Friday, June 23, 2006

Giving Netscape Beta a try

Lots of coverage last week about AOL’s beta of the new, headed up by Jason Calacanis. I’m pretty impressed. For those that don’t know what this is, it’s an attempt to let a community of users vote on which stories they think are most interesting. Services like, Digg, and many others are approaching this concept from a couple different angles. For Netscape’s intro, see here for a walk-through.
First, the good:

  • It’s pretty easy to vote on existing stories, and I like the breadth of the channels. Whereas Digg is tech only (though that’s about to change), is more across-the-board, with channels ranging from Politics, to Sports, Sex, News, Music, Video Games, TV, etc. Very broad.

  • Submitting a story is most easily done through a bookmarklet that lets you just add a site when you’re actually looking at it.

  • Unlike social bookmarking services like (which I still hate typing!), Netscape finds more in common with Digg in that it promotes three levels of usage: submitting a site, voting on a site, and commenting on a site. Not everyone who uses this kind of service will be a contributor – but you’ll get a lot of consumers who will vote (the more votes a story gets, the more visible it is on the site), and a few who will comment. It’s a good way of giving users multiple ways into the service.

  • I like the navigation frame, which gives you a way of seeing related stories to the one you’re reading, voting on them, and returning to It does a good job of intuiting how you’d want to surf through these sites, and I like that it adds to my browsing experience. (If only I had a larger display!)

What needs work:

  • One of the things I like about is the ease with which my bookmarks are posted to my blog each day. I tend to bookmark stuff when I’m too busy to blog about it (or I don’t have much to say); integrates with WordPress and once a day simply posts a collection of my bookmarks to the blog, effectively sharing them with all of my readers. I don’t see any way to do that at Netscape yet; I’m sure it’s something Jason’s thinking about. This will keep Netscape from being a daily utility for me, as my intent in sharing bookmarks isn’t just to share them within the service’s community, it’s to share them with my readers. lets me do that, doesn’t.

  • Though much has been made of the value of “anchors” (quasi-editors who do follow-up on stories submitted, and exercise a little control over the presentation of content), I’m not yet seeing the impact of that. I like the concept – most non-tech-savvy communities won’t like the free-form “web 2.0” lack of structure, and will appreciate knowing that there are trusted “anchors” watching over the site. I hope that as I spend more time on the site I’ll see more evidence of their impact.

  • No feeds! Anyone who wants to subscribe to my content needs to do it through; making my stories (and/or my votes and comments) available as feeds would let others follow my interests instead of having to come to (In case you care, you can see my profile here.)

  • Not much use of meta data yet. Since I’m tagging my stories (as, presumably others will as they interact with my submissions), I’m surprised that on my profile page I don’t see an ability to go visit those tags directly. If knows which tags I care about, it should make it easy for me to go there; in fact, it should be suggesting stories for me based on what I’ve previously expressed an interest in; part of the goal of the way the system is designed is to foster discovery of content, not just share content you already know about with others.

Overall, I think the site has great potential. I love that Jason is actively using his blog to solicit feedback, and think that there’s going to be a great feedback loop for rapid iteration on this tool. I look forward to watching it evolve!

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