For someone that hasn't been able to test clipmarks, I find you a bit pretentious to advice the boss of Clipmarks not to oppose his service to bookmarks.
IT IS a replacement of bookmarks.
Eric Goldstein, CEO of a new company called Clipmarks, own proposition is that bookmarks as we know them are badly broken.
What we really need, he suggests, are not bookmarks but a more evolved and effective way of storing and "clipping" those bits and pieces of useful information we find while navigating online.
Photo credit: Davide Guglielmo
According to him, bookmarks and "favourites" as we have learned to use them inside Netscape and Internet Explorer are a limited and inefficient way to record references to information items that you may want to get to at a later time.
What he and his company see as the solution to the failure of traditional bookmarks is to enable individuals to easily "clip" the actual bits and pieces they have interest into, in a way that is as simple and foolproof as possible.
And according to the number of links and posts pointing to Clipmarks recently, the idea of a new kind of more "meaty" and personalized bookmarks has been getting some true traction.
But, what are the true reasons that would push someone to replace its bookmarks or delicious links and replace them with Clipmarks own free service?
Is the usability, access and overall workflow required by Clipmarks worth the extra effort?
What are overall the key unique benefits and limitations that Clipmarks offer over traditional bookmarks?
I have gone out to ask Eric Goldstein in person and here is my audio interview with him, available both as a streaming audio clip (just click the play here below to listen to it) as well as in a full text transcript format.
Check out what he had to say:
Photo credit: Adam Collett - Chief Design Officer at Clipmarks.com
Photo credit: Eric Weitner - Senior Web Developer at Clipmarks.com
Full text transcript of the audio interview with Eric Goldstein, co-founder of Clipmarks.com
Robin Good: Hello everyone, here is Robin Good live from Rome, in Italy and here with me today is Eric Goldstein. Good morning Eric. Where are you connecting from?
Eric Goldstein: Good morning Robin, I'm here in New Jersey, unable to get into New York City because of a transit strike.
RG: Oh I'm sorry about this but I'm happy to have you on board today as Eric is actually the father, mother, nurse, babysitter and fireman of Clipmarks, a new, interesting, and fascinating tool which provides facilities to help you collect all of the interesting things you find out on the web. But I do not want to take this away from Eric, who is really the expert of Clipmarks which has now been out there for more than a month. How long have you been out there Eric?
Eric Goldstein: We've been out since mid-September, so about 3 months now.
RG: And I would like actually to listen and learn from Eric some of the key, fundamental traits of this interesting tool which some unique characteristics. In your simplest description, Eric, what is Clipmarks?
Eric Goldstein: Sure. Well I think the best way to say it is to contrast it to a bookmark. Unlike bookmarks that allow you to save links to web pages, Clipmarks is about allowing you to easily save the specific information that you find on those pages and then, with each piece of information you save, Clipmarks creates a link back to the source, so in effect, you have the bookmark, but more importantly, you have the specific information that you wanted from the web page.
RG: So Clipmarks is a web-based facility, a service that allows you, once you're registered and logged in, to very easily collect the actual content, be that text or images, and what else Eric?
Eric Goldstein: Well, right now Clipmarks supports text and images. We'll likely be introducing Clipmarks for video and Flash probably sometime in 2006. Though right now to keep it simple Clipmarks is for text and images. And I should point out you can collect multiple pieces of information from the same web page and with Firefox, you can go to a whole bunch of web pages and clip information and save that as one Clipmark.
RG: Ok and I've tried myself but I've had some little difficulties. Evidently I'm not that much of a geek or maybe there is something with my machine. But basically, let's clear it up for everyone out there. If I want to start using Clipmarks, once I've gone in and signed in as a new user, which is only a few fields to fill in, I receive an automatic email that says, "click here", and you're going to be on. I do that, and from then on, inside my browser, whether that be Internet Explorer or Firefox I should see something new. What is that?
Eric Goldstein: At that point you will see three buttons in your browser. Two of them are the buttons that allow you to create a Clipmark. One is the "clip" button and one is the "save" button. And so what you do is, click the "clip" button whenever you want to clip something from the web page that you're on.
