Reconciling assholes for nearly a decade.

Botlist sucks, what can I do to get more users

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/

Besides changing the look which I will probably get somebody with more graphics skills to change that.

In terms of functionality, what are some things you would like to see on this kind of site.

Main functionality is here, basically reddit combined with del.icio.us.

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/botverse/botverse.html

In terms of my goals, I want to get 1000s of urls from various feeds every day so I end up with millions of articles.  Submitted automatically and by users.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 3:29pm
Make it simpler.
Less is more.
I am confused.
Always have been.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 13th, 2007 3:39pm
"Make it simpler.
Less is more.
I am confused.
Always have been."

By the layout?  Yea, it sucks.  But the application is really just reddit. 

Hmm, or maybe I should highlight only the "submit", "most recent" buttons.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 3:41pm
If it were popular.  It would be one of the few popular jruby applications out there.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 3:43pm
Yup - totally confused - don't know what the hell to do once you get there.

First impression: OK a bunch of links - randomly? sorted - now what? - oh f*ck it - leave
Permalink Cheers 
July 13th, 2007 3:47pm
I can't figure out exactly what botlist is.

Granted, today I am currently insane and running on little sleep and half of my brain is occupied by completely irrational thoughts. In other words, how a Slashdot user experiences the world all the time.

All I see are a bunch of links on the page with little pluses and minuses and two lines of meta below them. I clicked on About, and there is a blank page with a link to a dead forum. I clicked "General Help", but it just says what I can do with it, but not how it works.

It doesn't say what points are. It says 'tags', but I can't click on that and the words next to 'tags' just seem to repeat the headline. There's so much grey text-- the dates are given numerically, the day of the week, and how long ago they were-- "posted 1 days ago on Thu Jul, 12" instead of just "1 day ago" or "yesterday".

I clicked on Home and there is a picture of blocks on the right that I can't click on, and a list of cities with zeros next to them on the left.

I am guessing that by clicking on the plusses and minuses that the links move up. Or something. But a little picture  or animated flash box would be better.

Also, the header text:
------------
BotList allows you to promote your personal profile or something of interest. We cannot force upon you what you should advertise, but we suggest posting personal profile listings, new and exciting websites, or upcoming events. And not as polarizing as reddit or digg, everyone is welcome here.
------------

I really have no idea what that means. Force upon me what I should advertise? I am not advertising anything. And why cannot you? What? My personal profile? What is my profile-- so I have to make an account and then promote myself on your site?

Really, I am just sort of confused, in that charming ADD-don't-give-a-shit-to-figure-it-out-if-its-not-completely-obvious way that web surfers have.
Permalink anoneemouse 
July 13th, 2007 3:48pm
http://reddit.com/

Reddit has almost the same interface, just cleaner.

I also have this where you can download the links.

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/pipes/rdf_nutch.html
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 3:50pm
"I clicked "General Help", but it just says what I can do with it, but not how it works"

Havent worked on the help.

On the "craigslist" like section (which are the cities on the main page).  I am still debating if I should keep that part.  I want to.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 3:52pm
Yeah, partly because I don't use reddit, I feel overwhelmed.

I guess some of it is layout. Like for categories, I think I'd go with a drop-down. Then at least it's a single point on screen that associates back to a concept. Not that I am any sort of UI champion...

It just seems 'busy' when you can move your mouse in a 2 inch circle and click 20 different things.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 13th, 2007 3:53pm
JoC:

Now move from reality to hypothetical.  If there is one thing you would add to a site like reddit/del.icio.us what would it be.

I want to add some kind of snapshots of various stories that are popular at the time.

Also, I wouldnt mind doing something with google maps to show where top stories are coming from or where the top stories are occurring.

So far, the feeds are coming from "feeds" like Canadian websites or Boston websites.  Would be interesting to hookup a google maps interface and then filter by location.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 3:57pm
More hookers.
Permalink Impractical Economist 
July 13th, 2007 3:58pm
- get a shorter URL
- remove the header photo of what appears to be the roofs of tract housing
- change the header so it doesn't say "BotList - Ad Listings"
- remove the paragraph that says "botlist allows you to..."
- remove the image of cubes
- remove the links to cities on the left since most cities have a "0" beside them
- remove the two blocks in the middle for "botverse" and "forums"
- make the list of recent updates bigger and taking up the whole screen

If you want the site to be like reddit, the first step is to just copy the reddit site verbatim. This doesn't require a graphic designer, you simply "save page" in firefox and use that as your HTML template.

