One click, and I’m waist deep in a steady flow of information. The stream on my homepage shows new updates – my friend visited an article on PopularScience and decided it Rocks. Someone added a new related page to one of the things I have in my bookmarks. One look at the list of people I follow shows me where they are this very second, all over the web. I notice that couple of them stalk a certain celeb that’s online, and is browsing books on Amazon. Some of my other friends are watching Youtube clips, so I check out one of them, then I leave a comment.
I go to the list of popular sites, and I see people swarming around various articles about E3 2011. There’s almost one thousand users on a Gizmondo article in this very minute, but that’s yesterday’s news for me.
I notice my Credibility score went up quite a bit since I last logged in. I check what bumped it, and it seems it was a relation I created between the WII U console announcement and a spoof cartoon about it. The cartoon now shows in a Related Content box next to the announcement, and people are clicking it like mad. Some added me to their following lists.
I check out one of the users who voted that the WII U cartoon “Rocks”, and I see that he just came from Nintendo corporate website, where he participated in a long discussion, full of snarky comments. Some PR folks are firefighting, but they can’t moderate the comments. They’re a part of StormDriver system, outside of their jurisdiction. I read a bit, until I feel I need some fresh air. I click my Recommendations, and discover two new cool IT web comics I never knew, that popped out due to my interest in the topic.
Then I enter the “Indie 101” news stream I’ve created. It aggregates resources for young indie musicians. I see a review of a cool new app that does exactly what I want. I click “Rocks”. I don’t know this, but under the hood the system crunches my vote, and people who are indie musicians themselves are now more likely to see this site in their streams. I see that five more people subscribed to my news stream. I’m about to check their profiles and see who they are (and what they are doing).
Then, my friend comes online, so I start stalking him. He first goes to Huffington Post, clicks around, and then… Then he goes to read up reviews of local restaurants. I check his history and notice he’s been visiting a profile of a certain girl I don’t know – very often for the last couple of days. Jackpot! Maybe in a week or so he’ll change his status on Facebook, but right now It seems I’m the first one to know.
What you’ve just read is not an exercise in fiction, or a startup idea that exists only as a power point presentation and a couple of flowcharts. We’re pleased to announce that StormDriver is working – and we’re having a blast testing it.
Last week, a new pre-alpha build came online, and we were finally able to see if the concepts we were working on for past months translated well into real life. They did. Sure, there are no celebs in the system yet, so we’re mostly interacting within the team, but I can promise you it’s a lot of fun. We can’t wait to let more people in and see what happens.
You don’t have to take my word for it, though, as I brought some screenshots from last session with me to prove that StormDriver exists. Please keep in mind it is very much a work in progress, especially as far as the layout and user interface is concerned.
The funny thing is, couple of months ago we had a full, final layout applied. The looks were very sleek, everything was polished. There was just one problem, or two problems to be more precise. The system wasn’t doing some things we really wanted. And it was doing some things we didn’t really like.
It was back to the drawing board for all of us. This time, though, we have decided that looks will be last in line, that first we need to have a system that’s cool and simple to use – and only then we will care about the finishing touches. So excuse us for the rough looks.
But I guess you’re not here to read about design road bumps and the dark bottomless pit that software development sometimes becomes. Presentation aside, we are all very happy with this build. Just after it went live, all schedules went to hell, as everyone was too busy clicking around, earning their first Credibility points, building first relations and recommending first pages. Right now, I can safely say the current version is more or less what we’ve been hoping for since the very beginning. And that public Alfa is no doubt coming shortly.
So, what can you do with StormDriver?
Quite a lot – including some of the things you were never able to do before. We’ll be going through various functions in detail over the next couple of weeks, but to give you a very short and condensed list, let’s start with some basics.
StormDriver creates an additional layer on top of the web. It’s an open, transparent layer, sort of a mall with content instead of stores. And with users, that you can see walking around, chatting, grouping, swarming in an interesting location. You can see where your friends are this very second, or where they were minutes ago.
