A week ago, I blogged about a conceptual breakthrough in the design of SpokenWord.org. In a nutshell, I realized the site would ultimately be built on the relationships of people: one member recommending programs to others, and members following others and their recommendations. The concept survived Doug’s 48-Hour Rule for Conceptual Breakthroughs, and I’ve spent the past five days coding and debugging the first component, which turned out to be collections. Formerly known on the site as Playlists, Collections are just that: collections of programs, RSS feeds and now even other collections that any member can create, curate and share. Yes, allowing collections to include collections without all Hell breaking loose was tricky. Details are in the FAQ.
I’m currently struggling with a few more issues. First is that the site has four classes of “objects” and it’s currently difficult to (visually) tell which is which. We’ve got members, programs, feeds and collections, and they all look pretty much the same. The question is, therefore, how to change their visual representation so visitors can tell which they’re looking at. Seems pretty basic, but I’m visually challenged and I’m too close to the code.
Another big issue is how and what to feature, in particularly on the home page. Experts (and our advisors) tell us that you should be able to play programs immediately from the home page. (That’s not quite the case, yet.) But we also want to encourage the social activities: collecting, recommending, sharing and following. How can we strike the balance between just providing access to the programs and at the same time get people to interact with one another? Like I say, that’s what I’m scratching my head about tonight.
So please come by and check out Alpha 0.4. The new features are still a little rough around the edges, particularly some Ajax issues on IE6 and IE7. But you should be able to register, login, create collections and add programs, feeds or other collections to your collections. You can find great programs by browsing, searching — Advanced Search is in good shape — or just clicking on tags. You can send me feedback, leave a comment here, or (if you’re interested in our planning process) join the strategy discussion and post your ideas there.