TailRank testing

A little over two weeks ago I got an invite to beta-test TailRank, a site which promises to give you recommendations on blogs and other web content based on your personal interests. I suppose the idea is to turn it into something like Last.fm for blogs.

As soon as I got the invite I registered, and share a couple of links. But I found it difficult to understand how was I supposed to use the site, and what should I do in order to get better recommendations. Also, it seemed to me at most recommended items had been shared by Kevin Burton, the creator of TailRank himself, who seems to be the most active user, as well. It didn’t seem too interesting to read items shared by the same person, so seeing no clear value in spending more time playing around, I decided to wait a bit and try it some time later.

This morning I decided to give it another try. First, I couldn’t log in because I couldn’t remember the username I had chosen. So I used the ‘remind password’ form, twice, but with no luck: no e-mail came, and no message on the site. Frustrated, I registered again, with same e-mail and different handle. So now I have two accounts, but the profiles seem to be somehow mixed up, presumably because of the identical e-mails. Clearly something that needs fixing. At least now I have two working TailRank accounts.

Next I explored the site a bit more again. To my great surprise, one of the links I shared in my first round of the site now appears as shared by Burton, and not as shared by me. Weird.

Then I tried to upload the OPML from my Bloglines subscription, but no luck. Got a Java error. Thrice.

I tried to get some recommendations, but once more, the content seems to be monopolized by Burton, and the recommendations don’t seem enticing.

The idea behind the site is a good one, but it still needs some work. There seem to be a few bugs, and the interface could use some refining. For example, there is no clear link to update your profile, and the ‘logout’ link does not appear on all pages, just on some.

In general, I would enjoy a cleaner interface that made it easier to use the site. As I see it now, it is difficult to understand what is going on and how are you supposed to use it. And the ‘home’ page is way too overloaded with text; it makes my brain ache when I look at it. A logo would be cool as well.

It would also be nice if TailRank incorporated some kind of ‘automatic’ harvesting of what a user is interested in, so that you don’t need to go through the tedious process of inputing links manually. For example, it would be nice if TailRank could pick up automagically my del.icio.us subscriptions and ‘share’ them in my TailRank account. It would be something like an Audioscrobbler plugin, but for web-surfing instead of for music. That would be great.

A very nice feature of TailRank is the possibility of include in your own website the results of TailRank recommendation. I suppose that can be a very cool thing to have, say, on the sidebar of a group blog that keeps a TailRank account.

Summarizing, I think that the TailRank idea is cool, but it still needs some polishing (but hey, that is what a beta is about, isn’t it?). I think it has lots of potential, if only it would become a bit more user-friendly. Keep up the good work!

UPDATE 2005/10/25 The OPML bug seems to be fixed, but for some reason TailRank only imported 37 feeds from my 63-feed OPML. No reasons given. I am still finding it difficult to understand how to use the site. For example, it took me a lot of clicking around to find out how could I tag the feeds I just imported. Read Kevin’s comment below for some more information about TailRank development. If TailRank is the result of just five weeks of work, I am impressed! :-)