We came back to life about 4 hours ahead of schedule. Woot! We pretty much had a complete overhaul & transformation this morning (all on the back-end). So we wouldn’t be surprised if we turn up a few snags over the next day or two.
If you do see something wonky on the site, the best way to tell us about it is to send us mail at “bugs” at robotcoop.com.
Lots of active discussion in the previous post, and apologies upfront for thin skinned replies from me. We are talking about a creation I’ve worked on for 7 years and I’m definitely emotional about the whole thing. And I appreciate that you are too. I’m also trying to be upfront in having this conversation – it’s no fun sharing our thought process and getting some pretty negative replies. But that is what we signed up for. So I’ll try and brush off my shoulders and be a better host in the comments.
Obviously, it would be easier to make our decisions at the office and tell you what they are on the blog, but we are trying to be more open, expose more of the background thinking, and hopefully incorporate some of your input into any eventual changes. What we aren’t doing is having a vote. Comments that give input on specific numbered elements below are going to help us more than “Don’t change anything”.
When I started to unpack all the parts of subscriptions we are discussing they resolve into some distinct areas/topics. I came up with 5 so far. I tried to list them and tell you a bit about how/when they might change. Also, some swag at a timeline.
- Revealing who subscribes to you. You won’t have to look at your subscribers if you don’t want to. Opt in. August/September.
- Getting rid of secret subscribers. You won’t be anonymous when you subscribe to someone. No opt out. August/September.
- Blocking/Confirming. Blocking would work just as it does today – blocking prevents mutual subscription. There would be no “confirmation or acceptance” to subscribe to someone. No change.
- Making subscribers “transparent” like when you cheer someone or comment on their content. If we did this, it would likely be a “profile page widget” that users could opt out of if they don’t want to have it on their page. Opt out. No schedule – Late Fall at the earliest if ever.
- Subscriber notifications. We probably wouldn’t have any sort of notice of new or departed subscriber, unless it somehow was clearly a good idea. Right now, it doesn’t seem like a good one. Would only be opt in. Not scheduled.
Not sure if that helps to see the component parts. Maybe that list can produce some more fine grained insights into the potential change.
We are going to be doing some database tuning tonight around 10 pm Pacific time. The site will be unavailable for about 1 hour. Sorry for the inconvenience – the upside should be some performance improvements. Thanks
The Robots can’t afford gas this summer so we are staying home and working on the website. Over the last year we’ve put most of our effort into infrastructure work to get the sites running in more efficient ways. We’ve also been doing lots of work on 43Places and experimenting with some ideas for a new site. But now, like the eye of Sauron turning toward the Shire, we are ready to put several months of effort toward some new features for 43 Things.
Some of the new features are already reaching the site. Three weeks ago we rolled out the new recognized user homepage). We have probably covered the addition of sharing links to goals through Facebook & Twitter, as well as through email. Let’s hope the rest of these go smoother or it will be a long summer for sure! We also mentioned cheer notification emails have started to roll out in a test phase and should be into full swing within the week. Here’s a run down of some more new features/ideas in the works:
We are doing some research into SMS/text message cheer notifications. Would anyone want that level of cheer notice? SMS has a direct cost so this may have a fee involved. All still under consideration – look for a future post or add your thoughts as a comment, please.
Looking into a revamp of the zeitgeist to make room for some new list types to help uncover more interesting stuff on the site
Revamping the profile page and turning the entries area into a feed of content rather than the How I Did It stuff sticking up top
Looking into some simplifications and changes to subscriptions
Developing a role for “mentors” who are great guides to accomplishing goals on 43Things
Exploring ideas for labels/dividers/notes for organizing your list of goals
Improvements to reminders
Looking into adding video to the site
A blog just for 43Things (maybe?)
Some new ideas on the quiz, personal challenges, progress meters and other ideas
Updating our FAQ and customer service content
That’s more the laundry list than a plan to deliver it all, but we thought it might be a good time to share some of the ideas we are working on. We aren’t looking for new ideas for this list – but we are already making a new list for our next big effort.
Many of these ideas on the list come from the requests we get from users of 43Things, others are our own ideas. We’ll update the blog before we make a major change to the site. We’ll listen to any feedback about the ideas, or the features as they get implemented, but I don’t want to give anyone the impression that we can always produce a change to 43Things that will please everyone. But as before, we do promise to listen and make changes based on feedback. And in the immortal words of Feargal Sharkey: “Here comes the summer!”
Have you heard about the future? Apparently, we aren’t going to need big, bulky computers or Tivo boxes anymore. It’s all going to “live in the cloud”.
I’m not sure I totally get it, but Ivan tells me it will be cheaper and easier and we are into both of those things. 43 Places already lives in the cloud. Today, we are tying All Consuming and Lists of Bests to some sort of virtual zeppelin and sending them off to “the cloud” as well.
That's Ivan in the rowboat, releasing the Zeppelin.
