Sunday, October 15, 2006

Halloween Writing Contest

Every now and then we run fun contests to encourage people to think 'out of the box' and think about an experience long forgotten but extremely interesting. In the spirit of Halloween, our current writing contest explores near-death experiences: we're looking for stories where you almost died.

I know, that sounds morbid. But so is a holiday where we celebrate death. And in this case, we're celebrating NOT dying.

When people say 'near death experiences' they usually think of things involving a tunnel and a light. Most people cannot relate to that. But if you really think about it, we've all at some point been perilously close to being addressed as 'dearly departed.' Maybe you had a bad illness when you were a kid, maybe you were on a flight that was a little too bumpy, maybe a car smashed into yours... come to think of it, we're all lucky to be alive.

Share your story. Win $50 in Barnes and Noble Gift Certificates, or up to $15 in iTunes downloads. The contest is open to all of our members, new and returning.

Fpr details, check out the Halloween Writing Contest page.

And while you think of your own near-horror stories, you can take a look at the current submissions in the I Had a Near Death Experience group afor the Halloween contest.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

News about news

This is a self-referential posting.

I wanted to mention a few interesting things that have happened in the press and related.

First of all, just a few weeks ago Rafe Needleman published a nice writeup on Experience Project over at CNET.

Following that, we issued our launch press release.

Today, we realized we were mentioned in VentureBeat.

And today, one of the stories on our site (I'm not even going to link to it because it's got enough love already) ended up on the front page of Digg. Last I checked, it had nearly 800 diggs. Needless to say, this brought Experience Project to a grind. We took it offline as a preventative measure until the whirlwind blew over a bit. And yes, calls were made and servers were acquired in the meanwhile. Next time, I want Experience Project to face a Digg onslaught with a smug, 'what else do you got?' instead of an, 'is this over yet?!?'

A giant welcome to the many new folks in our community. We are so happy to have you with us, and as always, feel free to send us a line to let us know what we can do better. If we like what you have to say, don't be surprised when you see your suggestion enacted in less than 48 hours... ;)

New features

I don't even know where to start.

In terms of new features, there's a laundry list. We started with adding auto-tagging: every post automatically has keywords extracted from it and added to the post's tags. This makes finding new content *so much* easier, because two people may label an article about baseball in two different ways: "I love baseball" or "I love playing America's national pastime"-- but they both will inevitably use the word 'baseball' within the text. This would then be a tag applied to both entries, and a search for 'baseball' will return both relevant links, without having to resort to a full text scan. Yes, we do this tagging automatically, and no I won't tell you how. If you're interested, send us a resume.

What good is auto-tagging if there's no good way to show the tags we derive? Right! As a complementary feature, we introduced a snazzy new tag cloud that's always available. Wherever you go on the site, just click the big green "Explore" button hanging off the top menu, and you'll drop down a fresh list of tags that you can peruse to see what catches your fancy. I'm more of a hockey fan, myself... Oh, and you check out the Zeitgeist of our tagging world by going to the tags home.

We also added autocomplete functionality, so when you're typing in the main Experience box, the site will try to show you similar items. Maybe someone else already entered the experience, and so you can join the group rather than being a pioneer.

Sometimes in life, you don't like someone and you'd prefer not to interact with them. The same thing can happen at the Experience Project. So we added the ability to block users. Just browse over to a certain offensive someone's profile and hit 'block member.' You know what happens next.

There's tons more things that are fresh (we make the site better EVERY day, no exaggeration), but I'll only talk about one more because it's so useful. Now you can subscribe (or watch, whatever language you prefer), experience groups. Meaning that if you like a certain group, you can go ahead and tell the site to email you whenever there is a new story. We want to make sure you don't miss a story, and likewise make that process as convenient for you as possible.

OK, that's a quick rundown on the changes for the last few weeks. Hope you enjoy them, and as always, let us know what you think. We really like you, and we're going to try our hardest to make sure you feel the same about us. There will be another post like this in about a week's time. Watch out now.