eHub Interviews Clipmarks

Posted by Emily Chang on Thursday, February 9th, 2006. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit Clipmarks, originally added to eHub on Dec 08, 05.

imageThanks to Eric Goldstein and the Clipmarks team for this email interview posted February 8, 2006.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

Clipmarks: Clipmarks is a free service that enables you to clip and tag pieces of information you find on web pages without having to bookmark the entire page.

As more and more information is available on the web, we believe that people need tools to help them make sense of it all. Clipmarks combines personal organization and community discovery to create a solution aimed at doing just that.  As an organizational tool, Clipmarks exceeds the functionality of bookmarks by enabling people to clip, tag and save snippets of content from any web page.  For community discovery, anyone can then search, view and discuss the specific information that they or others have clipped.  Because each Clipmark also contains a link to the source, you have the content you want plus a bookmark all in one.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

Clipmarks: I consistently found myself without a way to effectively retain and organize the information I found on the web.  Pages and links are good for lots of things, but sometimes I want to save specific pieces of information in an easy to organize and easy to retrieve collection (if you have ever looked at a list of bookmarks and wondered what half of them were doing there, then you know what I’m talking about).  Clipmarks was created to address that need.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

Clipmarks: I spend about 15 hours per day on Clipmarks.  It is my day job (night job and weekend job too for that matter).  When I’m not working on Clipmarks it’s usually because I’m sleeping, hanging out with my wife and one year old daughter or watching a Giants football game.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

Clipmarks: There are currently four of us working on Clipmarks:

image

Eric Goldstein (me): Co-founder and CEO.  I’m not a techie.  I went to law school, became a lawyer and never practiced law a day in my life.  I have always been prone to pointing out how I think things could be better and decided to put that to work because I constantly found myself thinking about how much better the web would be if I could better organize the information that’s available.  And so, in a nutshell, I read a number of books, met Derek and we gave it a shot.

Derek Krzanowski: Co-founder and Chief Technologist.  My experience with computers started when I was in sixth grade.  My teacher somehow convinced the school to purchase a PC for the classroom.  I think it was the first non-mac computer in any school in the district.  I very quickly gained interest in spreadsheets and formulas so I quickly became familiar with Quatro Pro and Microsoft Excel.  I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point in the year, my teacher sent me to another school to teach other students how to use these applications.  I spent the next 5 years of my life on the computer learning everything I could about how they work and how to use the applications available on them.  Then I had a stroke of good luck.  In my junior year of high school, my mom’s cousin came to visit from Boston.  While eating dinner at a local restaurant, he explained to me that he was a network engineer, and what that means.  I humbly pointed out to him that I had created the menu’s he was ordering from.  He must have liked them because he got me an internship for that summer at the company he worked for.  Not only that, but he invited me to live with him and his wife for the summer after having only met me once before, truly amazing people by the way.  Anyway, during my internship I began to learn about hardware and networking.  After my internship was over, they asked me to stay on part time and work via email as someone that other employees could use to do research on problems they encounter.  I went back home to Wisconsin to finish out my senior year.  I was never into school much, so I ended up dropping out and getting my HSED (basically a GED but supposedly better).  In February, shortly after my 18th birthday, I moved to Boston with my soon to be wife and mother of my 5 children, to go back to work full time with the networking company.  After a year of intense knowledge gain regarding hardware and networking, we decided to move to Florida.  Although a really great city, Boston really wasn’t the life for us.  I spent my first 2 years in Florida designing networks and some hardware support.  During that time, I started to play with web programming.  I quickly learned that programming was my true calling in computers.  I decided to go to work full time as a programmer at an up and coming web development shop.  After 2 years there and many late nights, I decided to start my own programming shop with one other person.  Though a friend of a friend I was introduced to Eric.  We have been working together ever since.

Adam Collett: Chief Design Officer.  Adam was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia. He spent his youth creating everything from music and magazines to mini golf courses in the front yard. He moved to New York City in 2001, founded a web production firm and became an “interaction designer.” Adam is dedicated to creating a Clipmarks interface that intuitively guides users towards getting what they want as quickly as possible.

Eric Weitner: Senior Web Developer:  BA from Boston University, cognitive psychology, summa cum laude.  Programming background: Unix/Linux systems, mysql, postgresSQL, oracle, mac os x.  Languages: perl, php, javascript, ASP, VB, XML, SQL, actionscript/flash, HTML, CSS, with special emphasis on interface design and contextual parsing (using regular expressions).  Some previous projects: one of the core developers/project managers of SQLClinic, an open source database application for psychiatric residences, used by hospitals in 5 different states. Written in Perl and MySQL.  Author of several proprietary web-based database applications, ranging for real estate listing management, employee scheduling, and contact management.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

imageClipmarks: I’ll let Adam answer that one.  I predict you’re going to hear about “cognitive friction.” Here’s Adam…

As little cognitive friction as possible :) In other words, we strive to eliminate points in the interface that could confuse the user and delay or stop them from getting what they want as quickly as possible.

Therefore, while we want everything to be as visually pleasing to the eye as possible, we ground our design choices in the question: “How can we use form, color, dialog and other elements to guide the user towards the information or action they want.” That tight integration between information design and graphic design is at the heart of our design philosophy.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

Clipmarks: Derek and Eric W, take it away….

