When we launched SpeakerRate in 2009, our goal was to help people organize, attend, and give better talks. ”We” are the team at Viget, a ~70 person digital agency that spends the vast majority of our time on client projects. We work on our own projects under a brand we call Pointless Corp. We’ve worked on a lot of Pointless Projects over the years, but SpeakerRate has so far had the longest run.
With more than 30,000 speakers on the platform, we’ve always felt like we’re doing something right. That said, like many internal projects, SpeakerRate hasn’t received the love it’s deserved. We’re working right now to change that.
In the coming weeks and months you’ll see a variety of changes at SpeakerRate leading up to a complete relaunch. We hope the changes will make it more usable and valuable to everyone. If you’d like to follow along, follow us on Twitter. If you’d like to participate in the process by testing new features and providing feedback along the way, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key to the success of SpeakerRate is the ability for users to easily rate and comment on talks. Equally important is the integrity of user feedback and the subsequent need to tie actions to user accounts. Yesterday we deployed an array of social sign on features that we hope will achieve both these goals. Users can now access SpeakerRate with their Facebook, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn credentials. If desired, users can still use their legacy SpeakerRate account, and connect their social accounts on their account settings page.
As part of this feature we have also implemented new account permissions. The goal of these permissions is to allow ‘casual’ SpeakerRate users to easily provide ratings and comments, while providing ‘power’ users with greater flexibility. Here’s a break down of the new permissions structure:
Log in is required to rate and comment on a talk.
An email address is required to start a profile.
A verified email address is required to create a talk, a series, an event, and to include non whitelisted URLs.
URLs in comments will still be subject to the whitelist.
If you did not receive an email containing a link to verify your email, or you do not have an email on file, please visit your account page.
We are excited about these changes and we enjoyed building them on your behalf. Please let us know if you have any suggestions or comments and as always, thanks for using SpeakerRate.
When SpeakerRate started getting decent organic search rankings, the spammers took notice and have been hitting our site hard ever since. A couple of months ago we made a number of tweaks to our spam filter to help catch spam comments and speakers. This afternoon we deployed changes that restrict the use of URLs throughout the site. As of now an entry will be marked as invalid if it contains a URL when it shouldn’t (e.g. the ‘location’ field on the create talk form shouldn’t contain a URL). Entries that should contain a URL (e.g. the ‘slide URL’ field on the talk create form) will be run by our whitelist and either marked as spam or approved. If your URL is marked as spam, please note that you can always request an addition to our whitelist by pinging us through our feedback form.
We have also removed the notion of a pseudo user, which streamlined the process for rating or commenting on talks by allowing users to bypass the account creation process. We liked the simplicity of this approach, but it facilitated spam accounts and comments. We also needed to remove this feature to begin integrating with third party apps.
We realize that in some respects these controls are draconian; however, we believe that the community and speaker ratings are ultimately SpeakerRate’s most important value.
On another note, for the engineers out there, we also wanted to mention that we have recently upgraded to Rails 3.2.x and migrated SpeakerRate to Heroku. We hope this will enable us to build and deploy features quicker while also providing a more stable environment.
It’s been a while since we jumped on the SpeakerRate blog. We’ve been positively distracted by other billable pursuits, but thankfully have been digging into the app recently and making some much needed bug fixes.
Some of our users experienced an over active spam filter that was designating all talks created on SpeakerRate as spam. We have made several tweaks over the past month and the filter is now behaving more effectively. Unless you’re a spammer, you should not have any difficulty creating talks from here on out. Similarly, we had a spam bot (or two) dump a ton of 2.5 ratings on a few select talks. We have implemented a fix that seems to have done the trick.
To round out our housekeeping, we deployed a fix that took care of disassociated ratings showing up on speakers’ profile pages, we added a CAPTCHA field to the comments form (for non-logged in users), and cleaned up some duplicate listings in the database. Fun!
