We all live on the Snagsta Submarine

6 May 2010

It’s time we re-surfaced and explained ourselves…

Things have been a little quiet on the Snagsta front for some time now. Our anticipated rise to Facebook/Google challenger status hasn’t come to pass. Yet. Mostly, I like to blame Alex for this, but I guess the volcanic ash must shoulder some of the responsibility, and I’ve also started walking on the cracks in the pavement again which doesn”t help.

In truth it’s a combination of things:

1. The product has design flaws. The product does not match our idea the way it should. The site design has significant flaws – e.g. there’s no tagline explaining what it does!

2. We haven’t been good at iterating. By that I mean we haven’t converted all the really useful feedback into product design tweaks. There is a quote somewhere that mentions that all successful businesses have completely overhauled their business model or product at least 6 times before it worked. Contrary to popular belief, the iPod took forever to take off. You have to do this quickly and regularly. We haven’t. Eric Ries waxes lyrical on this stuff.

3. We’re working part-time. Living in London aint cheap. Alex got so hungry he started a restaurant chain – Rosa’s. Actually, his exceptionally talented wife is the brains and chef behind the Rosa’s (there is a very good chance Alex will bring you the bill though!).

I am sure there are more reasons – with start-ups there always are – but I just wanted to get in touch again to let you all know we’re still afloat, still tweaking things, quitely conspiring to find a way to turn periscope ripples into waves.

It’s not quite ‘Full Steam Ahead, Mr Barkley’ but at least our submarine hasn’t cost as much as Trident!


And the winner is…

19 May 2009


A little while ago we ran a tagline contest for Snagsta. Those of you that have popped by the site recently will have noticed (hopefully!) that our new tagline is ‘Your Favourite Things. Sorted.’

We’ve picked up a few valuable lessons getting there.

1. Say what you do

“Help’s you find the things Google can’t” didn’t really explain that Snagsta involved lists. It got us a lot of attention because it took on Google and because we put it out there with fun chalkboard presentation. What’s more important when you’re launching a new product is to get across what’s it’s about as quickly as possible.

2. Be careful of the big claim

Manage expections. Overpromising gets punished. Wikia’s crowdsourced search engine got a hammering when they first launched. They then admitted it would take years to fill in the gaps. But by then they’d lost the initiative. For the same reason we abandoned the search angle …and the challenge to Google. Google is our friend. The reality is that is how people find our stuff.

3. Be singleminded

We tried to be a list site and a recommendation engine at the same time. While you might think your business solves many problems simultaneously, as a marketing message this simply doesn’t work. In the milliseconds you have to make an impression… make exactly that. One impression. You can’t make three. Not when your audience has a twitter-esque attention span.

But enough pontificating, now the big moment, the winner is… Lesley, with her edgy play on words, or in this case, word: ‘Sorted’.

The finished article – ‘Your Favourite Things. Sorted.’ – is actually a combination of two of the suggestions in the comments: my brother Dave came up with ‘Your Favourite Things.’  But because Dave is helping us with other bits of the site and we don’t want red wine haze to affect his work we have decided to buy him a bottle of mineral water instead.

Lastly, thank you to all of you who suggested ideas. If we could buy you all bottles of wine we would!

How important is a vote anyway?

11 November 2008


A New Leader

A New Leader

As you may have noticed, the subject of voting has been in the news spotlight recently – yep, that’s right, it was election time in New Zealand. Plus, weren’t they doing something in the U.S. too last week?


No, of course, it was a massive deal in the U.S., but here in the Snagsta Thailand office, we decided not to endorse either candidate, partly because we try to remain suitably impartial, but mostly because we don’t have any eligible voters on staff.


Personally, I like to support the underdog, but this was tricky, because who I thought was the underdog, turned out to be the favourite and who I thought was the favourite suddenly declared himself the underdog.


Funnily enough though, the subject of voting has been in the spotlight here at Snagsta HQ, thanks to the programming team adding in some new functionality allowing users to vote on a list.


We had an interesting debate on the suitability of a voting system for us, seeing as one of our core functions is to provide recommendations based on a user’s preferences, rather than other people’s preferences. However, the over-riding factor was the probability that many of our users will not necessarily be members, so of course if we can give them a way of knowing which lists are good and which aren’t, this helps them.


To be honest, I was more concerned about how many negative votes my lists will get, but hopefully I can convince the programmers to secretly build an admin function that allows me to cast multiple votes at one time. Democracy, with a dash of corruption. It’s the Thai way.


Before I close with a list (that you will not be able to vote on!), I’d just like to remind everyone to get their entries in for the tagline competition. Some of you are amazingly creative, and some of you…not so much.


Just kidding, please do submit your own entry soon.


Finally, here is a list of my favourite online memories of the 2008 U.S. election:


The ordinary people – funny Arab lady, Joe the Plumber


The music – The Obama Girl, American Boy, Will.I.Am


The SNL skits – The Couric Interview, The VP Debate, The Debate


The Funny or Die collection – Ron Howard, Natalie Portman

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Tagline contest. Win a bottle of wine!

30 October 2008


In the spirit of online collaboration we’re kicking off a competition to find the best Snagsta tagline. The most original, funny, best and worst taglines will all win a bottle of wine. Some of you may even be lucky enough to have it hand-delivered by a founder [depending on your postcode and vital statistics]. This is not a joke, you could win! Impossible is nothing.