The primary technology behind the site is AJAX (an acronym coined by Adaptive Path technologies less than a year ago that stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML).  Data is served via xml requests, and manipulated within the webpage using advanced javascript and DHTML (the interaction of javascript and CSS).  XML is at the heart of the site, as it is the way the backend talks to the front-end, as well as the way our data is syndicated offsite (RSS is a type of XML).  Our flavor of RSS is RSS 2.0 Cliproll utilizes RSS and javascript.  Print utilizes advanced javascript.  The navigator is able to perform and react in a live manner by submitting data to (and receiving data from) the server via XML Requests, rather than the traditional method of serving and reserving whole pages, while the user waits for them to be loaded and/or refreshed.  We are real two way communication.  With ajax, asynchronous requests allow the communication to be two way and lightning fast.  Only the data that is needed is sent back and forth.  JavaScript, by manipulating the DOM and interacting with CSS (cascading style sheets) is able to create the illusion that the webpage is a living, breathing application.  CSS and JavaScript interaction (otherwise known as DHTML) is used to create effects that are triggered by a user’s interaction.  Much like a native desktop application will act.

Technically, clipmarks will move towards more of a fully functional ever-evolving remote database application, that is intimately connected with fellow user’s data (ex: clipmarks and tags) and user interaction (ex: comments and rating).  Because we rely heavily on technologies that are newly emerging, IE 5.5 and above and FF 1.0 and above are the only browsers that will support all of these methods.  Safari is almost there and full Safari and Opera support is hopefully coming very soon.  Also, because our new interface is rooted in XML, and not a proprietary methodology, we hope to be close to publishing our API for others to build and enhance the clipmarks experience.

eHub: What are the most requested features from your users/community?

Clipmarks: There are a few things we’re consistently asked about.  The primary one is the ability to create Groups so that Clipmarks can be easily shared amongst friends, co-workers, hobbyists, etc. without having to share them with the public.  We agree with that and hope to introduce something soon.  We’ve also been asked quite often about enabling Clipmarks to be saved locally for archiving purposes.  This week we took a small stp in that direction by offering a printer friendly layout of Clipmarks on our site that can easily be converted to a PDF.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

Clipmarks: Our user base is very distributed.  We’re seeing Clipmarks in many languages.  Just like the Web is used by people all over the world for a wide array of reasons, the need to Clip information seems to be universal as well.  We’re really excited about that!!

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

Clipmarks: Over the next 6 months I’d like to make huge improvements to the Clipmarks software and web site.  While I’m certainly pleased and proud of what we have accomplished so far, I honestly think that Clipmarks can be and will be a lot better.  Over the next 2 years I’d like to see Clipmarks become a bookend to search.  Right now I see the online experience primarily consisting of searching and browsing.  But what do we do with the things we find while searching and browsing.  I hope that Clipmarks becomes the answer to that.  Much like you think of Google = Search, I hope people will come to think of Clipmarks = Find.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

Clipmarks: Competition.  I mean this in two ways.  First, there are so many offerings out there that it is hard to gain people’s attention.  Look at eHub or TechCrunch on a daily basis and there are loads of new things coming out vying for the spotlight.  It’s ironic, but there is so much noise about companies/solutions that are trying to filter the signal from the noise.  The second way that competition presents a challenge is called GYM (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft).  They have zillions of dollars to spend, so any company trying to create something new has to be at least a little worried about them.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

Clipmarks: Awareness.  I’m not too worried about people not wanting Clipmarks (whether for personal use or for the social aspect).  What I’m concerned about is people not being aware of it or thinking that it’s just another social bookmarking service.  If I could make one thing clear, it would be that Clipmarks is not another bookmarking service (hence the name Clipmarks).

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

Clipmarks: Our business model will likely be advertising of some sort.  I really have no idea what it will be or when we’ll implement it.  I’d like to think that just like Google standardized a form of advertising within their search results that was effective yet unobtrusive to the quality of their service, that we will be able to conceive something like that as well.  Until we do, we won’t do it.  And for the foreseeable future, we don’t have time to think about it so it’s a ways off.

eHub: If you’re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

Clipmarks: I’d prefer not to answer that right now.  What I do find interesting and worthy of sharing is that thus far there have been approximately three people who have used Clipmarks privately for every one who has used it publicly.

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

Clipmarks: I’m very proud of our commitment and passion for doing this right.  I don’t think we have been lazy about one thing.  I can’t say we’re the smartest or the best (I’ll leave that to others to decide) but I can say that we work really hard at it.  For that, I’m extremely proud.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

Clipmarks: I’d say it’s mammoth and awesome.  As I said above, I’m not a techie.  So I look at the web as a participant, not a technologist.  And I can tell you that I am just awestruck by all the innovation that is occurring at such a rapid pace.  I’m equally amazed at how vast the reach and power of Google has grown.  There are some days I think it’s Google’s web and we’re all just playing in it.  I’m interested and a bit leery of seeing how they continue to grow.  The whole “we’re not evil”…”yes you are” thing is something I’m saddened by.  I guess it’s just reality, but I really do see them becoming more like Microsoft and less like Google originally was.  That might be the biggest thing of all right now.  Forget all this web 2.0 hype, that’s just noise.  What Google is doing is huge.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

Clipmarks: I check the stock market (crazy watching google skyrocket while Yahoo and Microsoft shares go nowhere), espn, bloglines (which then points me to a number of blogs I follow each day…you know the list – it’s the one we all follow), Tech Memeorandum and Digg.

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

Clipmarks: On average I’d say 6.  I usually go to bed at around 2am and wake up at around 8am.  The first hour or two of the day I spend with my daughter.  That’s definitely my favorite part of the day (don’t get me wrong, I love working on Clipmarks…but that time is just precious).

Thanks to Eric Goldstein and the Clipmarks team for this email interview posted February 8, 2006.

Visit Clipmarks
Originally added to eHub on Dec 08, 05