Actually you don't need to do that, even. You just need to ditch the index page and replace it with this one:

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/botverse/botverse.html?filterset=mostrecent

Then you need to differentiate it from reddit a little bit. I would just add one feature, like adding images or youtube videos displayed inline.
Permalink hello. 
July 13th, 2007 3:59pm
- get a shorter URL (not yet, this is for testing)

- remove the header photo of what appears to be the roofs of tract housing (no, I like the photo)

- change the header so it doesn't say "BotList - Ad Listings" (and I need the title to change, I can do this)

- remove the paragraph that says "botlist allows you to..." (ok)

- remove the image of cubes (no, in the future, I am going to auto generate 3D images and display them on the main page, mainly simple geometric shapes, maybe actual robots)

- remove the links to cities on the left since most cities have a "0" beside them (ok, fine)

- remove the two blocks in the middle for "botverse" and "forums" (not the forums)

- make the list of recent updates bigger and taking up the whole screen (you mean instead of display 20, display 40 or something, I can do that)
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:03pm
When you click to view the comments, you should show which user made which commment.

Also, when i make a comment, I don't see a header that tells me what I clicked to comment on.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 13th, 2007 4:04pm
"When you click to view the comments, you should show which user made which commment."

yea, a bug.

On the youtube thing, that is a good idea.  I had a section for youtube but never panned out.

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/botverse/group/grouplinks.html?groupgenid=fd50091908d57ab8b15db358000media

I am a lazy one man developer, plus I get caught up with the technology too much.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:07pm
If you don't do exactly what I say, your site isn't going to be popular. Trust me. ;-)
Permalink hello. 
July 13th, 2007 4:08pm
"If you don't do exactly what I say, your site isn't going to be popular. Trust me. ;-)"

You are probably right.  But I like my site being on the same level as middle-schooler's cat website and one of the 8billionth site in the nether region of the web.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:12pm
...isn't it already there?  Maybe you need to add some <blink> tags...
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 13th, 2007 4:15pm
"If you don't do exactly what I say, your site isn't going to be popular. Trust me. ;-)"

Also, you seemed to know what you are talking about.  Lets pretend I work night and day on serious changes to the application.  What next?  How would you bring in users?  That whole posting on mailing-lists, relying on google, shouting on forums seems like a lost cause.

It seems like you have to talk to actual internet people and spread the word.

I wonder how sites like youtube, youporn got users to come in.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:15pm
The reason I like reddit is that I can scan headlines and click things that are interesting to me.  On botlist all the headlines are cut in half with ... after the names.  The headlines don't take up enough space on the page, I didn't notice them until I really looked for them.  They look like advertising to me.  When I clicked on an actual link I got a summary of the article and a bunch of comments, but when I scanned the comments it was clear they were made on some other site, which is just lame.  Too many pictures on the front page.  I like nice layout but too many pictures is less room for important stuff.  It's basically unusable.

hello. is entirely correct in his criticisms.
Permalink the great purple 
July 13th, 2007 4:17pm
since: Thu 05, Jul 07:

Page Views: 39952
Unique Visitors: 1104
Visits this Week: 36012
1. / Fri 13, Jul 07 / 3427
2. / Thu 12, Jul 07 / 4647
3. / Wed 11, Jul 07 / 4944
4. / Tue 10, Jul 07 / 5520
5. / Mon 09, Jul 07 / 4876
6. / Sun 08, Jul 07 / 6089
7. / Sat 07, Jul 07 / 5870

I seem to bring in some page views.  Most of them from google crawls, but more than 5 or 6.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:18pm
Yep, I agree with hello.

The picture does suck.

And think carefully if 'exactly like reddit' is where you should be going. It might be easier to make your own market with a different user base, who may have different expectations for the UI.
Permalink anoneemouse 
July 13th, 2007 4:21pm
>I am a lazy one man developer

Yet you seem to be trying for everything -- a mash-up of a bunch of big sites.

Do one simple thing very well and you have a hope. Do lots of things in a, err, not very well way, and it is completely hopeless.