You then mouse around the page and when your mouse is hovering over the information that you want, orange lines will surround it. You then click the "save" button, you tag the content, and you click "save", and now you have the bookmark and you have the content that you wanted to clip.
RG: What am I asked to fill in when I save that clip of information?
Eric Goldstein: Well, when you save a Clipmark there are few things you can do. You can give it a title, you can give it tags. If you'd like to, you could add your own remarks to the content and, importantly, we also have a social aspect to Clipmarks so if you want to participate, you can click a checkbox that allows the Clipmark that you're creating to be added to the public site so much like there is social bookmarking services, Clipmarks is also a social clipping service.
RG: And so you have an open kind of hub where all the public clipmarks can be seen and accessed easily?
Eric Goldstein: That's right. What we're trying to accomplish with the public hub is the ability for people to not just come and find links to web pages, but the ability to connect with specific information that matches what they're looking for, and then, very importantly, also to connect with people that have similar interests. So we're trying to design the hub in a way that places equal emphasis on finding content, finding sources and finding people about topics that interest you.
RG: Content, sources, and people... It would be wonderful to have, in fact those three content areas on your very web page allowing me to explore all of the good things that "Clipmarkers" out there have been doing with your content. But I don't seem to be able to find that stuff.
Eric Goldstein: Well we thought the same thing so we actually have a new home page coming out sometime this week, I'm not sure when. Along with a number of other things, but I agree with you.
RG: Oh that's wonderful. So we're thinking in the same way and yes, I think you deserve to expose as much as possible that good content that is being categorized, being saved, and being clipped by other people to give an immediate showcase of the power and usefulness of this. So I look forward to that.
Now when people are saving their clips, as you just said, these clips can evidently go in a public space, but I assume they can also go in a private space; so how do you manage the difference and are there significant things to know about the public Clipmarks space versus the private one?
Eric Goldstein: Well for the user to manage, it's simply a check mark. If you don't want your Clipmarks to be seen by other people, you simply don't check the box, and that's on a per Clipmark basis, so you can keep some private and make others public.
As far as the difference between the two, the only key thing I should point out is that all of the metrics on the public site, whether top tags or top clippers, all of that only pertains to information that's from public Clipmarks, and there is no crossover. If you keep it private it stays private.
RG: I also hear that you have lots of additional features that allow the users to really take benefit of this service functionality that you're offering completely for free, am I correct?
Eric Goldstein: Yes, Clipmarks is completely for free.
RG: And these additional features, as you've just mentioned, include tagging, comments, the ability to output to RSS, I suppose, the ability to aggregate content that belongs to certain topics or category, and more of this. Can you tell me a little bit about these interesting new functions you've been continuously adding in recent weeks.
Eric Goldstein: Yes sure, I'd be happy to. As you said, yes, you can tag each piece of information. We also offer folders. To some extent, I think that having both options is good for some people, and I also think a lot of people on the web haven't yet embraced the notion of tagging, so for those people, they can use folders instead of, or in addition to tagging. I myself use tags and folders.
We also, as you mentioned, enable RSS feeds based on any type of query that you do, so you can have a feed for Clipmarks on any topic or Clipmarks by any particular person, and of course a feed of Clipmarks by a particular person on a particular topic.
One of the features we're coming out with in a couple of days that actually seems very obvious at first but we've spent a lot of time trying to make it work as best as possible, is a print function, so you can come to the website and print any specific Clipmark and have a very customizable layout for yourself to do that, or, of course, print a series of Clipmarks, so if you were to come to the Clipmarks website, do a query for Web 2.0 and were to see the Clipmarks that have been posted to the public website about Web 2.0, you have a very easy and customizable way to print that.
I also should point out regarding print that we'll be adding a print button to the Firefox extension of Clipmarks this week as well, so if you don't want to save a Clipmark you simply are doing research and want to print, you can use Clipmarks to clip the various pieces of information, but then, rather saving it, you can simply print it and now you're able to...one example, that's just very easy, is looking for recipes online. If you're looking for a few recipes that make up a meal, you can clip two or three recipes or however many you want, click the clip button, and you will have the specific pieces of information from different websites, if you want to, and be able to print that.