So, what makes a great tagline?

Skype: Take a Deep Breath.
Orange: The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Orange.
Apple: Think different.
Amex: Don’t leave home without it.
Smith Barney: We make money the old-fashioned way – we earn it.
DeBeers: A diamond is forever.
Audi: Vorsprung durch technik.
Heinz: Beanz meanz Heinz.
Carlsberg: Probably the best beer in the world [even though we all know it’s crap]

Some topical ones:

AIG: The strength to be there.  [I wonder how their customers feel at the moment?]
Lehmans: Where Vision Gets Built.  [And, apparently, destroyed]

And our favourite:

Heineken’s: Refreshes the parts other beers can’t reach.
The inspiration for our current tagline:
Snagsta. Helps you find the things Google can’t.

Love it or hate it [incidentally marmite’s tagline] you have to admit, it’s actually true. Consider searching for restaurants in London on Google… 1.5 million results later, have you really ‘found’ any? But ask a friend for a list of their 5 favourite restaurants in London and I’ll bet you’d have one picked out in no time.

Of course Google might find a reason to hate it. Hence the competition.

So what is Snagsta? Snagsta is a recommendation site that uses lists of your favourites to help you find things you’ll like. The one-phrase benefit of Snagsta is: Find remarkable things you can trust.We need your help making that sentiment sexier and turning it into a tagline.

To get your juices flowing here are some possibilities:

Snagsta. Helps you find the things Google can’t.
Snagsta. Find things search engines can’t.
Snagsta. Find things you’ll like.
Snagsta. Take the lottery out of discovery.
Snagsta. Hidden little gems.
Snagsta. Search, refined.
Snagsta. The internet distilled by your friends.
Snagsta. Needles without the haystack.
Snagsta. List. Share. Discover.
Snagsta. List. Connect. Discover.
Snagsta. Finders keepers.
Snagsta. Better than the rest.
Snagsta. Where people in the know go.

And finally …

Snagsta. Probably the best site on the web.

Any gems in there?  Or do they all taste like Carlsberg?
Let us know and submit your suggestion in the comments.

Just do it!

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A New Dawn

17 October 2008
A new dawn for Snagsta

This is one of the more difficult posts I’ve had to write but we thought it was time to make an announcement about the lack of progress with Snagsta. As a result of some problems with the site, we’ve changed tack and appointed a new development team to get us to public beta. Although it was a difficult decision to make, we’re confident it was the right one and are excited about how things are now moving ahead.

We have a big team coding away and the initial feedback we’ve had from them so far has been positive. As I type, Snagsta’s intrepid explorer Phil “The Hof” Hofmeyr is on his merry way to spend some time with the new development team in Asia. If all goes to plan, by the time he gets back to London we will have a new version of Snagsta to play with.

Thanks to all of you who have tested the site over the past couple of months. Your feedback has been great and we’ve been able to incorporate many of your ideas in to our plans for our next build. We look forward to sharing the new site with you all very soon. 

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We all love Paris… but which one?

26 September 2008

I took my daughter to school for the first time this week. I had been given clear instructions to be there at least 10 minutes early before the gates opened at 9. This was understandable, given my tradition of waiting until things are in full swing before I arrive (some people call this being late). Fine for a party, not so fine for school. So you can imagine how pleased I am with myself when I arrive at 8:45. And I am not even sweating because I haven’t rushed. I make small-talk with the other parents. My daughter chases their children. We take a little photo in front of the school to celebrate the moment. I then put on her ‘smoke’ (she can’t say ‘smock’). I even put it on the right way around. At 9 am, right on schedule, the gate opens and we neatly flock into the school. As I walk in a smiling lady introduces herself as Melissa the head teacher. I proudly introduce myself as dad and tell her how exciting this is. She kindly absorbs my excitement and tells me I am at the wrong school. You see there are two schools called Sunshine House in the area.

I tell you this story to introduce an interesting problem with software called Entity Resolution. Amongst other things, it deals with resolving identical names. When you talk about Paris do you mean Paris France, Paris Texas or indeed, Paris Hilton?  Or what if there are two Paris Hiltons (now there’s a thought…)? My good friend Jane Silber (from Ubuntu fame) pointed it out to me last year when we were first thinking about Snagsta but it’s something we have only started grappling with recently. The problem is addressed in a variety of ways. Geotagging adds metadata tags that has a physical location in it. Some software looks at the context: the associated links or words in the sentence can often provide the answer. We’re looking forward to seeing how its going to work on Snagsta.

Note: the fact that whether I am talking about Paris France or Texas I am generally still thinking about Paris Hilton is a problem that software has not yet managed to solve… and probably the subject of a completely different type of blog post 😉

Time to sign off, it’s Friday afternoon, and just like at school, Alex has started ringing the bell and is shouting: “Boys & girls, tidy up time! It’s tidy up time!”

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photocredit: my unusually talented (yet humble) friend Meriem Aissaoui

How bad can an exotic boat trip go?

26 August 2008

As Ratty so beautifully put it “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Unless of course you didn’t use Snagsta to find your boat…

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