Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I like Likaholix. A lot.

First, four ex-Googlers launched Friendfeed to expand on Facebook’s news feed idea. They ended up creating the gold standard for Lifestreaming services. Now two more former Google employes have launched Likaholix, and it looks a lot like Facebook’s “I’m a Fan” feature. And as with Friendfeed, it’s like Facebook, only better.

Facebook caught a lot of flak for their Beacon feature, but as they’ve refined their brand-interaction strategy, they’ve also proven that users love giving props to the products, services, and entertainers they LIKE. Every week, I notice friends of mine become “fans” of TV shows (e.g., Dexter), Bands (Jesus and Mary Chain), Beers (Lone Star, Shiner), and politicians (Barack Obama).

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Likaholix expands on this idea with an entire site devoted to sharing your favorite things, whatever those things might be. As with “fan”-hood on Facebook, you’re broadcasting your affinity for something that isn’t necessarily defined elsewhere on the Web. On Facebook, for example, you can be a fan of Pizza. Or Sleep

But unlike Facebook, Likaholix doesn’t force you to receive spammy updates from the Page administrator. In fact, you don’t have to wait around for someone else to create a page at all. Instead, Likaholix works more like a traditional bookmarking site. So, let’s say I like Doritos (a fair statement).

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Likaholix’s built-in search engine locates several links I can choose to represent the popular site. I’ll choose the obvious one, Doritos.com.

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Next, if I want, I can explain why I like Doritos so much, and I can add some topics (i.e., tags). Also, I can search for images and videos I want to associate with my Doritos page.

Now, the delicious snack food has it’s own spot on my Likaholix page, where my pals can watch the videos I chose and comment on my page. The can also piggy-back on my Like, if they share my love for the delicious snack food.

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And finally, I can close the loop using either Facebook Connect, sharing my likes with an even wider audience. As you see below, my likes can seamlessly integrate with my Facebook feed.

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Those are the basics, but there’s an impressive array of features for such a new product:

  • Bookmarklet allows you to Like any web page
  • Link your account with Facebook, Twitter, or Friendfeed
  • Import reviews from Yelp and Amazon
  • Bookmark your favorites
  • View a stream of recommendations based on your Likes
  • Become a tastemaker in up to two topics of your choosing, and earn a snazzy star for your profile
  • Subscribe to your friends’ Likes or keep up with your favorite topics (e.g., coffee, video games)

imageThe more you explore these features, the more you come to realize that Likaholix isn’t really like Facebook at all. Instead it bears an uncanny resemblance to Friendfeed. Does this sidebar header seem familiar to you? What about that playful logo? Or the careful cultivation of white space? Yeah, me too. But I’m not knocking it. There’s nothing wrong with clean design and transparent usability.

Likaholix isn’t the only site aiming to stake a claim to Twitter-length microreviews. Blippr (recently acquired by Mashable) comes to mind immediately. But think I prefer Likaholix’s open-ended simplicity. There are no categories except the ones you create. There’s no rating system. And there’s no pressure to write reviews. You just “like” something. That simplicity is what was so great about being a “fan” on Facebook. As I’ve said before, a great bookmarking service should work to reduce friction. How many clicks does it take? The closer you are to 1, the better your service.

That’s not to say Likaholix couldn’t be better. The Facebook Connect integration could work more simply and smoothly. And they definitely need a de-duping / disambigution engine. Right now, anyone can create a Doritos page. So even if it says I’m the “first” to like something, it doesn’t mean there aren’t 8 or 9 other nearly identical pages and conversations going on. Now where have I heard that before?

I actually raised both the above issues with Likaholix co-founder Bindy Reddy. She responded almost immediately and said they were working on both issues. Indeed, since I first emailed her, they’ve already improved the Facebook Connect feature so that you can post likes to either your status or your feed. For a timeline of other features they’re working on, click here. Also, check out their room on Friendfeed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shareaholic homepage gets a makeover

One of my favorite Firefox add-ons has fancied up their landing page quite a bit this evening. It’s a good time for me to tell you how much I rely on this one little extension. Basically, it’s a bookmarklet aggregator that allows you to consolidate some of your most used Web tools into one easy button.

What sites does it support? A lot:*

Share Icon bit.ly buzzster! connotea delicious digg diigo evernote facebook foxiewire friendfeed gmail google bookmarks google reader healthranker kaboodle magnolia meneame mixx myspace plurk reddit simpy soup streakr stumbleupon techmeme tipjoy truemors tumblr twine twitter weheartit yahoo buzz ycombinator news

Sure, you could just collect all your bookmarklets in a single folder on your toolbar (and even sync them using Xmarks), but it wouldn’t be as elegant. Besides, Shareaholic also shows you how many times certain pages have been shared or Dugg, something a normal bookmarklet can’t do.

But as much as I love Shareaholic, I think there’s still some room for improvement:

  • For starters, there should be a sync feature that ports your preferences across browsers.
  • In the same vein, why not aggregate all the links you share regardless of the service you use? It could be one garage that tracks all your sharing activity. Of course, you’d need granular privacy settings, but Shareaholic could still collect aggregate data that allowed to amass Web-wide statistics similar to AddThis or Add to Any. This might be a better use for Shareaholic’s sister site, Bzzster.
  • A killer feature would be the ability to add your own bookmarklet to Shareaholic just by dragging and dropping.
  • But if they can’t do that, at least add some important missing bookmarklets (e.g., Amazon’s  Add to Wishlist, Posterous, and the new and totally awesome Likeaholix).

A while back I submitted a Delicious bug to Shareaholic co-founder Jay Meattle, and he promptly resolved my issue with an experimental build that fixed the problem (the latest version includes that fix). He could not have been nicer. I also shared my Amazon recommendation with him, so hopefully that will be part of the next version. Until then, it’s not leaving my browser anytime soon.

*Note that my current version of the add-on (1.6) doesn’t have support for Evernote and does not include the newly updated Twine bookmarklet. I assume he’ll be adding support for these soon soon.