So that's another feature that's coming this week. There's a number of others, but I don't want to talk about features we don't have developed yet just because we should develop them first.
RG: That's a good approach to things, definitely. What about if I am a blogger, a reporter, or an online publisher and would like to leverage Clipmarks ability to take specific content pieces and put them away for me, but to also produce an RSS linkstream out of that which contains all of those information bits that I've been clipping. Is that easy and possible?
Eric Goldstein: It is and I'm glad you asked that, thank you. Yes, just like an RSS feed you can create what we call a cliproll for any results that are on the site which will then enable you to push out using RSS links with the latest Clipmarks for those search results.
So in your case you could do the Web 2.0 query, you can do a communications query, whatever topic you'd like and then create a cliproll and push that cliproll to your site to keep people abreast of the latest Clipmarks on any topics that interest you. So, yeah, and thank you for asking that question.
RG: But that seems a little bit counterintuitive. That is I have to make a search feed that would embrace a certain set of tags or topics that I've covered with Clipmarks. What if, instead, I am on the fly spotting items and Clipmarking them and I want them to go straight out into an RSS feed.
Eric Goldstein: Well, we're actually, and I preface this with what I've said before, which is that I really don't like to talk about features until they're available, but, I'm hoping before the year is over. It's definitely one of our year end goals. We'll have a Clipmarks link next to each Clipmark and that will allow you to push any Clipmark on the site whether that's your own or somebody else's and push that Clipmark into your blog. But as I said that's not out, but knock on wood, in about ten days but we'll see.
RG: But that's pushing it to my blog. I'm again asking to push it to an RSS feed.
Eric Goldstein: Well, currently the only way you'd push a Clipmark to an RSS feed is to take the result of a query on a one Clipmark basis I'm not sure how'd you do that. Currently, I can't think, we don't enable that, but I'm not even sure how you would, so if you're talking about on a one Clipmark basis, no. Right now it's on a result which can include anything from all Clipmarks in the public, or on a particular topic, or by a particular clipper.
RG: What if I want an RSS feed for a specific tag that I've created within my Clipmarks.
Eric Goldstein: Absolutely. You would just go to Clipmarks.com and either search for that tag, or click on that tag, and then once the results come up on the page there is a link that comes up on the page that says "create an RSS feed" and like you'd do for many other social bookmarking site, or news service, it would then enable the feed for matching Clipmarks.
RG: But then I'm not getting my point across, that would bring me an RSS feed that include Web 2.0 tag content from anyone within Clipmarks. I want to go out and Clipmark things out there on the web and stream through a feed through Clipmarks. So what I would do, what I do with the del.icio.us is I create a unique tag the del.icio.us allows me to output any tag that I create into an RSS feed so I can then take that feed and syndicate it on any site I want.
Whenever I find something on the web with Flock, I just click one button and I put that unique tag and then it automatically goes into the del.icio.us feed and it is syndicated across all the sites that I want. I want to know if I can do the same with Clipmarks.
Eric Goldstein: Exactly the same, yes.
RG: So what is not clear to me is when I do a query on Clipmarks, which I've done on Web 2.0, I don't get not only my stuff that is tagged Web 2.0 but I get a lot of other people as well. So how do I limit if I wanted that feed to contain only my stuff. Only through my solution of using a unique tag?
Eric Goldstein: No, you could do it that way, but what would you do is click on, "My Clipmarks" which will limit to your personal Clipmarks, then do the query for Web 2.0 and so do a search for "My Clipmarks" with the Web 2.0, and then create the RSS feed. Now let's say instead you wanted Eric Goldstein's Clipmarks on Web 2.0, you would click on my user name and then you would do the query and it would limit the query to E. Goldstein's tagged Web 2.0 and then you would create and then you would create the feed from that.
RG: That's wonderful, sorry it took me so long to wrap my mind around it, but I'm not as familiar as you are with that. But, now that makes a lot of sense. Thank you Eric and thank you for properly guiding me to the proper pronunciation of your last name Goldstein. I didn't do that right at the beginning.