As always, if you have any feedback, feature suggestions, or just need to report a bug, please don’t hesitate to hit us up using our feedback form.
For some time, the SpeakerRate team has been planning and working on a new homepage and dashboard for registered users. We believed the homepage should more accurately portray the value of SpeakerRate for event organizers, speakers, and attendees as well as provide more relevant information such as upcoming events and talks, along with recent activity on the site. With these goals in mind, we set out on the redesign adventure and have completed it in time for the new year.
There are a few new homepage elements that are worth mentioning.
First, we have integrated a search into the top navigation; this can be found on the left side on the homepage, and on the right on all other pages.
Second, the main focus of the homepage is providing a brief explanation of the value that different users will find in using the site. Event organizers (“organize”)can use the site to find speakers, get feedback, and promote. Attendees (“attend”) can use the site to get connected, find events, and provide feedback. Speakers (“give”) can use the site to build reputation, improve, and win gigs. We hope these brief explanations will provide clarity to new visitors interested in using SpeakerRate.
Third, we’ve modified how we bring relevant speakers, talks, and events to usersattention on the homepage. You will find a featured events console, which will provide important upcoming events. If you think your upcoming event should be featured, let us know. The “Speakers to See” console will provide information on an upcoming talk and the speaker of that talk. This should provide a great way for up and coming speakers to build some rep.
Finally, the homepage will also provide recent activity on SpeakerRate, such as ratings and comments. This should provide an easy way to know what talks are trending and to see what all the buzz is about. We think it’s a great new package and we really hope you like it. Now go check it out!
Not only have we launched a new and redesigned homepage, but we have also released a completely new dashboard for registered users. Our goal for the dashboard is to provide more value for users to return and continue using the site throughout the year. When you are logged in to SpeakerRate, the dashboard will be your default homepage. You will have quick access in the top right corner to your profile and the ability to sign out. There are several useful elements on the dashboard.
First, a quicker way to find speakers, talks, or events is provided in the center of the dashboard, along with a quick way to add talks. These are the best ways to participate on the site, and now they’re even easier to access.
The second, is a stream of recent activity on the site. This will soon be more directed at the logged in user, so you can see specifically how people have been interacting with your talks or events, or just talks that you’ve also rated or commented on.
The third element is a stream of featured talks, speakers, and events. This will provide information in a similar manner to the homepage, but you will now have the option, under featured talks, of selecting whether you plan on attending the talk. This will not be broadcasted in any way, but can simply be used as a reminder to go back and rate talks that you have attended. If you select “Yes,” then the talk will automatically be added to the “Your Events” console in the right of the page. After the talk has occurred, a rating button will appear under that talk so you don’t have to go find it. This functionality provides an easy way to make your own schedule for an event, and to remember what all you saw. If you select “Maybe,” the talk will remain in your feed, with the ability to change your commitment. If you choose “No,” then the talk will be removed from the feed in your dashboard.
Finally, two small consoles on the right of the dashboard provide an easy way to let your friends know about SpeakerRate, and to stay up to date with what the SpeakerRate team is up to. You will have the ability to send your friends an invitation to check out SpeakerRate right from your dashboard. Just insert their email address and we’ll shoot them an email. Don’t worry, we won’t use their email address for anything but that initial email. Underneath the invitation console, you’ll find links to our most recent blog posts about cool new features, like this one.
All in all, our team has put a lot of effort into making SpeakerRate the best place for event organizers, speakers, and attendees over 2010. We’ve seen our user base triple in size, and have seen the amount of activity on the site increase dramatically. We look forward to continued momentum and growth in 2011. We have no one to thank but you, our users.
Spam. It’s the cause of nightmares and cold sweats for online communities big and small. For some time, SpeakerRate operated with little interest from people looking to get quick SEO ups for websites selling Gucci bags and Air Jordan shoes. Sadly that time came to an end, and an all out war had begun. After working through many different anti-spam measures, we believe we’ve finally won the war and can continue on with our lives mostly free of hearing from our Gucci bag friends. Because our new measures tend to be on the “stricter” side, we thought you, the user, should know about them.