The classic "put a list of big cities" thing is a notorious mistake that small sites make, as if all of those big cities have just been desperately chomping at the bit for the chance to get at your goods. Better to have one single small town with a couple of users at first.
Permalink DF 
July 13th, 2007 4:22pm
And when you say it's "just like Reddit" you're sort of missing the simple elegance of Reddit, in the same way as saying Excite@Home was just like Google.

And the 3D graphics are terrible. It looks like the result of about 5 minutes with Truespace 3D.
Permalink DF 
July 13th, 2007 4:24pm
"And the 3D graphics are terrible."

10 minutes by povray.  And yea, that is why I only included 2 of them.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:25pm
I haven't read the other detailed comments yet, so these are totally independent of the others:

1)

>>> Reddit has almost the same interface, just cleaner.

You are totally kidding yourself if you think this is true.  A quick look at the reddit home page gives you some idea of what it is.  On the botlist page, you have no idea what's going on.  Are there interesting stories posted somewhere?  If so, it's not obvious.

2) Actually, I think I can summarize what's wrong with Botlist:

almost every single bit of text on the page is useless and/or confusing.  If it were only a few things, people might overlook those and figure out what the page is for from other items on the page.

"Botverse" doesn't tell you anything, maybe that's the name of the site?  No, the url and the page title are "Botlist."  It's confusing to have both.

"Ad listings" sounds like it's something to do with ads.
"Ad listgings | Home" is distracting.

What the hell is the list of cities for?

The blurb that starts with  "BotList allows you to promote your personal profile or something of interest." is useless.  What's a personal profile and how does a site help me promote it.

The "botverse" box just repeats the confusion that the 2 names on the top cause.

Forums - ok, that's clear, but when you look at them it's obviously not active.

"Recent updates" implies updates to the site.  If you think about the list, you realize those are some sort of topics like Reddit, but it's not clear.  Updates on the box makes it sound like these stories were recently updated.

If that's supposed to be like Reddit, you'd better give a longer snippet of the story, they're so short they're meaningless:

Jon Altman and John Taylor:  - who?
Thursday, July 19  - a headline that's the date?
Bracks promises $60m for Gi  - who?  does what?

The picture with blocks is pointless.

The big headline about al gore's kid is out of date.  Even if it were a real breaking headline, what's it doing way down there out of the way and in another colour.

"Fresh.  User-controlled" ... it doesn't look like it's either of these, make up a tagline that's more realistic.

The links at the bottom are a mish-mash, "stats  | global search  | pipes api  | botlist rdf data  | faq  | newspiritcompany.com  | blog  | Ron Paul for Pres. 2008" that also distract from what you say the site is for.


So get rid of essentially everything on the page, and only put back clearly-written stuff that fits what you are trying to make the site do.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 13th, 2007 4:26pm
Wrong page.

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/botverse/botverse.html
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:29pm
Out of curiosity -- do all of the stories have 29 points because the Google spider has gone through 29 times?
Permalink DF 
July 13th, 2007 4:32pm
Well, I am still happy with it.  This is the first web application I have put up (outside of work of course).  Most of the time I am writing console apps or this small operating system from the past.

http://orangelin.sourceforge.net/
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:32pm
Your main problem is IBKC - idiot between keyboard and chair.  Can't even put the right link in the first line of your post...
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 13th, 2007 4:33pm
"Out of curiosity -- do all of the stories have 29 points because the Google spider has gone through 29 times?"

No, I am reading the articles from feeds and for testing set the rating to a random number < 30. hehe.

You can see the different here.

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/botverse/botverse.html?filterset=mostrecent
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:33pm
botbert is the robot (cronjob) that reads the feeds.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:34pm
>Well, I am still happy with it.

You definitely should be.

Online service apps aren't my forte, but as a user of said apps I'd suggest that you focus, go for the minimum possible.

Also, don't think that just because you put some effort into it, you are owed visitors (a few posts in the past have made it evident that you felt a little of that -- that you've put it up so it annoys you that they haven't come. This isn't a neighbourhood baseball diamond, and there is tremendous competition for user's eyes).
Permalink DF 
July 13th, 2007 4:44pm
Ward, you are just mean...
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 4:46pm
this should be your home page and the one you showed to us inially:

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/botverse/botverse.html

i get a "ratingId" is null or not an object error when i click +/-.

why does everything have 29 pts?
Permalink Kenny 
July 13th, 2007 4:47pm
"why does everything have 29 pts?"

discussed above.  I plan on cleaning up the data (maybe).
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 4:48pm
"Also, don't think that just because you put some effort into it, you are owed visitors"

It is one of those double edged swords.  In my free time, I could spend my time staring at the wall. I could learn chinese or japanese.  I could write code.  I could write crap code, have it sit on my computer and I could tinker with it and not doing anything useful with it and mess with little projects for the rest of my life.