Now let me ask you, you've been seeing quite a number of users picking up your tool and quite a number of reviews and people linking to you in this recent weeks and months since you have launched Clipmarks.
What has been the main type of reaction on the positive as well as on the negative side that you have seen from these people.
Eric Goldstein: Great. Well, the positive has been that some of our members absolutely love what we do and seem to feel as excited about it and have as high hopes as we do about it and they just love the ability to clip the specific pieces of content and absolutely identify with the advantages over bookmarks.
I would say more importantly and what I'm trying to learn more from is from the negative which is people thinking this is just another twist on bookmarks, and I get that a lot.
Whether the question is directly answered or it is just clear in the question or the response that that's what someone sees Clipmarks as. And I need to learn to better communicate that this is not a twist on bookmarks.
We really want to move past bookmarks and are trying to convey to people that at least we believe there are fundamental flaws in bookmarks. Do you mind if I point out some of them and what I hope to accomplish with bookmarks?
RG: Please, go ahead!
Eric Goldstein: Sure, well I guess the obvious limitation of bookmarks is that you have a series of links and in many cases those links are incredibly long for many of us. And so you go look at this list of bookmarks and, I think it's fair to assume that many of us look at that list, and don't remember why we bookmarked certain pages, and so that won't happen anymore because with Clipmarks, you don't have anymore, a list of links.
You have specific excerpts of information that you collected and with each piece of information there is the link, so you know why you collected that link.
Secondly, you often have a set of bookmarks, and when you go back to the pages that are linked from them you wonder where the information is that peaked your interest on the page and so you go looking for it. Again that won't happen because there is, on Clipmarks, the specific information that you're collecting, not just the link to that page.
And I guess lastly, it seems and I can only speak for my personal experience and from people I've spoken with but, I know that I, quite often, when doing research or any type of reason for being online, there were moments when I would find a specific piece of information or great photograph or some compelling quotes or statistics or whatever that might be, and I would kind of have that pause and say, "I want that, what should I do with it?" and I would bookmark, and say I would go back to it later, and I never did go back to it later because I simply forgot about it.
And the link was not enough to trigger in my mind why I created it, and so I just ignored it and so now, I have the reflexive response of, "Clip that piece of information, now it's mine." I can share it with others very easily, which unlike with a bookmark, I can't because, again, I send you a link to a bookmark and you go to the page and now I can guide you, "Oh it's the third paragraph down, second sentence," but with a Clipmark I'll just send you the second sentence of the third paragraph.
So for those reasons we're really looking to create an alternative to bookmarks, not a twist on bookmarks. And I hope I'm making that clear and I'm going to try to make that clear via our web page and our website and in talking to people.
RG: Thank you Eric. What about similar tools that do something very close to what Clipmarks does, are you willing to mention any of them?
Eric Goldstein: Sure. I've seen two that I think are truly similar. I think there are a lot out there that some people think are similar but I think there are two lately that are truly targeting the ability to clip as opposed to an alternative to bookmark. One of them is called Look Later, and one is ClipClip, though the last time I went there, the site was down, so I'm not sure if that's still ongoing, but you could check ClipClip.
I think the key distinctions between Clipmarks, just from a personal perspective, and why you would want to create a Clipmark as opposed to why you would want to use Clipmarks.
There are, I think, two fundamental, really important differences in our technology that we took a lot of time to develop that really distinguish it from any other service that I've ever seen and I hope that remains the case as we're trying to patent them.
One is the ability to clip multiple pieces of information from the same web page and so you're not limited to highlighting content on a page and having one piece of content and that's your clip.
So if you're reading an article from the New York Times you can clip the first paragraph, and then clip the second paragraph, and then the eight paragraph, and then, very importantly, in Firefox, you can click on the link to the second page, and clip from there as well and when you have everything that you want gathered, that's when you hit save, whereas with every other solution that I've seen on the market you would have to create a different clip for each of those paragraphs and that's a very big difference in my opinion.
