Categories: collectik, myprojects

lessons from collectik, new proj coming

The global Collectik team is getting painfully close to releasing a new web project. Not much left but a couple of little tweaks … very exciting. I’m so happy that all the work we did on Collectik is finally blossoming into something that I really think will help people find great audio on the net. I don’t know if the new project will be a big success, but it’s something I’m very proud of. Our experience with our previous project was so frustrating in many ways.

It suffered from a number of probably classic start-up/web errors:

1. feature creep
2. fixing user experience by adding more features, rather than stripping them away
3. never really deciding what tool was supposed to do (see notes 1 and 2)
4. making a designer design *and* do html … deadly on a project like this, esp when there’s no money in it!

These and some other things meant that we could never really make Collectik work.

At the same time, that experience helped us understand how the tool was being used by the few who used it.

So we’ve stripped it all down, to its essential and the new project is the result. We plan to start some other projects building more features back into the platform, but the new one will stay clean and simple.

Anyway, the whole process has been fascinating for me and big thanks to Chris (back-end), Marie-Eve (design), and Madeline (html) … as well as to Kristen who got collectik far enough along that we could get to the new project.

More news to come soon! launches

After a whole lot of work, the Collectik Team is very happy to announce the official (soft) launch, of the Canadian Cultural Podcast Directory, a project of the National Arts Centre, and (a site run by the Department of Canadian Heritage) … coding, design and implementation by Collectik.

Here is the about:

Welcome to’s cultural podcast listing. This unique collection, curated with the expertise of the National Arts Centre, brings together Canadian audio and video podcasts that reflect Canada’s vibrant arts and culture scene. We collect podcasts produced by Canadians in French, English, and other languages on a variety of cultural topics.

We strive to be a complete collection, and if you feel your podcast qualifies for inclusion, please let us know through our submit form.

Big thanks to Chris (the programming maestro), Marie-Eve (the graphic wrangler with the eyes of gold), and Madeline (the html artiste/pound-IE-into-submissioner).

More projects to come soon! Stay tuned…

Democamp – Round-Up

I presented collectik last week at Montreal’s second Democamp. It was much bigger than I thought i would be – and there were more suity-looking folk than I expected. I guess there were about 100 people in the crowd to watch 5 of us present our projects. I showed off Collectik, and the other presentations were KakiLoc, iotum, BumpTop, and OpenSourceCinema. I’ll talk about Collectik first, then the others, finally some thoughts about Democamp Montreal.

(PS Josh, at Yashlabs, has the best overview of the even, including some vids; simon has a great bunch of pics)

collectikI was really happy with the response to Collectik. In some ways it’s been such a frustrating project – I know we have built a good and useful tool that no one else has built. But due to some rookie mistakes, one of the main ones being trying to fix user interface problems by throwing more features into the mix, the site has been too dense for most people to get into. We have pretty healthy traffic, but we have very minimal stickiness. We have a handful of pretty passionate users – but for the most part we’ve not yet convinced people why this is useful to them. And yet I am still convinced it can be. It is for me, and for others.

I went over these ideas in my presentation – in part trying to share some advice to developers out there, the main thing is: figure out what you DO and do that well. Then look at other features. I think it took us eight months or so to really figure out the real core of what we do. We’re there now, and need to rebuild the site to reflect that.

But if you do not know your core function, and if you are not certain your core function is useful, then you probably don’t have a product.

So to distill the most important stuff:
1. figure out your core function
2. build your design & UI around your core function – make it obvious and easy
3. if you have design & UI problems (see #s 1 &2 above), you cannot fix by adding new features

Another problem for us, I think, is the word “podcast.” I really find the jargonny nature of that word turns people off: “I don’t have an ipod;” “I don’t have time for podcasts,” etc. And yet when you tell a science nerd that New Scientist and Nature magazine both have podcasts, well, they get all excited. Had some nice post-event conversations about that.

In any case, I got tons of great feedback on Collectik, and that was so refreshing. So many people said: great that looks like a really useful tool. So it’s reenergized me on the project, which is nice because we’ve had some long delays on some other good news we’re waiting on.

Even better, I had a great talk with Alistair about a really intriguing idea about how to generate revenues out of collectik while doing some important good too. That one really excited me. I’ve obviously thought about Collectik – but I’ve thought about the other side of this top-secret proposition too. It never even occurred to me to put the two together. So that is extremely exciting; I’ll keep mulling whether there’s actually a business in there.

Here are quick thoughts on the other presentations.

I’ve seen these guys before, and they’ve got a great mobile phone/web technology to let groups of people know each other’s location. It looks like great tech, and works like a charm. It’s complex though, and is it a compelling enough function? My gut is that they will need to find some really specific applications for it. I don’t even own a mobile phone, so I’m not the market! End-game, though, must be to sell to mobile service providers.

Another mobile device technology, iotum (if I got it right) lets you define your availability based on relationships to other people. Having a job interview, and your tennis partner calls? It won’t disturb you. Out with your friend John for a coffee, and the love of your life calls? You’ll hear it. The service works well, and the usefulness is clear. The one question is, again, is it compelling enough? Probably yes, and I guess the end-game here is to sell to mobile service providers.

Super slick graphic desktop environment. See the vid here. Lots of fun … tho I don’t want to add all that chaos to my desktop. You definitely get the sense that there’s some great applications in there, though I am not convinced the desktop is the best place. God knows I’ve been wrong before.

Brett’s film project, a documentary on creative commons and copyright. Opensourcecinema is the place where you can help him remix the movie. Patrick did the design. Sylvain, Josh, and I helped out with the site during Beercamp #1.

After the event, Austin threw a little shindig at his carrraaaaazy bachelor pad. Beautiful loft in the industrial zone of St-Henri (out by MacAuslan). Had a couple of good chats there, mostly (as usual, with me, with people I know already).

Now some thoughts on DemoCamp:
1. very English. would be nice to see some more French there.
2. god, I wish this movement was around back in the summer when we were fist launching alpha/beta collectik
3. lets face it: iotum is from Ottawa; Bumptop is from Toronto. Where are all the montreal developers?