New Brownbook stuff for Christmas :)

We released sprint 12 of Brownbook yesterday, just in time for us to relax a little for Christmas.  You may already know we use an Agile/Scrum development process which sees us breaking all our development down into 2 week ‘sprints’.  Each sprint is followed by two day’s testing, then we make it live.  Here’s a quick roundup of some of the main front-end changes in the last two sprints:

Sprint 11
–    The number of tags shown on search results pages is now restricted.  This is because some business owners are using very large numbers of tags, and whilst they are all relevant they were making the results pages hard to read.  So, on the results page, you now get a summary of the tags, with full tags shown when you click to the business details page.
–    Press links in home page footer.  We’re starting to build up quite a collection of write-ups and reviews from people like BBC, Wikinomics, and more.  So we figured by putting them on the home page new people will get a better idea of what we’re about.
–    “more…” links on home page.  On the home page you see up to 5 of the last businesses added and edited.  The new “More…” link lets you click through to see older entries.  This is useful for helping newly added and newly updated businesses get indexed by the major search engines.
–    Bugs – fixed a few bugs including the text editor in ‘customize my page’ in Safari that was not saving changes.
–    Return to previous page upon login.  Now, when you login, you are returned to the previous [page you were on, instead of getting directed straight to your ‘my account’ page.
–    Twitter this.  A new link in the tools bar on a business details page lets registered Twitter users tweet the business details with a link to the page.
–    Hall of fame.  A link in the home page footer links to show the most active users in terms of contributions and earnings (how much they’ve earned for their contributions)
–    Community forum.  A new community forum where registered members can discuss any topic relevant to Brownbook and promoting local businesses.  Would be great to see some tips posted in the sections about customizing your page and creating your website.
–    Shorten password.  We had some request to change the password minimum length from 8 characters to 6.  Done.
–    Various changes to Bidgets to provide better presentation of content in narrower Bidgets on external websites.
–    Fixed some issues with videos playing in IE7.
–    Fixed some erroneous emails.  Welcome email going out to wrong users (embarrassing one, that).

Sprint 12
–    New banners on results pages and business details pages to promote the benefits of Brownbook for business users and consumer users.  We’ve tried to keep them out of the main page area and hope they don’t interfere with the main page info.  Feedback most welcome.
–    Encode email addresses.  At the suggestion of one user we’ve now encoded all email addresses that are displayed on Brownbook pages to prevent unscrupulous people from scraping email addresses and using them to target spam. (Thanks Don at HTML Fixit for this suggestion).
–    Use your own domain name on Brownbook ‘create my website’ feature.  A link to a help page which explains how to use your own domain name with the website you created in Brownbook.
–    File size and format information on video and photo uploads in ‘create my website’ and on video units and image units.
–    New look for your public profile page.
–    Moved the ‘tools’ on business details page from out of the main page area to a horizontal space at the top of the page.  This is to allow the main page area to ‘belong’ entirely to the business without distractions.  Works especially well when the business owner has customized their page.  Take a look at this example.  This also required the movement of the country selection flags, which you can now see in the brown strip of the page header on all pages.
–    Slight re-jigging of the business details page to remove superfluous headings and some wasteful white space.
–    New ‘Brownbook for businesses’ and ‘Brownbook for everyone’ videos courtesy of the lovely Lisa P.  Also new texts on each of the pages that follow the videos to describe new features (chiefly ‘customise my page’ and ‘create my website’ for business owners, and ‘user earnings program’ for everyone else).
–    Some ongoing new SEO work to make indexing by the big boys even better. Ie get found even more easily and quickly in the search engines when you add your business to Brownbook.
–    Fixed some non-English character (accents etc) support problems in tags.

That’s about it (what, you mean you wanted MORE??).

Right, its Christmas eve now, and I am definately up for a glass of sherry about now.  We’re into Sprint 13 as of today which is a quick one over the festive period, then back to formal 2 week sprints at the start of January with some great new stuff for you so keep watching.

Happy Christmas and New Year

Dave and Marc

PS: remember you can now follow us on Twitter (@daveingram, and @marc_lyne)

Brilliant coverage

Some brilliant coverage of Brownbook over the last few days.

Absolutely brilliant. Its fantastic when other people write about Brownbook and really get it: what we have created, what businesses should use it for, the business model, how its good for search engine optimization, how businesses can customize their listing… here are 4 that I have found in the last few days:

 

This one from Joy Hawkins: http://joyhawkins.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/cheap-ways-to-promote-your-website-part-1/

And this from Greg Sterling:http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/brownbook-joins-the-diy-website-crowd/

Although Greg is a search industry analyst, so he really should get it.