I haven't decided if anybody could be interested enough for me to work on stuff like this.  What is the point, really? I am a very functional thinker like that.  Anything I have put up at this point is out of pure boredom (eg, this weekend)

To some degree, sites like reddit, del.icio.us, crazyontap (of course my site) are kind of pointless. They won't save anyone's life, find a cure for cancer.  I wonder why people spend so much effort on them.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:00pm
The best thing you can do is simplify.  There is no pointed statement that says "use botverse to accomplish 'X'".
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 13th, 2007 5:00pm
"Botverse - Interesting things online"

Use botverse to "find interesting things online"?
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:02pm
Hmm, based on recommendations from the panel.  I plan on getting rid of everything there and just using this page.

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/pipes/botverse_pipes.html
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:09pm
>>> Ward, you are just mean...

It's not mean, that page is a mess, those were detailed comments on what's wrong.  Sharky said it more succinctly: "The best thing you can do is simplify."


>>> I wonder why people spend so much effort on them.

Keep in mind that Wayne only spent about 3hrs on the first version of Fruitshow.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 13th, 2007 5:10pm
"Keep in mind that Wayne only spent about 3hrs on the first version of Fruitshow"

That isn't too much more than what I spent my project.  Just drug out over 5-6 months.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:12pm
Write a spec, my friend.

And use cases.

Don't you learn anything from our Daddy? :)
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:15pm
I've spent a lot more time on FruitShow since then.  The hours add up.  But then FruitShow isn't so much of a "product" as it is a "hobby".  I spend a lot of time just fiddling with low-level details that are of no consequence to anyone except -- I just do it for the beauty of the code.  (Trying to do good design while being limited to PHP4 is a nice challenge too).
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 13th, 2007 5:16pm
"But then FruitShow isn't so much of a "product" as it is a "hobby".

Ditto.  I spent some time this last week.

Most of my other time is playing with new technology.  Like the feeds are built with code I wrote in scala.

http://www.scala-lang.org/

I am working on writing a load tester, to test the application with erlang.

I wish I had the dedication to think of the user (as cough, cough Ward seems to suggest).
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:21pm
"Botlist sucks, what can I do to get more users"

"I wish I had the dedication to think of the users"

PEBKAC indeed.
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:31pm
What do you think about the del interface:

http://del.icio.us/
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:32pm
Look and feel is only the symptom...

quote
» all your bookmarks in one place
» bookmark things for yourself and friends
» check out what other people are bookmarking
unquote

Right in front of you :)
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:37pm
"quote
» all your bookmarks in one place
» bookmark things for yourself and friends
» check out what other people are bookmarking
unquote "

Where is that from?
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:39pm
Sigh...
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:40pm
"» all your bookmarks in one place
» bookmark things for yourself and friends
» check out what other people are bookmarking
unquote"

Oh, is that Rick Bot material, that I can use.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:40pm
I AM DONE WITH YOU.

Just kiding.

It's right from the del.icio.us site.
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:43pm
» all your bookmarks in one place
» bookmark things for yourself and friends
» check out what other people are bookmarking
unquote":

Not if you are logged in and they have that automatic login so I havent seen that header before.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:44pm
Bot, it's right on the  del.icio.us homepage is HUGE letters. 

I don't like the del.icio.us interface that much -- seems to cluttered.  Probably a bad use of space / colors because craigslist contains way more information but is a much cleaner (to me) presentation.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 13th, 2007 5:44pm
Ok. My idea.

You and Michael think reddit is too left wing, right?

Create a right-wing reddit.

With a "liberal bias meter" to each stories -- green means ok, yellow means slightly liberal, orange means dangerously liberal, read means over-the-top liberal.
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:46pm
"ot, it's right on the  del.icio.us homepage is HUGE letters."

Not if you are logged in.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:46pm
"Not if you are logged in and they have that automatic login so I havent seen that header before."

