Stepping backward to go forward

March 19, 2007

Beta trials are a funny thing.  From the inside, it can often feel like not much ‘real’ progress is being made.  This is actually incorrect.  It’s just that the progress isn’t being made in the areas one anticipated.  Just as one envisages a pioneering path forward, feedback and usage statistics filter back and force the Big Plans to go on the back-burner.

Now that phuser is finally ‘out there’, we’ve been amassing a growing list of ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have….‘ items on our wishlist.  Many of these are suggested by our enthusistic set of early-adopters (for which we are always grateful), whilst others strike the various members of the phuser team at suitably inconvenient times.  These are invariably exciting ideas that give a hint of how phuser can develop in areas we’ve barely considered to date.  So it is both difficult and not a little frustrating for us to step back and concede that those things will have to wait.  But wait they must.

Anyone who has been following this blog will have noticed that a key focus for us right now is to simplify the phuser concept for those that haven’t been living, breathing and sleeping it for 3 years.  We know that once people get into phuser, they like what it offers and the community it fosters.  But we also know that new users can be left high-and-dry without much guidance.  We started tackling this in the previous couple of releases and the work is by no means over.  Version 0.11.5, out last Friday, continues the quest. 

First off, we’ve reviewed some basic stuff like colours and fonts. No radical changes, but hopefully people with smaller or less-than-vibrant screens will have an easier time of it now.  We’re also introducing a colour-coding scheme – phuseBlocks are green (as they always were),  My Network is blue and phuses are a fetching shade of palegoldenrod yellow.  We’ll be refining and extending this in future releases, with schemes for My Messages and other parts of phuser.

Start a phuseNext up, we’ve given some fresh thought to how phuses are created.  Previously, we assumed the poor user would always know exactly what they wanted to do and why.  This assumption is demonstrably false!  And no, it’s not a reflection on the user, but an acknowledgment that phuser may not be the number 1 most important thing in their lives. Strange we know, but sadly we are assured it’s true. After detailed analysis our statisticians told us that there are far too many phuses with no phuseblocks and no people in them, and our marketing bods told us that a phuse with no members or content is A Bad Thing.  Our Behavioural Research Dept then concluded that new users were creating their first phuse and were unclear how to proceed.  Suitably chastened, the backroom boys got down and dirty and eventually countered by introducing some sweeping changes to the phuse creation process.  Now, the user is lead through various stages in a manageable, step-by-step fashion.  The first of these changes is in the new version and you can expect to see some big changes in the next few releases!

Every phuser release must include a fair smattering of less than earth-shattering but nevertheless essential fixes behind the scenes and this one is no different, with a particular focus this time on some notification and messaging bugs.  We also have:

1) Auto-import from address book. As requested by our valiant beta users, you can now import contacts from gmail.  Other email services will be added later, based on demand. Tell us which services you’d like us to support.  At the moment the access to this page is via a somewhat obscure link in the left-bar under My Network but we will be integrating it more nicely in the next release.

2) ‘Try a phuse’ wizard. Anyone who has never created a phuse will now see a big button on their home page.  Press it and you can create a simple and rather silly Poll with a few friends!  If you’re not seeing the button because you have already mastered phuses you can still give the wizard a go here.

3) What kind of phuser are you?

 Have you not yet joined phuser? The beta trial is free (we even give you SMS credits to play with). Request an invitation now!


Day 46 – The (beta) trial continues

March 2, 2007

At 16:08:12 today a new release of phuser hit the servers.

This one continues the vein of the previous release – consolidation before expansion.  With an emphasis on gripes and problems reported by our early-users, the 43 documented changes cover all manner of things from Help to better handling of bounced email:

1) New Getting Started Walkthrough. This is the first draft of one of a series of walkthroughs we are developing right now.  Whether you are an elite-phuser or a nervous novice, take a couple of minutes to step through the guide and tell us what you think. Once we’re happy that the style and approach is hitting the spot we’ll refine the presentation and add new walkthroughs over the next few releases.  The intro tour has also been re-jigged, so if you still know nothing about phuser then this is the place to start.

2) It’s annoying when you send a phuse member a Question or Poll phuseBlock email and it bounces or hits an auto-reply service. Your nice phuse gets filled with ugly administration email. Well not any more.  phuser is a bit more alert these days and will replace these messages with a short notice so you know what happened.  Because of email’s ad-hoc nature this isn’t perfect, so if any nasty bounces or auto-replies end up in your phuse please tell us and we’ll deal with it.

3) Calendar Coordinator is dead .   Long live Date Decider . Thanks to everyone who voted for this in the phuser GUI improvements phuse

4) New smileys.

5)  Ever wanted to invite loads of your 2nd degree friends into your phuser network at once? It was a bit of a pain before. Now you can just tick the tick boxes in your profile page or in your friend’s profile page. 

6)  Improved support for BB code in phuseblocks etc.   

7) Stacks of niggly bugs and inconsistencies have been nailed.  A selection of which:

  • Ordering phuses in my phuses by ‘Created’ actually works now.
  • Accidentally inviting an existing network member no longer gives an error.
  • Calendary Coordinator  Date Decider: Correct list of message recipients when using resend feature. Other minor tweaks to the UI.
  • No longer forced to send a message when conluding phuseBlocks.
  • Privacy loophole fixed – phuseBlock creators were able to contact phuse members outside their network.
  •  The phuseBlock Gallery has returned to form after a long illness.
  • Loads of other things that are too dull even for this bullet list.

Remember, phuser accounts are by invitation at the moment so if you don’t have one and would like to join our esteemed and mostly merry band of beta users,  just ask.