What is it?

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Surfing blogs and the web in general, I often end up at the home page for a new project, and I need to figure out what it is. Too often, the information is not forthcoming. Sometimes, these pages are small open-source projects, where documentation is a clear weak point, and the page will be mostly detailed news items intended for those familiar with the project. I can cut these pages some slack. They should do a better job advocating their work to new users, but I understand how it is that they don't.

Odd, though, that Fire Eagle, Yahoo's latest Web 2.0 gizmo, falls into the same sandtrap. It has a very nicely designed page, but again, I don't know what it does.

When I arrived at the home page, I saw "Take your location to the web!". What does that mean? Is this a hyper-local advertising service? A way for municipalities to promote local events? The next text I read on the page says, "Update anywhere: send updates from your phone". Update what? Here I am trying to learn about their service, and I already feel behind the times and out of touch with the cool kids.

Clicking the Join button takes me to a page that starts,

Fire Eagle looks after information about your location. You can use web sites and applications to update your location, and then use that information all over the Internet.

OK, now I think I get it. Other than the odd "looks after information" verb, I'm beginning to see that this a service that tracks where you are physically, and provides that information to other applications so that they can use that location information to enrich their offerings. Why didn't they just say so?

» 6 reactions

Comments

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Vinay 10:44 AM on 13 Aug 2008

And I thought I was the only one who couldn't figure out what FireEagle was about.

I think FireEagle is too cool for Yahoo as well as indicated by their need to put a logo in the lower right of the front page that says "This is Yahoo!".

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Shreyas 11:06 AM on 13 Aug 2008

On the top right-ish corner of the page http://fireeagle.yahoo.net/ there is a link called "Help." Clicking on that link takes you to a page which explains what FireEagle is all about. I think that is pretty straightforward.

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Peter Bengtsson 11:14 AM on 13 Aug 2008

Thank you! I remember when I looked at FireEagle the first time and had the same impression. I didn't blog about how badly I understood the site because I thought it was just me being stupid.

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Justin Mason 11:19 AM on 13 Aug 2008

most over-hyped API ever. as far as I can tell, if you have a phone with a GPS built-in, you can add that location info to your blog. so that's useful for, what, 1000 people? naturally O'Reilly are all over it...

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Don Spaulding 11:58 AM on 13 Aug 2008

I just came across the Fire Eagle launch in my morning readings and had the exact same thought. Right on.

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Ned Batchelder 1:19 PM on 13 Aug 2008

@Shreyas: you are right that the help link is helpful, but I don't expect to have to go a help page to have a basic understanding of what the site even is. And I find it humorous that the help page includes two different one-sentence descriptions of the site, both different from the one I found on the sign-up page.

I was always taught that a basic job of a creator is to be able to crisply define your creation in a way that people can understand: the elevator pitch.

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