Monday, October 05, 2009

Muddy Rivers

I'm feeling really groggy and brainless today, so I thought I'd give signing on at Small Rivers a go to see how easy it is.

You might wonder why I'd do that, and you'd be right because I'm not really an avid fan of the super-connective highways and byways of the internet. On Friday I got a email from Elodie at Small Rivers asking me if I wouldn't mind trying my hand at signing on and blogging about it. There was even a promise of remuneration according to how well I'm ranked in various ranking outfits I'd never heard of, so am probably terribly ranked and the best I can hope for is tuppence ha'penny, or the euro equivalent.

Given that someone is interested in what I think (!), enough even to mention dosh (!!), it's only fair to give it a try. Still, it's also only fair to make sure that one can sign up and activate an account even when one is not either possessed of off-the-chart IQ, or feeling in tip top shape. I am neither so this is going to be a challenge.

I managed to sign up - that's the easy bit. Choose a name, a password and your email address and Bob's yer uncle. After that, I have to say, it gets a bit dodgy. You can identify yourself by Facebook, Google, Blogger etc., but only one of them even though it asks you to add another identity as though you could go all the way through your social networking sites and create a plethora of identities on your Small Rivers account. I could only add Facebook. I'm not even sure why I would want to add Facebook. As you can see, I'm not really sure what this River thing is all about.

It gets fuzzier... or soggier to continue the river theme. You're asked to create a new river. Now, I've been reading up on Google Wave recently, and all these water-flow names are supposed to mean something. I've yet to really understand what, though. Nothing looks anything like its name, and suggesting a connection between a wave/river and a list is tenuous to say the least.

So, you first have to get over the name which, in my case, hasn't yet happened because I'm annoyed about the concept of river lists which have nothing to do with rivers either big or small and a lot to do with tags. Why didn't they call it PinPoint, or something evocative like that? 'It does what it says on the tin', type of name. All this watery imagery just makes me want to go to the loo or grab my body-board.

There's no 'Small Rivers for Idiots' tutorial either, so not only do I not understand what it's about, but I don't know how to go through the process of potential enlightenment. 'Create a new river' it says in a box. I click on the box but a red message tells me I need to add input. What input? Your guess is as good as mine. These are the instructions: 'Initiate a portable content network and clip it on your content'. Hmm... Does that sound any clearer than mud? If you squint, and peer at the box, you'll see in faint grey, it tells you to provide a descriptive title to the river. Like what - Muddy? Tidal? Deltal? Rapidal? Full o'Fishal? Ox-bowal?

In the end, I tried River Writing. You then come to a window in which you're supposed to add a description. As my river title is self-explanatory, I leave it blank. Maybe that window is for people who entitle their river with some totally unrelated but artistic name and then have to add a description to remind themselves what it's for. Like, for example, a Gordon Brown river would be called 'UK RIP'.

What am I supposed to do then? Add some code to a website or blog. How do I do that without having access to it's admin rights though? I can do it here, because it's my blog, but am I supposed to go all over the place looking for places I can plant my pin?

I'm quite exhausted wondering what it's all for, and I think I'll renounce my tuppence ha'penny because, frankly, I haven't a clue, still, what a sodding river is, apart from being something I sit by to eat a picnic and refresh my toes in the summer .

Warning: do not try a river trip if your vessel is full of barnacles.

(I'm pretending I know what I'm doing here...)


  1. Bonjour Sarah,

    Short intro - I am Iskander, part of the SmallRivers team.

    While not exactly full of praise, your post above is full of teachings for us. Below are of my answers to all the points you raise.

    1) there is no Elodie working at SmallRivers (only Ed, Andrej and myself) - Elodie is probably from ebuzzing, a company we are using for the first time to help generate some sponsored blog posts (we don't have much money (unfortunately) to market ourselves, so this is just one of our ideas that we are trying out...)
    2) signing-up: good to see we got one point right, although account association seems to have blocked you very soon thereafter. This feature is all about publicizing your various SN profiles for others to better find you...of course, no evident use if you are just starting....
    3) We have had the name SmallRivers for 3 years now, so we didn't really jump on the "watery" bandwagon...of course, when Google Wave came out earlier this year, we thought it could both be good ... or bad for us.
    4) A river is a dynamic network of related content, distributed across many blog posts and web pages. More on this here (help desk).
    Obviously, we are stuck for now in showing this network as a list...maybe better ideas will come with time...
    5) SmallRivers for idiots we don't have (yet?), but we have a help desk.
    6) on creating a river: you are right of course, that if you don't know what this is about, creating a river will not make you the wiser. The river, as explained above, is about interlinking related content found across many different blogs and websites - as such we think that this shared topic or them needs a title, and possibly a description, allowing the creator to define more precisely what the network he is initiating is all about.
    7) this service is for bloggers and website owners - as such, they usually have the needed access rights - it is not different than pasting a video from YouTube. If you can do that, you can paste our sticker anywhere on your blog post or web page.
    8) all tools are not for everybody - and we know for sure, you confirm this, that SmallRivers is not going to be found useful for all bloggers. However, those that are dealing with topics that are written and discussed about all over the web, will probably find SmallRivers very useful to join these pockets of interest in one network and show the result on their own blog.

    We have just added a video on our home page, which explains what you can do with SmallRivers. That is, if you still have the patience and the time to spend on it...

    More generally, we know we have a lot to do still in simplifying the explanations, concept, ...

    Best regards from not far away Switzerland.

  2. Thank you for your reply, Iskander.

    You're right, Elodie works for ebuzzing - I did say I was feeling groggy.

    If I understand this right, I can only add a red pin to a post I write myself in my own blog, and start a new river theme for that blog subject.

    I think what you really need to do is have a blow by blow tutorial where you go through the whole process (the Help is not helpful, believe me) from beginning to end, during which everything should become clear. Especially if you explain things in plain English, not trendy geek-speak.

    I may well have another bash at joining in the river party especially as you took the time to respond to my trials and tribulations.


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