If we’ve done it right, the sites should behave just as they did before. Of course, if we didn’t do it right, we’d appreciate you telling us about any problems. All Consuming and Lists of Bests will be unavailable starting around 2:30 pm Pacific time, and should return around 5:30 or 6 pm. 43 Things and 43 Places should be unaffected.
If this cloud stuff is something you want to know more about, here is a Wikipedia article about the topic. As always, thanks for caring!
She did it. In her first week on the job, Kathy Mar, our newest Robot brought cool, fresh water back to our office. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s already made about a bazillion lists on 43Places.
Kathy’s been a user of 43Things since December 16, 2004, making her one of the first 300 users. We are still working out her title, but “Captain Obvious” is in the lead. She brings a practical approach to the Co-op that is already getting us to rethink some of the 6 year old ruts we’ve created for ourselves.
Kathy is a lifelong Capitol Hill native. She’s a graduate of Steven’s Elementary, Meany Middle School, Garfield High School, and Columbia University. She’s an accomplished internet veteran. Kathy’s worked at Microsoft, Real Networks, Disney and multiple mobile companies.
Hiring Kathy brings the Robot Co-op back up to fighting strength. We are now 6 Robots. She also adds the 10th dependent (Joe and Venessa are about to bring it to 11).
About a year ago we had the bright idea of creating the template for “How I did it” stories. And over that year, tens of thousands of people who have completed a goal have taken some time to share how they accomplished their objective and share some advice with others. Awesome. But in building the feature, we frankly over did it. Our solicitations for “How I Did it” stories confused some people who thought they were mandatory (we think we’ve already fixed that problem). And we parked the stories right at the top of the page, where they didn’t change or update very often.
We’ve been hearing more and more from members of 43Things that they are, frankly, just not digging those How I Did It stories parked at the top of the goals pages. So we are going to test some new designs that get those ever-useful accounts of how a goal is accomplished back in the flow with the rest of the content on the page. By testing, we mean some people will see the current page, and others will see the new one. It will probably take a couple weeks to dial in just what change we think will work best, but all the tests will involve getting more timely content higher up on the page.
Whenever we test something out or make a change, there is always a period of adjustment. By testing things we are trying to make sure that what is working on 43 Things doesn’t get broken in the process. We will do our best to make the site better and you can help us with your feedback.
We are going to take 43places.com offline for most of the day today while we work to rollout a new set-up for 43places. We aim to be back by 6 pm PST. The new site starts out looking much the same with one exception: lists. But under the hood a lot has changed.
So what’s new? Out of the gate, the changes are mostly in the infrastructure. All of the Robot Co-op sites were built around a shared database and at various times were cached and served collectively. This new 43places is running on a different set of hardware, with a different database, making it almost fully separate from the other sites. For users, we hope this means no difference. But for the Co-op, it has been a good chunk of work to allow it to get to this more flexible and independent set-up. Moreover, we’ve chosen to go forward with a hosting set-up that operates “in the cloud”. We are serving the whole site from EC2 webservers and the RDS database in the sky.
So what’s else? Well as we said in a previous post, we are moving the travel lists that lived on listsofbests.com over to 43places.com. We think this will lead to more list building greatness and we’ve got a few new features for lists (like voting and new display formats). When the site is back up, check out a few lists, like:
“New York Times” 31 Places to Go in 2010
BBC’s 50 places to see before you die
Everybody Hates A Tourist: USA Edition
With the new infrastructure work done, we are looking forward to getting more new features out that make 43Places a useful and fun place for travel enthusiasts. And with these back-end improvements, we’ll now be able to work quicker on launching new features.
With all this change, there are bound to be bugs and some half baked ideas exposed. As always let us know about them. With the move of the lists, there might be a week or so when some lists aren’t yet showing up on 43Places, but we will be working to get them there as soon as we can.
We are rapidly coming up on the 5th anniversary of 43 Things’ appearance on the interweb. When we were first getting started, way back in 2004, we decided to put out a “primitive” version of the site. We code-named this experiment “Twinkler”.
“Twinkler” was a very basic version of 43 Things. This site let you make a list of your goals and told you how many people had the same goal in common. The site didn’t have accounts, reminders, entries, images, profile pages, search results, or any of the things you might expect a site like 43Things.com to have. What it did have was a big provocative question: “What do you want to do with your life?“
Within 43 days, more than 200,000 people had made a list of their goals on “Twinkler” and we knew we had an idea that was resonating with people all around the world. Five years later, over 2 million more people have used 43 Things to make a life list, a list of the goals they want to accomplish most. Since then, we’ve met users of 43 Things from all over the world, put out a book of goals submitted by users of 43 Things, and seen the site make differences in people’s live we never could have imagined 5 years ago.
To commemorate the last 5 years, we are bringing the simplicity of that first version of 43 Things to our site’s homepage for a few months while we celebrate our anniversary. At the end of the week you’ll see the homepage direct some attention on the question “What do you want to do in 2010?” We hope you enjoy our tribute to our humble beginnings as we re-connect with our past and we hope you’ll think about what you want out of the next year, as we celebrate 5 years of 43 Things.