The second major distinction between Clipmarks and any other service is that we offer you the ability to select information that would not otherwise be selectable using the highlighting method where you click and drag your mouse, and that is because, I'm sure all of you that listen to this have done this in the past, quite often when you use the click and drag method of highlighting content on a page, you end up grabbing information that you don't want and it's like you jump from paragraph two to paragraph three and now for whatever reason, now all the advertisements on the side of the page are highlighted as well.
Well now that's not acceptable if you're trying to clip just the information you want, and so we've created a method where as I've said you click the "clip it" button and then, as you scroll your mouse on your page, various block elements basically get highlighted, and then you can adjust where those highlights are, very easily, and avoid that phenomenon where you select more or different content than you really wanted to select in the first place.
So those two things I really thinks establish Clipmarks as the premier solution if you're looking to clip information from the internet.
RG: Great that's a lot of very useful and factual information that helps a lot for people to understand what Clipmarks is all about, and since it's free, I do invite everyone to go out there to Clipmarks C-L-I-P-M-A-R-K-S, www. at the front and .com at the end to try out this free service that Eric has prepared and continuously improves on a daily basis.
Before we close Eric, its your turn to shoot me two or three questions if you have any.
Eric Goldstein: Sure, one thing I want to say is while I am definitely one of the Co-founders of Clipmarks, much more credit should go to Derek Krzanowski because he's equal with me, and all the ideas and whatnot, that we have for Clipmarks. He's the man that spent countless hours programming the technology and creating the site and we now have a great team that includes Adam and another Eric and I definitely do not deserve, and cannot take all the credit, but I do appreciate you throwing credit my way.
And as far as questions, yeah my number one question would be if you don't use Clipmarks yet, why not?
RG: That's a terrific question and the answer is as terrific as the question. Because I could not. I have registered and I have clicked back on the email, I have went back to my browser Firefox, Internet Explorer and my favorite clone of IE since I never use IE itself, but in all three, I couldn't find the Clipmarks button to show up in the view toolbars menu, so I was left to explore what others had done and that's why I've not been using it.
Eric Goldstein: Well amongst the many hats I wear here one is I am customer support so I will, once this call is over, I promise to give you some clear instructions on how, you can see Clipmarks and start using it hopefully.
RG: I appreciate that and please, can you send me also the name of the guys in your team and your chief software engineer, chief technical officer, you just mentioned so that I can properly spell out their names, and you can shoot a couple of more questions because though I haven't been able to clip actual bits of information myself, I've gone through this site and explored so that I was not totally blind to what I was going to explore together with you today.
Eric Goldstein: Alright, let me think of a question that I would I think would love to know the answer to and I think that your listeners would as well.
I guess regarding the limitations of bookmarks, do you think I am not giving bookmarks enough credit or do you also identify some of the issues I brought up regarding a long series of links and often forgetting why you bookmarked certain things and also struggling to find on the page what it is what you wanted. Or do I you know am I exaggerating those problems?
RG: I think you're doing your job pretty well and I have no secret in admitting in that I've long since stopped using traditional bookmarks because they are just as you say, useless, not easy in many cases to access or to navigate. I have to say that more recently with the use of Flock, I've found the use of bookmarks associated with del.icio.us is extremely useful. And I've been using services like del.icio.us which are social bookmark managers out there on the web quite a lot and I find them very useful.
They still approach the archiving of bookmarks in the traditional way but, I think that the usability interface and ability for me to reuse the content in so many different ways makes them extremely effective for my own needs at least.
Eric Goldstein: Yeah, I definitely understand that, and I hope that as people begin to see Clipmarks, they begin...It's funny, I read the book, Inmates Running the Asylum, and I don't want to take credit for what I'm about to say because I didn't come up with it but in the book the author refers to the "dancing bear" concept.
And the dancing bear is basically the idea that if people are walking in the street and they see a dancing bear they become amazed. They don't realize or recognize whether the bear is dancing well or dancing poorly, and to some extent, I hope that what Clipmarks ends up doing for people is basically inline with the dancing bear concept, which is that you don't realize the bear is dancing poorly until another bear starts dancing well and then you realize that the first bear danced poorly.
