Related spurls per category

The database is finally reaching significant size so I decided to start playing with some of the things that I’ve been planning to do when a critical mass of spurls were reached.

The new addition is very small on the surface, but I suspect it may become a favorite feature for a lot of Spurl users: suggesting pages based on category contents. To see the related pages for one of your categories, open the category (in the main window, not just the Spurl bar) and click the “related spurls” link besides the category name at the top. Spurl will fetch 20 relevant pages, based on other users’ categorization.

The results are better than I even hoped for. If you choose a category with 5-10 or more links, the “related spurls” usually turns up a pretty impressive list of pages. The better defined the category is and the more pages in it, the better the results. I hope you will agree with me.

Addressing this from a more philosophical point, I’ve always had problems with the “one-size-fits-all” category structure of web directories such as Yahoo, dmoz, etc. Even with the cross referencing (the @-sign after the category names), it does not serve its purpose. I know only a handful of people that ever use these directories – people simply have so different mind-models of the world that categorization that makes perfect sense to one user, the next one finds totally irrelevant.

At the same time users tend to group related things together even though the exact hierarchy is totally different. So the thought was: What if I could simply browse my own category structure and yet find pages that I did not put there myself? Every Spurl user has put up a unique category structure – and believe me, there are as many such structures as there are users and people have fundamentally different approach in how they organize their bookmarks – yet there are often close matches between the contents of two categories even though they have different names, in different languages and are a part of a totally different category structure.

This way, everybody can use their own structure, yet tap into the power of the user base – and it will most likely scale nicely. The more users and categories, the closer matches this method will find.

All and any comments are welcomed, good or bad.

The latest batch of updates + policies

A few updates in the last couple of days worth noticing.

  • Moving multiple spurls: I finally got around doing this. Should have been done ages ago. There is now a checkbox in front of every entry in the lists on the My Spurls page. Check the appropriate boxes, select the category these entries should be moved to in the dropdown box at the bottom of the list and click “Move”. As easy as that. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a major usability enhancement.
  • Faster recommendations and now time sensitive: The recommendations now take into account that your interests may be changing over time and bases the recommendations more on the last things users have added. The recommendations are also faster now, but still need some work on that front, especially for users with a lot of spurls. I’m becoming happier with the quality of the recommendations but there is still a list of improvements that I think will make them more relevant. The most involved of you will notice that there is a new scale of measurements for the recommendations, ranging from 1-5, where 1 is a vague connection and 5 a very strong one. Obviously the longer the period you choose for your recommendations, the more relevant matches you are likely to get.
  • Recommendations in Spurl bar: You can now access your recommendations on a new tab in the Spurl bar. The recommendations there are additions from the last week. They will therefore be gradually changing, so you won’t miss things that Spurl thinks you will find interesting.
  • Speed improvements: I spent quite some time during the week on optimizing various things. The database has been growing really fast over the past two weeks and that resulted in some things – especially database queries – becoming quite slow. I’ve been focusing on the most used things, such as the front page, and the tabs on the Spurl bar and am working my way through other, less used parts of the system.

As for the practical part, Spurl now has Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy. I don’t think there will be any surprises there, it’s basically: We’ll be good to you and you should be good to us 🙂
The main points are:

  • We don’t collect personally identifiable information and we’re not interested in it.
  • We use cookies to make the service more user friendly, nothing is stored there other than a few preferences and an id to recognize a revisiting registered user.
  • We may study collective trends and information in the database. Such studies will not involve the trends of individual users and will only be used in an aggregated way. And btw. anything that is marked “private” will be left out of any such studies, and is for your eyes only.
  • You’re not allowed to store illegal material. If we become aware of such data, it will be deleted immediately.
  • Don’t try anything stupid.

Even though it doesn’t say in the ToU or PP, I want to emphasize that Spurl is and will always be free of charge and free of ads for personal use. See the FAQ for details

Introducing: The Spurl bar

Spurl steps aside…

I just completed wrapping the core functionality of Spurl.net into a neat toolbar that sits on the side of your browser.

At the top of the bar is a search field, for searching your spurls (spurls are essentially “Bookmarks on steroids” for those of you that need a tagline).

Below the search field there are 4 tabs:

  • My most used: A list of the pages you have most frequently visited through Spurl. After using Spurl for a couple of days, this tab will hold more or less all the pages you visit on a regular basis. I have found this to be a personal favorite.
  • My spurls: A treeview holding all your spurls in categories.
  • Hot now: The pages that Spurl users have spurled the most in the last few days.
  • Just in:The freshest spurls from all users.

Note: The icon in front of a spurl ( ) is a link to your details on the spurl, and allows you to change them.

This new bar gives an extremely easy access to the spurl functionality with minimal interruption to your normal browsing behavior. I don’t know why I didn’t implement it like this from the beginning, but here it is.


– – –

The installation is as simple as it gets.

For Opera and Mozilla (etc.) users it is a single click of a link.