Think of Facebook and Twitter as a pub or a club. You meet up with your friends in an enclosed space, you talk about things you’ve seen or read, you exchange the addresses (links), and then go your separate ways. StormDriver makes every page a virtual territory, a potential meeting place, a playground, a discussion club. You don’t have to tell your friends you’ve seen a cool picture. They already see you did, and they see you liked it. You in turn can take a peek at what others are enjoying right now. There’s a whole lot of interaction possible without posting a single link or writing a single status update. Your actions speak for you.
In Open Web Layer, you’re also outside the jurisdiction of webmasters, admins and content owners. For example, you can comment and discuss freely. Your comment may show on any website, even if it has no commenting option whatsoever. Your comments cannot be moderated by the website owner. You can comment where no comments are allowed – on corporate main sites, on articles about celebrities with super-duper court injunctions, on a website of Islamic Assembly of Iran. That’s as free as free speech goes without shouting everything out in the middle of Hyde Park.
Whenever you see a page, you can link similar content with links visible to everyone else through our relation engine. You can vote, and voice your emotions in a visual way. Collective intelligence of the Internet becomes yours at the touch of the fingertip. You can filter out contents that suit you most, extracting the coolest parts of the web into your personalized layer.
All the time, there are lots of things going on under the hood. We’re doing math we’re pretty sure no one else does at the moment. We build a complicated relations map, where all web content visited by users is linked by similarity. Thanks to the system architecture, we gather a lot of information about the user preferences, so that we can build a “virtual DNA” of everyone who accesses content through our system. Then we compare it to DNA of other users, analyze, feed it through some algorithms and – voila.
That’s what Mingle is all about, the first of functions I’m going to describe today. We believe that in the age of information no one is a unique snowflake anymore. Out of three billions of internet users, there’s bound to be someone just like you. And his reactions to content can be a good gauge of what you will like – or dislike. To find these like-minded people, we’ve built the Mingle function.
It simply shows you a list of users sorted by similarity. Some of them will be quite similar, some of them might be your true Soulmates, and it’s quite possible that you’ll find at least one of your Clones on this list. But what then? Don’t worry, we won’t ask you to write to them or befriend them. It’s not a matchmaking site, although if you want some personal contact it’s certainly possible. Because the system is so transparent, you can see other user’s complete history. You can check what’s in somebody’s bookmarks, where that person was going yesterday and where exactly he or she is now. You can walk together through the web, using the “Stalk” function.
Similar users are a great source of content discoveries. Found a fervent and fellow fan of dutch folk music? Maybe he knows some cool bands you don’t? Found another Steampunk fanatic? He’s bound to know some cool books and games.
Of course, digging around in public profile is not the only option, if you’re looking for some good content. There’s also:
Surf is a twin brother of Mingle. It is a mirror functionality, but instead of comparing your DNA to other user’s DNA, it compares the DNA of content you like, with DNA of content from all around the web. Then, it provides you with a list of pages you have never visited, that should be very interesting for you, sorted by the total recommendation score. Sounds simple, but to make that work there are tons of calculations involved: relation maps, user histories, semantic analysis, keyword extraction, vote aggregation. Of course, the more you use the system, the better and more accurate the recommendations become – the list changes with each action you perform.
It also takes into account the content your friends liked. It’s an intelligent mix of things people from your social circle endorse and enjoy, with little known content that matches your preferences perfectly.
Surf is your gateway to all things cool and fun.
We’re far from finished. Mingle and Surf are only a part of what makes StormDriver a unique experience. We want to tell you about the Home Stream, the customized News Streams, about the power of Stalking and the way the Credibility score is involved. And then there are other great things we’re not quite ready to release yet. Stay tuned for more previews.
And if you haven’t done so yet, sign up for the alpha tests. There’s not much time left, so if you’d like to get your hands on an early build (preferably with some friends), use the registration box on our site. You will be able to help making StormDriver better for yourself – and for all of us – by suggesting new functionalities and changes. Our feedback system allows users to vote for the ideas they like best, so after the public alpha starts, the development process will become a bit more democratic.
Sign the list, put on your pioneer hat, and be ready to set off! Brave alpha users will be forever marked as those, who ventured first on the wide expanse of the Open Web Layer.
UPDATE: A second part of our exclusive preview is available! Click here to read.