And I hope that with bookmarks, while I do have enormous respect and I think that the other services that are out there are doing incredible job managing bookmarks, I do think that bookmarks are to some extent, like the dancing bear and social bookmarking services are amazing and people are very happy to see them, but I hope once they see what they can do with Clipmarks, and the way they can interact with content and with people via Clipmarks that they'll kind of experience that dancing bear phenomenon.
RG: You may be right, we'll have to see. My personal impression, to conclude, is that you should not indeed put yourself against bookmarks as an alternative as you're offering a service that is meaningful by itself, in my own opinion, and not as a replacement to those other ones. I wouldn't replace del.icio.us with Clipmarks, I wouldn't replace my Flock favorites with Clipmarks, I wouldn't replace my Netscape's favorites or IE bookmarks or whatever is the correct combination with Clipmarks.
I think they just offer something different. So I would not go that marketing road and though I was not asked, my recommendations are directed at these striking and critical elements of the user interface and to the usability aspects of how people collect information.
That's my hardest obstacle and resistance to full acceptance of the Clipmarks metaphor that I'm offered. I like the idea, I think it can work well but presently the interface slows me down a bit both in the ability for me to process and scan the information that you're presenting.
There's too much boxing and too many elements to pay attention to, too many elements asking for attention, so that when you have so much information displayed on a page, the user interface and the usability aspects become very critical and I think that that is the area of evolution for Clipmarks that has the widest margin for further improvement that you can make.
So I would suggest to allow some more customization and personalization of the display from the user standpoint. I'm not yet too comfortable with your information layout and on how the stream of clips are now presented for me.
Again: there is too much boxing, too much ink being used for no purpose.
What I really want to look at is the information. I'm particularly enthused of minimalistic and very customizable interfaces like the recently popular Microsoft Start which has then evolved into Windows Live.
I think that is a good example of how different bits of information can be combined and how you can let the user customize them. I strongly look forward to seeing your homepage become a news clearinghouse divided by categories and applications, and you leveraging possibly the fact that many of your users are going to be capable guides and filterers of information who can aggregate, select and put together Clipmarks cliprolls and other unique feeds of Clipmarks content on very specific topics.
I think that this may be a strong point to leverage both for the value that this can bring back in the overall sum of the usefulness of the service as well as providing some greater traction in the yet unrealized viral marketing potential of the tool itself.
So these are my recommendations for you. I must compliment you for work you've done so far and the humbleness with which you've gone ahead in promoting your service, as well as for the deserved attention you're now getting.
I leave it to you for any closing remarks and invitations to our listeners.
From Robin Good here in Rome, this is all for today with Eric Goldstein of Clipmarks.
Eric Goldstein: Thank you Robin. I've really enjoyed talking to you and I just want to say that the suggestions that you just made, I completely agree with and I would guess I leave it on a criticism on Clipmarks since honestly, we spend most of our time looking at what's not good enough, and trying to make it better just to take what you said about interface.
I've often associated our site to getting out of a subway train in Times Square and it takes you about 15 to 20 seconds to figure out where you are and where you to go.
And that's not a comfortable feeling and nobody wants that so we absolutely need to make our site a little more navigable and user friendly, so I completely support what you said about Clipmarks.
Right now, I would probably tend to sum it up the way you did.
I love the concept, I love what we're doing well, but I absolutely think it can and needs to be a lot better, and we're going to work on that.
So, that's how I would leave it for now and hopefully we'll talk soon and I'll be able to point out to some of the things we're doing to accomplish that.
RG: Thanks again Eric, have a great day, and talk to you soon. All the best.
Eric Goldstein: Likewise Robin, thank you.
For someone that hasn't been able to test clipmarks, I find you a bit pretentious to advice the boss of Clipmarks not to oppose his service to bookmarks.
IT IS a replacement of bookmarks.
Seems like Clipmarks gonna mark a great competition and change.
Bookmarks versus clipmarks, which will you prefer?
Clipmarks' a new and interesting concept made to capture some of the impossiblities of bookmarks.
How far can Clipmarks go? Let's see.