Sorry :)
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:49pm
Now, this is the site!

http://ectopia.us/
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:52pm
http://del.icio.us/about/

THAT's concise and clear.
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 13th, 2007 5:56pm
Hmm, I may just hijack their content verbatim.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 5:59pm
I hate delicious. It looks like ass.

Ass that hasn't been wiped in a couple of weeks.
Permalink DF 
July 13th, 2007 6:05pm
http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/forums/viewforums.html?viewid=1

Crazy on tap style forums.  Now I spent not a lot of time on this one.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 6:10pm
> so I end up with millions of articles. 

what others have said. If this is your goal, you won't get many users. We don't want millions of articles thrown at us by some bot. Unless the bot is really, really, really smart. But till you've demonstrated the bot's smartness no one will believe these articles are salient to them.

(No offense, but fruitshow had a perfected detailed spec. That's why hello's advice: copy what works, first.)
Permalink Send private email strawdog sobriquet 
July 13th, 2007 6:15pm
http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/search/search.html?querymode=enabled&query=bush

But I also want to tweak the search functionality, being able to filter by millions of links could useful.

http://www.botspiritcompany.com/botlist/spring/search/search.html?querymode=enabled&query=bush~0.4
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 6:21pm
"smart. But till you've demonstrated the bot's smartness no one will believe these articles are salient to them."

But I dont have any users.  With the 40 thousand links I have get google more involved.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 6:24pm
I haven't been to slashdot in months.  I've never used reddit or digg or delicious. 

I get all my news and technology links from CoT.  I've had some news stories here before anywhere else (as far as I could tell at the time), plus links here are filtered by a small group that I "trust."
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 13th, 2007 6:29pm
that's not what a bot does. i just want it to give me (just me) two dozen links a day which I will find: entertaining, funny, relevant, poignant, make-me-cry (but as a real man).

then I want to chat about those links with 75% people who agree with me and 25% who dont. that makes me feel good and in the majority, but like super dull and feel like we're all rubberstamping our comments.

does it do that for you?
Permalink Send private email strawdog sobriquet 
July 13th, 2007 6:33pm
"I get all my news and technology links from CoT.  I've had some news stories here before anywhere else (as far as I could tell at the time), plus links here are filtered by a small group that I "trust.""

And where do you think we get those links from?

So you are saying reddit, digg, google.news are pretty much pointless.  Well, I guess I said it to.  But CoT has a user base and is not really an application.

I do a lot of research on reddit and similar sites (google news).  I think google news has more purpose than reddit, but reddit is a lit bit more fun.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 6:35pm
"that's not what a bot does. i just want it to give me (just me) two dozen links a day which I will find: entertaining, funny, relevant, poignant, make-me-cry (but as a real man). "

I actually thought about doing an alert thing that sends an email with popular links.

But, yea the bot that generates the links has some "bot" features.

There is some statistics that pulls links that contain for example "bush", "cheney" from feeds at about 100 a day (I have been seeding a little more to increase the number of links.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 6:37pm
"(No offense, but fruitshow had a perfected detailed spec. That's why hello's advice: copy what works, first.)"

I think Wayne just copied discuss.joelonsoftware as much as he could without the actual code.

I am too crazy to completely do that, even if I might want more than 1 user.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 13th, 2007 6:41pm
I actually grabs the actual HTML, CSS, etc from discuss.joelonsoftware.com to create the original version (hey, I was short on time!).  However, I've been working on FruitShow again after a bit of a hiatus and I'll be slowly making changes/improvements to the design.

Sometimes it is best to steal from somewhere else and then make your improvements to it.  That's what made Microsoft so successful.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 13th, 2007 6:45pm
I joined late to the party but this kind of bothered me

"In terms of my goals, I want to get 1000s of urls from
various feeds every day so I end up with millions of articles.  Submitted automatically and by users."

Automatically getting others content is rude. Is no distinct to many splogs out there. You should ask first for permission or you will be flagged as spammer.
Permalink Send private email Masio 
July 14th, 2007 4:05am
"Automatically getting others content is rude. Is no distinct to many splogs out there. You should ask first for permission or you will be flagged as spammer."

Google does it.

www.google.com
news.google.com
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 14th, 2007 12:42pm
Yeah, but you are not google :)

And even google got sued for doing that.
Permalink Send private email Masio 
July 15th, 2007 11:55am

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