Sociable 2.0 is out!
2.0 contains plenty of new features: 61 sites, subtler icons to avoid clashing with your theme, translation into German, French, Hungarian, and Italian, and more. It lays the groundwork to expand into more languages and more blog engines, so 2007 is going to be bigger than ever.
If you’d like to hear me babble a bit about Sociable, check out this interview. First time I’ve been interviewed.
Sometimes folks ask me if Sociable has a ‘tip jar’ so they could donate to support it. The sites that are on by default have generously sponsored Sociable, so keeping them turned on is a great way for you to support Sociable. Thanks!
Hey everyone, I know I said I’d release 2.0 today, but I have to delay until tomorrow. I’m waiting to hear back from one of the sites supporting Sociable development confirming their commitment and sorting out last-minute arrangements. I should’ve scheduled a little more time for this process.
Thanks for your patience.
The long-awaited Sociable 2.0 release is at hand! Before I do a full release and announcement next week on 2007-02-01, I wanted to do a beta release to shake out any bugs. If you don’t mind the risk that Sociable might smoke a little, please download the beta and let me know how it works for you. (Yep, we’re already on beta 2 — I got an updated site icon just before I finished writing this blog post.)
I just read a neat blog post on one guy’s experience using Sociable. It even has a nice graph. That’s a nice spike in traffic.
One of the problems Sociable has is that it can be incredibly tacky. Yes, speaking as officially as possible, I’m saying lots of links to social bookmarking sites at the end of your posts are ugly. So let me address why I wrote a plugin that’s easily used to make blogs ugly.
A lot of web surfers have never heard of social bookmarking sites (SBS). Gasp, shock, horror, not everyone is up-to-date on the web 2.0 meme. I put a little introduction to SBS in the hover text for newbies, and deliberately didn’t make it editable through the admin interface so that it wouldn’t get changed into a thousand variations on “OMG CLIK & MAK MY BLOGG POPULER!”. Users can (and do) edit it in the PHP, but as Sociable users are not especially technically savvy it’s uncommon.
More experienced users say linking to SBS is hammy because not every reader uses them, because the sites provide their own bookmarklets and plugins, etc. I don’t disagree. Sociable exists because blog authors want more traffic and SBS are a great way to get it. Sociable exists for the same reason grocery stores put candy in the checkout lanes and Amazon lets you buy books with one click: as soon as readers finish a post they’re reminded they can share it with others, it’s the web 2.0 equivalent of the impulse buy.
I wrote Sociable because I wanted to add those links to the bottom of my blog posts. I thought writing a WordPress plugin would be fun, and other people might like to use it. With all that in mind, let me talk about the graphic design decisions I made.
By default, Sociable only adds icons to posts when they’re displayed on individual pages and not on the front page, archives, search results, or feeds. A whole lot of users set Sociable to display everywhere with predictably bad results. I added this option because I’ve seen blogs that don’t have (or don’t prefer to use) pages for individual posts, just archive pages. I weighed this decision heavily but decided in this case that it’s better to support more users than stop all users from shooting themselves in the foot. (This option is a pretty good analogy for the different design philosophies behind Unix and OS X.)
The other big default is to show all SBS icons, and it’s getting worse and worse. New SBS contact me about once each week to get added, so pretty soon the default is going to pass from humorous overkill into a sprawling mess. (And let me parenthetically tip my hat to the folks who’ve realized it’s intentionally silly.) I’m not sure what to do about this one yet. If I have them all off by default, I’m going to get inundated with mails from people who’ve installed it and rightly say it doesn’t work out of the box. Bad first experience. If I turn on only the most popular few by default, there’s an ugly “rich get richer” effect. I haven’t thought of a good solution and would appreciate advice.
Lastly, I tried to keep the visual clutter down as much as possible in the default CSS. There’s a caption, and then the icons without adornment, period. The CSS even has to deliberately strip away a lot of visual styling that different blog themes would otherwise add. Most of the noise comes from the fact that the sites’ icons are all visually dissimilar with different color palletes. Any random blog is guaranteed that most of them won’t match the blog theme, let alone each other.
At the moment I’m looking at it as a good incentive for blog owners to prune down the number of sites they display, but it probably needs more help. One user had a creative solution to display icons in grayscale until they’re hovered over, and I’ll include that feature (probably in the next version).
I’ve just fixed a few more WordPress 1.5 bugs to create Sociable 1.2. There are also some css changes so that weird themes do fewer weird things to the display of Sociable (and man, do they do that a lot).
This release of Sociable owes a lot of thanks to Ajay D’Souza for working with me to debug Sociable.
I’m pleased to announce Sociable 1.1, a small bugfix release.
I’ve been quiet the last week because my free time has been taken up by finishing Sociable, a plugin to the WordPress blog software. It’s the reason there are those cute little icons down below this post.