Archive for July, 2011

More Karma, Less Typing, Better Cliques

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

By Avishay Lavie, Software Engineer at Sears Social

Another Thursday, another release post. Let’s go.

Help the Community

Sympathy is what we need, my friends. In these hard times, it’s a good idea to look around us and try to find others who could use our help. It could be something big, like running a marathon to raise money for world peace, or something simple, like, I don’t know, answering a question about a product you own on a social commerce website.

Let’s focus on the second option for a second. Sears Social is just the right place to answer questions from the community about the products you own, but we certainly can’t expect you to constantly look for new questions about all the products you happen to have lying around somewhere. No, the question must come to you.

That’s where we come in, with our “Help the Community” program, where we’ll sometimes suggest things you can do to help other users. We’re kicking it off with the introduction of the “Answer a Question from the Community” request:

We’re making it super-easy for you to contribute to the community and help the less fortunate (in this case, the less fortunate are those who don’t know what features are included in the Blu-Ray edition of The Dark Knight – the poor bastards). All you have to do is click the big shiny button, make someone’s day, and enjoy the extra karma boost. And assuming you believe in karma, this sounds like a definite win-win deal.

Search Suggestions in Mobile App

We’ve had search suggestions on the website for a while now. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go type a few characters into the search box. You should get something like this:


As you can see, our algorithm isn’t perfect – it completely missed the obvious fact that you were looking for your favorite X-Men character, Jean Grey. Still, it manages to get adequate results more often than not, so we consider it a success. Enough of a success to port it to the iPhone app:

The way we see it, more search suggestions on the iPhone = less tiny keys you need to hit with your thumbs. It’s a mathematically-proven win!

Cliques Upgrade

We rolled out Cliques fairly recently, and already the masses (that’s you guys) were demanding upgrades: “we want to post images and videos to the clique”, they said. “And how come you don’t show us promotional content related to the clique’s interests?”, we imagined they probably thought.

You asked for it, you got it. Cliques now feature an all-new enhanced messaging box with image and video support, just like on the homepage:

Now nothing is preventing you from sharing that sexy new laptop unboxing video with your fellow geeks. Well, except maybe common sense. I mean, seriously, laptop unboxing video? Come on.

But wait, there’s more! The clique newsfeed now also shows promotions related to the clique’s interests. So if you’re looking at the Joggers page, for example, you might actually know what these are about:

Personally, I can’t imagine why anyone would buy a bulky, complicated machine to run on when they could just as easily buy a sleek, compact machine to play video games on. I mean, it’s practically considered a sport these days, but without all that troublesome exercise. But that’s just me, I guess, and in accordance with corporate policy regarding pluralism and tolerance I must admit that other people might feel differently about the subject. In the end, everybody is certainly entitled to hold on to their own opinions, however wrong they may be.

Pop Quiz: What Are Today’s New Features?

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

By Avishay Lavie, Software Engineer at Sears Social

I know what you’re thinking: “How can these fine folks over at Sears Social possibly release so many new features so quickly? And how come they’re all so incredibly handsome?”

Well, I’m not legally allowed to comment on this, but let’s just say it’s all a matter of attitude. More specifically, we have an attitude of only hiring good looking developers and then making them work around the clock without breaks or food other than caffeine injected directly to the vein at scheduled intervals.

At any rate, can you guess what today’s new features are? Let us give you some options:

  1. “Hey, you redesigned the Profile and Poll pages for the new 3-column layout! It’s beautiful!”
  2. “Oh look, you added the ability to have a discussion with clique members by posting messages on the Clique page! That’s amazing!”
  3. “Wait, did you guys add a longer, more detailed description to a lot of products? Sweet!”
  4. “Hmm, seems like you added the promotional stories that didn’t make it to my newsfeed to the ‘see all’ page, so that nothing ever gets lost… now that’s clever!”

If you guessed “All of the above”, you’re wrong. Firstly, because that wasn’t one of the options (yes, you just managed to fail a multiple choice question. I hope you’re proud of yourself); and secondly, because we also made the banners on the sidebars update dynamically, so that you won’t have to see the same ads all the time.