Explorer users must restart their systems for the full installation (why is Bill so difficult?), but they are in for an extra treat. The installation will also create two new buttons in the Navigation bar (next to the Back and Home links, etc.). One for toggling the Spurl bar on and off, the other one for spurling pages. So in that case you don’t even need the good old Spurl! link in the Links bar any more – the new button has all it’s functionality.

And don’t worry, no software is in fact installed on the computer, just a few registry changes and the install page holds a link to uninstall it as easily as it was installed.

To install the Spurl bar, go here. If you are a new user – go to the front page of Spurl.net and register. The last step of the registration shows you how to install the Spurl bar.

Note: If the buttons in the Navigation bar (Explorer only) don’t appear after you have restarted the computer, you have to go to View / Toolbars / Customize… and locate them there. This only happens for those that have previously customized their Toolbar somehow.

– – –

Update Apr 14, 2004: Mozilla / Firefox / Firebird / Netscape support now completed as well – unfortunately Safari does not support sidebars, but a workaround is in the making.

Right click to Spurl!

Internet Explorer users can now add a Spurl! link to their right-click context menus.

This has several traits:

  • It allows users to spurl pages that appear in frames.
  • It saves space on the desktop for those users that don’t use the Links bar for anything else.
  • It bypasses pop-up blockers

To install the right-click option, go to the Spurl link page and see “Version 3” at the bottom of the page.

Hope you like it.

Private spurls and various minor updates

I may have been quiet for the last few days, but busy none the less. You may notice a new checkbox in the “Advanced” spurling window, labeled “Private”.

This allows you to spurl pages that you don’t want to go through the public listings on Spurl.net. If a page is marked “Private”, the only place you can find it is through “My spurls” on the web, and of course when searching your spurls. These pages do not appear in any lists anywhere on the Spurl.net website and not in syndicated lists. So, now you can happily take advantage of Spurl.net without fearing that your competitors, friends or spouses will be aware of what you have marked 😉

To change the “Private” setting for a page click the “Change comment/category” icon next to the page on the “My spurls” page. I will be changing that later on to simply “Edit entry”.

Other changes are not as obvious, but still worth mentioning:

  • The search results, especially when searching the entire spurl library should now be much more relevant, and searching your own spurls should also have improved. The relevance algorithm is rather complex, but in short it puts a certain weight on the title, description, comments and categories people have used for the spurl. It then also takes into account how many people have spurled the page, as an indication of significance. When searching your own spurls, the text of indexed pages is obviously searched as well, and other people’s comments and likings play a far smaller role. I will play around some more with this code, so if you have comments on search results, please let me know.
  • The recommendations have also been tweaked a bit, so they should be more relevant now.

All for now – but more to come during Easter.

My spurls update

Some of you may have noticed an upgrade of the My spurls page. The main addition is that you can now rename, move and delete categories. Just go to the category in question and you see these features in the category header.

It is no also possible to sort the spurls based on date, title and how often they’ve been clicked. This helps locate what your spurls. Note though that ordering by number of clicks acts a bit strange as it does not correctly sort spurls with 0 or 1 click. This is a bit weird and is due to a writers block in my SQL brain center. I hope to find a fix soon, but it does not seriously affect the usefulness of having this option.

Further updates to be announced in the next few days…

Search functionality

Just added a search function to search for entries in the entire Spurl.net database. This first version is very simple. It simply searches:

  • the spurl title
  • the url
  • all user comments
  • and the description

…for a search string match. The search is not limited to whole words, so searching e.g. for “interest” will return also return spurls where the words “interesting” or “interests” appear in the searched fields.

Users can limit search to their own spurls in order to search for something they’ve previously spurled themselves.

There will be more search features soon, but I decided to introduce this limited functionality now as it is already quite useful and interesting.

Add a “Click to spurl” button to your page

You can now put a “Click to spurl” button on your webpages or blogs. It’s a single line of Javascript that you put in the code of any page where you want the button to be displayed.

The button looks like this:

The grey area will show the number of users that have spurled the page, and allows users to spurl the page simply by clicking it. If the users aren’t spurl.net users already, the pop-up will direct them to the spurl.net webpage for information and sign-up if they want.

So, the button helps promote your site through spurl.net and helps building spurl.net by drawing users and usage from already existing users.

To get the button, simply go here for instructions and the code sniplet.

Javascript lists improved

Improved on yesterday’s syndication list builder and made the Javascript list a lot more flexible.

You can now include the date the page was spurled and your comments or the description for the page either as a text in the list or on a mouseover. See the builder for details (requires login).

You can see two very different examples of lists made with the builder on my Wetware blog (“Wetware spurls” on the right hand side) and the front page of spurl.net (the “What people are saying about…” list at the bottom). In both cases the list shows a single category from “My spurls”, so now every time I either see some discussion about spurl.net online or a page that I think the readers of Wetware will like, I spurl it into the respective category and it shows up right away on the right place. How cool is that?!

The CSS tags in the Javascript list allow very flexible formatting. You will find details on that in the aforementioned syndication list builder.