Hashtag Grids

One of the new things in Showyou 3.0 for the iPad are hashtag grids.  They’re an experiment, and we’re excited to see where this experiment leads.

We create these hashtag grids by looking at the 5-6 million videos that flow into Showyou each day — the videos shared by our users, and their friends and people they follow on Twitter and Facebook.

When we see a hashtag in a comment on Showyou or on Twitter associated with a given video, we log that, and stamp the video with that hashtag. We look at the top 50 or so hashtags every day, throughout the day, and publish the top 10 or so that look most interesting, relevant, and newsworthy. We’ll continue to refine how we select these going forward, but wanted to start with a more editorial, curatorial approach, and not simply rely on algorithms or popularity to determine which hashtags to highlight.

The top hashtags are shown in our Showyou tray; tap on the search button on the iPad, you’ll see the current trending hashtags in the tray. Tap a hashtag to see a grid of the videos associated with it. It’s a bit like curated search (indeed, if you want to see all the results for a given term, just search for it without the hashtag).

We built this new feature with the hope that our community might start to collaboratively create grids of videos. And, indeed, we’re starting to see some interesting results. From our users in the Middle East in particular, we’re seeing dramatic, startling hashtag grids documenting the civil warfare and human rights abuses in Syria (#homs, #syria), and the unrest in countries like Egypt and Bahrain (#egypt, #tahrir, #feb14 #bahrain). We’ve also seen interesting hashtag grids relevant to memes, events and popular culture here in the United States (#epicfail, #superbowl, #occupy, #ows, #sopa) and technology (#siri).

Next time you see a video you want to share, think about adding a hashtag. We’ve added a handy hashtag button in the comment area to make it easy. Tap it, who knows where it’ll lead!


How the Showyou Friend Finder Works

Given the “Addressgate” controversy this week, we thought it would be useful to talk about how the Showyou friend finder works.

When you install the Showyou app for the first time, we ask if you’d like to create an account using Facebook or Twitter (you can also create a Showyou account with your email address and password, but most people choose to sign in with Facebook or Twitter for convenience).  You can, of course, use the Showyou app without an account, but it lacks much of the essential functionality.

Because the goal of our Showyou app is to help you find great videos to watch through people — friends, people you know and trust, people on Showyou who have similar interests and tastes — the second step of our sign up process is the “Friend Finder” where we try to help you find other Showyou members you know.

On signup, we look for people you know using the “social graph” from Twitter or Facebook (assuming you use one of those services to sign in) or from your contacts on your iPhone or iPad. To find people you know from Twitter or Facebook, we make a call to the API of those services to see if any of your contacts (friends on Facebook, people you follow on Twitter) are already on Showyou. To find people from your contacts, we look at the email addresses in your contact list to see if they match the address of people who already have a Showyou account.

We do not store any email addresses from your contact list on our servers; we do not store any of your contacts from your social networks on our servers.

We’ve tried to implement Friend Finder on Showyou (and our registration and signup process) with two goals in mind; to keep the sign up process is simple and efficient, and to use your contact data only to help connect you to people you may know during sign up. We think we’ve struck the right balance, but we’re always open to suggestions on how to improve.

We are considering adding an “opt-in” screen to explain how we use your contact information and social network contacts to find friends on Showyou, and to underscore that we do not store any of this information or data on our servers. But, we also know people hate extra steps in sign up processes. Is it more useful to have all this set out clearly in a privacy policy and blog posts like these, without the extra steps? Or, should we do that and also include an extra opt-in step where we provide information like this about the friend finder? We’re open to your ideas: feedback@showyou.com


The Road to Showyou 3.0

This morning, we’ve launched the latest version of our award-winning iPad app, Showyou.

We’ve been working hard on this version of the app for many months, and thought some of you might like to hear about the thinking behind this very big update.

Over the summer, we started looking at how people were using Showyou, and who was getting the greatest benefit and the most enjoyment from it. And two things caught our attention: that a lot more video comes through our users’ Twitter feeds than their Facebook feeds; but, conversely, more people connect Showyou to Facebook than to Twitter. If you connected Showyou to both Twitter and Facebook, you’d have an amazing experience. But, of course, not everyone has an account on both of these networks.

So the question was, how could we make the app better for everyone, but particularly for people who don’t use social networks, or weren’t seeing many videos from the social networks they do use?  How could we make it easier for them discover people and channels on Showyou that they might like to follow? How could we make it easier to browse collections of videos they might like?

This new version of the app makes it easier to find people and channels you might want to follow, and gives you new and fun ways to browse videos you might want to watch. When you sign up, we now connect you not only to your friends already on the app, but to the friends of your friends. You can slide the grid to the right to open our new tray to browse and explore by category. It’s a great new way to find channels you might want to watch, or follow.

There are other new, fun ways to find interesting people on Showyou. When you watch a video, you can see all the people on Showyou who have shared it; just tap an icon for one of those users to visit their grid.  It’s a great, fun way to find people who share your tastes, and to see what else they’ve shared. Just follow the people on Showyou who are sharing great videos, and you’ll see those in your grid.

Another thing we learned from talking with people using the app was that they loved the fun open-ended nature of the 2D grid, but that they wanted to be able to zoom in to see videos from a specific social network, or someone they were following, and to be able to browse those videos in a more structured, linear way so as not to miss anything.

So this new version of Showyou has a wonderful new way to zoom from the more free-form 2D grid down to a specific 1D grid that you can scroll vertically. Just tap a user icon to go to that user’s grid. Or, tap the Twitter or Facebook icons to see grids of videos from your friends and people you follow on those networks.

In addition to zooming to 1D grids from the 2D grid, you can also use our new tray to navigate to other, related grids. No matter where you are on the app, you can swipe open the Showyou tray and it will offer both context and browsing options related to the grid you’re on.

Open up the tray from the 2D grid and you can navigate to specific social network grids or to category grids. Open the tray when you’re on a category grid, and you’ll see a list of channel grids by category. Open the tray when you’re on a profile grid, and you’ll see additional information about that person, and a list of people they’re following as well as a list of their followers. It’s just a swipe away.

A lot of this sounds simple, and easy, but getting these new interactions right took many months. We started the planning for this version right after our last update in August, and began work in earnest on this version in October, with many, many iterations to get to this version we’re launching today. We would design, build, play with and test the app, then repeat. We wanted to make going from the 2D grid to these 1D grids simple, easy and understandable. And we wanted to make the tray both fun to use and a useful resource, always a swipe away.

In the end, even though this is technically an update to our app, we probably put as much work into building this version as we did making the very first version of Showyou we launched in April 2011. We’re really proud of what we’ve built, and we’re excited for people to try it out and to hear your thoughts on how we can make Showyou better still.