So the correct answer is actually E, “All of the above plus you also made the banners on the sidebars update dynamically so that I won’t have to see the same ads all the time. You guys rock!”

Thanks, we love you too. In fact, we’re going to give you half the points for almost getting this one right! Now if that ain’t love, then we don’t know what love is. Why don’t you tell us in the comments?

Surprise!

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

By Avishay Lavie, Software Engineer at Sears Social

This release’s most prominent feature is a surprise. I’m not going to tell you what it is. Just go take a look at Sears Social (the website, not the blog) and tell me what’s different.

(I’m waiting…)

Got it? No, we haven’t dyed our hair, but nice try. Alright, I’ll tell you: it’s the layout.

Although we’re always adding features to Sears Social, we can’t help but notice the slow but consistent increase in clutter that they bring. So, while we’re still working hard on those new features, we’re also working on re-designing the site’s layout so that it’ll be cleaner, prettier and more intuitive. This in turn allows us to add more awesome features, which would eventually warrant another re-design. What can we say? It’s a vicious cycle of awesomeness.

The main difference in the new design is the cleaned up navigation bar at the top. We stripped the navigation bar to the bare essentials, removing most of the navigation options (don’t worry, they’ve been relocated to the sidebar) and replacing some text buttons with pleasantly-looking icons:


Another important change is the addition of “Like it”, “Want it” and “Have it” buttons on the product page, next to a matching “Add to Catalog” button. Now you can instantly tell the world you like, want or own a product directly from its product page, as well as from your newsfeed (which is old news). Go wild.

This layout change is just a small step, and of course we’ll continue to adjust and tweak the site’s design in the coming weeks. As always, we’d love to hear what you think about it. Do you find it easier to find stuff? Is there anything you’re used to using that you can’t find anymore? Tell us about it!

Giving You What You Want

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

By Avishay Lavie, Software Engineer at Sears Social

Today’s release includes two new features are focused on giving you what you want. Well, the same can be said of pretty much anything we do here in Sears Social – we’re just suckers for making you guys happy, you know – but today feels somewhat more so. Let’s see why.

Cliques

The Social part of Sears Social is about building a community of inter-connected people. Mainstream social networks do this by relying on relations between two individuals (like “friendship”, “follow-ship” and most recently “being-in-someone’s-circle-ship”), but for social commerce, this isn’t always the right way to go.

Since a big part of what you do on Sears Social is shopping-related, you’d naturally want to find the people who share your interests and tastes – and these aren’t necessarily your friends. In fact, you might build a connection with someone you don’t even know, just because you two share a burning passion for urban fashion. But how can you find them?

Cliques are our attempt to answer this question. A clique is a group of people centered around a common interest – Fashion Lovers, Joggers, Handymen. By joining a clique, you can express something about yourself (“I like to run around for twenty minutes just to end up exactly where I used to be!”), find other similar-minded people to talk about it, and get exposed to activities and promotions that match your interests.

We’re starting out today with a small number of cliques and basic functionality, just to test the water. In the future we plan to enhance the cliques experience and try to make it as enjoyable and valuable to you as we think it can be.

So, why not join a clique right now? I mean, look how cute the icons are. Don’t you want one on your profile page?

It would make me immensely happy if you joined a clique, and I’m not just saying that because I built the feature. Honest.

Filtered Newsfeed

The newsfeed. It’s becoming quite busy, isn’t it? You know what I’m talking about. With all those different stories from your friends and the promotions from us, it’s easy to get lost in there. Well, for those times when you’re looking for that very specific something, we’ve added the Filters button.

Click it, and a magical world is revealed before your astonished eyes. A magical world made of two selection boxes:

Choose a specific type of story you want to see, or a category you’re interested in, or both. Without you even clicking another button, we’ll magically filter your newsfeed to show only those stories matching your selection. Yes, finding that cool TV from last week’s trending products is now just a few clicks away. Go get her, cowboy. You deserve it.

Oh wait, before I forget: you can still customize your newsfeed by hiding specific stories, people or categories. Just click the ‘hide’ link below any story to get started.

Yeah, you obviously knew that already. I’m just reminding you, that’s all.