The mindset behind plugging up the spam hole is simple. If links are what spammers want, then that’s exactly what we can’t give them. We tried a couple of automated approaches, including the industry-standard Akismet, but spam still managed to make its way in. Our final solution was to subject all comments containing URLs to moderation, with two exceptions:
Speakers who belong to a specific talk will be able to post links on that talk freely. This should allow for speakers wishing to answer questions or to give more information the ability to do so through links.
A whitelist of accepted, legitimate sites that can be linked to is also allowed. We’ve started small by evaluating sites already linked to on SpeakerRate and will continue to grow this list as the community increases in size.
These measures have worked to plug the black hole of spam with very few problems of catching legitimate comments. If your comment gets marked as spam, you can easily send us a request to approve it, and we’ll get it up on the site. What’s more, when your comment is marked as not spam, the URLs included in it are automatically added to our whitelist.
We understand that our system is not flawless, but we will continue to make it better and less restrictive. We think a world with no spam is a good world. So goodbye Gucci bags and Air Jordan shoes. We won’t miss you.
Over the past few weeks, the SpeakerRate team has been busy making updates to the mobile site. What’s that, you say? You didn’t even know SpeakerRate had a mobile site? Of course it does. Pull up the site on your iPhone (or any mobile device with a WebKit browser) or simply head to iSpeakerRate to have a look.
Prior to last week, you could only rate talks using the mobile site—no commenting allowed. Using some code we wrote as part of the widget launch, though, you’re now able to comment and rate talks at the same time.
We’ve also made the mobile site easier to access. Prior to these recent efforts, only visitors to the site’s homepage were redirected to the mobile site, even though most of our visitors come directly to talk and speaker pages. We’ve changed this so that all mobile users are now shown the mobile site, with an option in the footer to toggle between the two views.
So check out the mobile site. We think it’s a great way to leave feedback when you’re away from your computer or the conference wifi is flaking out.
Until this point on SpeakerRate, if you have given the same talk multiple times at different events or locations, you have had to enter all your information over again for each talk. But thanks to some valuable feedback from users and a speedy development team, that is no longer the case. Any user will now have the ability to duplicate their own talk and enter any new information such as date and location. This should make it much easier for speakers to keep their resume of talks up to date. So go ahead, duplicate away!
For some time, the SpeakerRate team has been working on how to make rating and commenting on talks accessible for more users. Last month we saw access and activity open up by no longer requiring registration for rating or commenting on talks. Today, we take a step further. For any talk, you will now be able to export rating and commenting functionality to your own site. This is a feature that numerous conference organizers and users have requested. As feedback and ideas from our users are always valued, we listened closely and have worked hard to release such a widget.
In order to access the widget for a talk, you will either need to be the creator or a speaker associated with the talk. You can find the widget html on the right sidebar of the talk page underneath the time and location. Copy this code and paste it wherever html can be used.
Immediately visible on your site will be a “Rate It” button with the current talk rating information displayed immediately below it. A user can then click the button and an overlay will appear with the ability to rate and comment. When the rating and/or comment is submitted, the data will be sent to SpeakerRate and the user will be prompted to close the overlay, never having left your site. We believe this will increase attendee feedback participation even further by allowing the user easier and quicker access to SpeakerRate talks.
In the post above you’ll see an example of the widget for a talk we’ve created just for you to see how the widget operates. Give it a test drive and let us know what you think.
One of SpeakerRate’s goals is to increase participation in talk and event feedback to improve everyone’s overall experience. For some time we’ve been working to increase this participation rate, and today, we’ve taken a step further. Account registration will no longer be required to rate or comment on talks. While complete registration is still encouraged, we only ask for a name and an email address to participate on the site. We have also increased spam measures to ensure that only useful data is collected. Let your attendees know and see the data flow!