiki-logo (part 4 of 7) Wikia, Wetpaint, PBwiki, Google Sites, and Versionate. There are literally hundreds of different wikis available, each offering unique online experiences and presenting different interpretations of what it means to be a wiki. Within this series we explore and discuss the top 3 most popular, free, online wikis and 2 (of many) notable up-and-comers — and, in the end, announce the winning wiki experience.

Website: PBwiki

Briefly: PBwiki is just about to hit 500,000 hosted wikis, with a large core audience consisting of the business and education communities, and ranks as one of the top 3, free, hosted wikis, as determined by Alexa popularity ranking (April 2007). (read more)

00-pbwiki-homepage

 

Enjoyable

  • The interface is both simple and clean.
    • The primary interface allows the user to focus on the user generated content of the page.
    • Many PBwiki features are very well prioritized and made accessible directly from the primary interface, while simultaneously minimizing any sense of information overload. (e.g. page permission control)
01-interface

 

  • Users can opt to receive wiki updates by email at customizable frequency. Within the update emails are all changes that have occurred, and what types of changes they were.
02-emails

 

  • The widgets, as well as much of the surrounding functionality, present a clear orientation towards improving productivity and collaboration, from spreadsheet widgets to sortable tables and event planning.
03-widgets

 

Disappointing or Unsatisfying

  • The process of following comment-based discussions across multiple wiki pages is cumbersome and only increases in complexity as the discussions proliferate. While all wiki changes can be followed via email, a user is left having to sign in and check each individual wiki page at which new comments may be found.
04-comments

 

  • WYSIWYG editing is appreciated by all wiki users. Some of the formatting bugs of the WYSISYG editor, while infrequent, can prove frustrating to correct (often requiring the user to enter HTML mode to “fiddle with”).
05-wysiwig_bug

 

  • Consistency is important within a web product to both (a) provide a pleasing user experience and (b) help the user avoid confusion. Inconsistencies, from missing headers to out-of-place buttons can be founded scattered throughout a handful of pages.

Delete on the ‘Revisions’ page…

06-inconsistent-a

Delete and Rename on ‘All Pages‘ page…

06-inconsistent-b

Delete and Rename on ‘Upload / view files’ page…

06-inconsistent-c

 

In the next post of the series I will share with you one of the up-and-coming wikis clearly worth keeping an eye on, Google Sites.

Think & Share…

Does your school, college, or workplace use a wiki?

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring best online wiki User eXperiences as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

More Information

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Wetpaint wikis. Should you dip in?

wetpaint-logo (part 3 of 7) Wikia, Wetpaint, PBwiki, Google Sites, and Versionate. There are literally hundreds of different wikis available, each offering unique online experiences and presenting different interpretations of what it means to be wiki. Within this series we explore and discuss the top 3 most popular, free, online wikis and 2 (of many) notable up-and-comers — and, in the end, announce the winning wiki experience.

Website: Wetpaint

Briefly: Wetpaint launched as recently as June 2006. Since its launch, Wetpaint has undergone numerous upgrades, now resulting in its ranking among the top 3, free, hosted wikis, as determined by Alexa popularity ranking, in April 2007. (read more)

Enjoyable

  • Wetpaint allows for the editing of a wiki’s pages with their WYSIWYG editor, aptly named, EasyEdit. EasyEdit presents an inline editing experience (including robust table manipulation) that is user friendly while not overloading the user with too many additional choices.
01_EasyEdit
  • The ‘Add a To-Do’ feature comes in very handy for such items where specific questions exist or more content for a wiki page is needed. The To-Do’s enable the abandoning of a common wiki habit of inserting “ToDo” flags throughout pages and replacing them with a more structured and integrated To-Do mechanism.
02_ToDo
  • The Discussion Forum facilitates group conversations and brainstorming. New subjects can be started as stand-alones within the Forum or attached to a specific wiki page, with updates optionally received via email.
03_discussion

Disappointing or Unsatisfying

  • Drop-downs and pop-ups are used throughout the interface disrupting the usually positive experience and flow of the page. (read more about drop-downs and other disruptive User eXperiences in ‘Reveal More‘)
04_popups
  • While Wetpaint comes with several widgets for simple inclusion within the wiki pages, the set of options available leaves one wanting. The built-in set includes widgets, with a very focused scope of options, are geared towards both social and fun endeavors(e.g. video, pictures, chatting).
05_widgets
  • As wikis grow, keeping tracking of all of the changes and additions made becomes increasingly complicated. In order to be notified of changes the user can either subscribe to an RSS feed with very high-level information, or subscribe (“watch”) to every individual page – one at a time, after you find the page that has been created.
06_watch

 

In the next post of the series I will be exploring the #3 popularly ranked wiki, PBwiki.

Think & Share…

What features do you think should be in a socially oriented wiki? a business oriented wiki?

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring best online wiki User eXperiences as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

More Information

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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