Brilliant, thanks everyone. If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions, comments, questions… then please do email Dave or I (marc[AT]brownbook[DOT]net) or catch us on Twitter: @marc_lyne and @daveingram

Top 30 innovators to watch for 2009

outsell-report-2009-page-1.pngGreat to see that Outsell (www.outsellinc.com) have named Brownbook as one of the top 30 innovators to watch for 2009.

“Outsell’s “30 to Watch”: BBN Ad Network, Blurb, British Medical Journal, BrownBook, CNN, Collexis, Critical Media, Data Explorers, Demand Media, Exact Editions, Flat World Knowledge, Google, The Guardian, Hakia, Hulu, IHS, LiveMocha, MarketTools, Nature Publishing Group, Public Library of Science (PloS), Safari, Thomson Reuters, Wood MacKenzie, and ZoomInfo”

You can preview the report here

Featured Business – Miamism

Miamism is a client-centric and forward thinking real estate team with Majestic Properties that serves Miami Beach and its surrounding neighborhoods. Ines Hegedus-Garcia, Rick Garcia and Karen Alvarez make up the experienced and enthusiastic Miamism Team.

Ines and the Miamism team understand the value of online marketing and show their thought leadership with interesting industry related articles posted on the Miamism blog and the nationwide realtors blog, Agent Genius. Ines is also extremely active in social networks such as Twitter, where she engages people in conversations and posts insightful links. If you’re on Twitter, I definitely recommend following @Ines!

Ines has really maximized her business’ Brownbook listing by taking advantage of the easy to use customization features. The Miamism listing on Brownbook is completely personalized to display important business information and links, as well as videos, pictures and the Miamism logo. Ines’ use of multimedia on her Brownbook page displays Miamism’s vibrant personality and shows clients and potential clients the people behind the business. If you haven’t already, take a couple of minutes to watch the Miami Mojito video!

Friends winner – Martyn Regan – Tell your peers – it’s music to your ears

martyn-reganI am pleased to announce the winner of our ‘who has the most friends’ challenge – Tell your peers – it’s music to your ears – iPod reward. The winner is Martyn Regan (check out his profile here).

Martyn runs blog: bbyourway.blogspot.com.

BB Your Way is all about finding bed and breakfast accommodation. The BB Your Way website came about from his mother`s search for a suitable place to market her bed & breakfast. None fit the bill for her requirements, mostly the non user friendly use of these sites for her and her potential customers, the overwhelming presence of adverts, pop ups and irrelevant advertising made them all somewhere she did not want her business advertised.

ipodCongratulations Martyn for winning the iPod and telling your friends about Brownbook.

Martyn has really boosted his reputation in the Brownbook community, and like everyone who tells others using the ‘invite a friend’ function, he earns points when his friends join, and his friends of friends join, its a kind of ‘pyramid’ points system… so he will go on earning more points as those people invite more people.


The Value of Customer Testimonials

Hello from sunny Miami! I wrote another post for the SBDCNet national blog discussing the value that customer testimonials bring to a business. Brownbook provides the ideal platform for customers to write reviews of local businesses and makes it easy for businesses to ask their customers to review them online.

If you’re on Twitter, follow me @ChristineMAdolf!

Robert Scoble chats with Brownbook

Robert is one of the top tech bloggers in the World, and Dave and I were fortunate to be able to repay him a favor that he made to us 2 years ago when he picked us up from San Francisco airport. We heard that Robert was going to visit London having come from Nokia World in Barcelona and before going to Paris for LeWeb.

It’s amazing how easy it is to talk to Robert when there is not a video camera pointing at you, but as soon as the camera is on you and you know that Roberts style is not to edit the video… its in at the deep end…

 

It was a real surprise when Robert suggested he would get the video camera out when we arrived at the hotel and film Brownbook. We are very grateful for the exposure; the more businesses that are added the better Brownbook becomes and the more people contribute then the more people will be rewarded for contributing.

A big thank you to Robert for taking the time to do this.

News from the Brownbook

As im sure most of you are aware Brownbook has been busy launching its new customization features and the DIY website creator.  We also want you to share your Brownbook success stories with us. Plus we chat about advertising during a recession.   See the full newsletter here