Now open to only a handful of users, Stellar could become a success if Kottke can figure out how to make it complement existing services.
While playing on Twitter I came across @yo_stellar, the handle of Jason Kottke’s latest project. Puzzled, I followed a link to his blog where Kottke, a former web designer who has been blogging at Kottke.org since 1998, explained the basics of Stellar, a new app / website designed to help you “discover and follow your favorite things to do online”. A combination of the best that other social media platforms offer, the app is a way to aggregate your favorite things online and share them with others. While Kottke is still working on some bugs, and invites are limited (there are only a few dozen people using it currently), he has posted links to some current user’s pages. I contacted him to find out more, but since the project is small and still a bit fluid, he referred me to the original post.
I look forward to my invitation – I’m not one of the lucky few to have access – but in the meantime I’ve taken a look at some of the examples, or “favorite” pages, posted by Kottke for get an idea of the project. From what I’ve been able to tell, they look a lot like a Twitter thread and basically perform a similar function. It is a place to collect text, images or videos that you liked in one place and share them with others. Unlike Twitter, where tweets can only be linked to images, Stellar displays everything on the page, much like a Tumblr dashboard. Like Tumblr, under each favorite post there is the source of the original and links to other users who liked it.
Additionally, Stellar has a “best of” page where you can see a user’s posts that have been most liked by others – much like the most emailed section on the. New York Times or any other major media website. I like the idea of highlighting posts that others have liked – it’s a good way to find out how much people value your opinion.
The last page to look at is the “info” page which does not display a biography. Instead, it provides links to other social media sites the user has accounts on – Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo, for example – confirming the idea that if you don’t have a presence on the Web, you might as well not exist.
Stellar is not the premier social media aggregator. There are plenty more – consider everything from OrSiSo to TweetDeck, both of which allow users to access and update their statuses on networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – but most require multiple columns. and tabs, often confusing. Not a fan of clutter and constant pop-up notifications, instead I use Mozilla’s Flock.com, a web browser with a sidebar that streams updates in real time. I prefer Flock because everything is mixed in one feed and I can monitor for updates while I work.
Yet all of these options differ from Stellar in that they only benefit you in real time and are of no use to you days or even hours later. Stellar is unique in that it doesn’t publish everything. On the contrary, it seems like you pick and choose what you prefer – a more selective group of your thoughts, reviews, and images.
While waiting for my invitation, I’m curious to see how Stellar grows and differs from the social media sites that it basically bundles together. For example, I’d like to see a link to apps like Instapaper so others can see what you’re reading. I’m also wondering how Stellar is going to build a community: will your Twitter followers automatically follow you on Stellar or will you have to create a new collection of friends? More importantly, what does Stellar provide that Twitter and Tumblr don’t? It looks like Stellar is intended to be used in tandem with these platforms and amplify the experience of using them, but it remains to be seen if this helps the experience or just adds another platform to speak on. .
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