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DLS review and tour: slick Web-sharing tool Glass


We first covered Glass back at SXSW, with a video interview. Glass is a very aesthetic and tight combo of website plus Firefox add-on; it allows you to place notes ("Post-it" style) over any website, and then share those notes in a Tumblr-like stream so that your friends can see them (and comment).

Glass is very social; you can send a note to your friends, and you have a "feed" that shows whatever you or your friends have commented on. The feed only shows the text of each note; you don't get a thumbnail of the website that you commented on. That's not very convenient, but they might fix it by the official release. Generally, the "beta" label is warranted, but not because it crashes; it's just that there are some rough spots, in terms of interface and usability, that still need some TLC.

Your feed feels like a micro-blog, but it's not. For one thing, it doesn't output an RSS feed. So, it's aimed at groups of users who all use the site together in order to share and comment about things they find on the Web.

As I've already said, one of Glass's strongest points is how good it looks. It's far from being the only "sticky-note" service, but Glass is definitely the nicest-looking one I've seen. That's why I decided to give you a screenshot tour of the beta, which you can see after the fold.

[UPDATE: We now have an invite code for everyone! Just type in DLSquad and you're good to go!]

Let's start with the overall look and feel of the site; this is what you see when you first go to the Glass website. The background, muted colors, and rounded corners are classic Web 2.0, but they feel well thought out here; it doesn't seem like they were just tacked on by some designer who's trying to be trendy.

Once you log in (with your invite-only, closed beta account), you need to install the Firefox add-on that makes Glass possible on the client-side. Glass goes out of its way to be friendly and clear on this point, and I think it can't really get much clearer than that.

I guess this would be a good time to mention that I have 7 free invites to hand out, so if you want any, just leave a comment. Also, it's highly possible that we'll get more invites, so check the comments or the updates to this post if you want in.

Okay, we've got the add-on set up. Now, let's look at some user settings. Again, we find stark simplicity. There are many options for controlling when the service emails you, but there's not much else. One usability bug is that you get a default avatar, but there are certain places in the site that label users with the avatar only (without the username). So, if your friends did not go through the trouble of uploading their own avatar image, you're going to have some trouble telling them apart. I'm hoping that this will get fixed.

Navigation throughout the site is done with this simple drop-down menu. There's nothing special here; my point is, again, that it's very simple but also slick. There aren't many options to figure out.

The last screenshot we're going to look at, from the site itself, is the feed. This is where you'll spend the majority of your time when using the site. You can star comments and bookmark them. My feed doesn't look like much, but I'm guessing that the fun really begins when you're using the service with a bunch of friends (it's all about the social Web these days, after all).

Okay, so we're out of the site now, and we're back to cruising around the Web. Now, we come upon a site that we want to comment on. To launch Glass, just double-tap the Ctrl key. The screen dims, and you get this large pop-up right smack in the middle. The Ctrl-Ctrl shortcut is a nice idea, but it doesn't quite work for me. I keep triggering it by mistake, and there's no way to configure a different shortcut or even set a different interval. In fact, there are no configuration options for the add-on at all. So, that's a problem. This is what the overlay looks like:

Then, we hit the Create Slide button, and we get this standard-looking Post-it. You basically write a bit of text, and you can quickly send it to any other Glass user. Maybe regular email addresses also work here; I'm not sure, because I haven't really tried. Note the little "target" icon in the lower-left corner; I'll show you what it does in the next screenshot.

That target lets you "anchor" the slide to a specific page element. Whenever one of your Glass-using friends visits that page, the slide will show up next to that page element. When you click it, the page dims, and only the elements you mouse over are shown in full color. It's pretty slick. Here, you can see the bright video clip versus the dark background:

Okay, so I'm done writing. This is what a slide looks like when it's just displayed and not edited. As you can see, you can easily add a comment and make it into a conversation. This could be an interesting tool for website development teams (hunt for design inspiration around the Web and comment right on the page, or comment on your own site).

When you click the "person" icon in the top-left corner, the slide actually "flips back." It uses a funky animation to flip around and reveal a list of people that have received the slide. I've managed to catch it mid-animation; it may not look like much as a still frame, but it's a very nice effect when you see it.

Bottom line: If you like your Web "social," you are bound to like Glass. It gives you more privacy than a Tumblog and lets you have a real conversation with your friends. The whole thing feels very solid and professional except for the few kinks that I've noted.

The last thing I want to say about Glass may not matter to you, but it definitely matters to me. They have just about the nicest PR people that I've worked with so far. I mean, it's much easier to write about a company when you feel that they genuinely care about their product, you, and your time. Kudos, and thanks, Lindsey!

... And don't forget to check the comments or the post itself for some more free invites!

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Tags: blogging, glass, microblogging, sharing, slick, web2.0



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