Trail Fire

I came across Trailfire recently. I am not usually taken in by these social bookmarking things, but I have to admit I am finding this incarnation of 2.0 widgetty goodness quite compelling. All the other social bookmarking tools out there promote the individual webpage as the most important aspect of a good find. They don’t celebrate the trail to get there.

Trailfire celebrates the trail.

Invoking this quick to use plug-in for Firefox or IE I can blaze a trail through the Internet (they call them ‘marks’, but ‘blazes’ is more accurate in trail building lingo and has an energy that ‘marks’ and ‘marking’ just doesn’t–I’m calling their marketing guys), at each stop recording my thoughts on a particular page–why I blazed it. Find a page, blaze it; find the next page, blaze it; then a few more pages till I have an entire saved and named trail for others to follow. I send you the URL that tracks the path I just created or link to it in a post. This new trail guides you through a particular argument I might be trying to make or just a series of related topics I have strung together for your pleasure. And if you happen to think that I have a knack for trails that suit your tastes you can find them here.

My first reaction is that this tool will be a great way for teachers to organize a guided Internet curriculum for students, but the truth is that it’s great for anyone who wants to give context to their content or just to highlight more than one interesting page at a time. Sure, you could blaze an extended brainfart of unrelated topics and pages, but why would you? Out here in the real world trails go somewhere or at the very least by something interesting. I think the natural inclination of electronic trailblazers will be to do the same thing: catalogue a series of pages into a contextual setting like an argument or a tour or a lesson.

Per the web 2.0 rules, it’s in beta. But this feels like a true beta not just a moniker add-on for trendiness. I am looking for:

  • java script, so you can find my latest or most popular trails on my blog
  • voting for trails
  • blaze caching
  • trail tagging or categorization of some kind
  • RSS feeds for my trails; they have RSS for the individual trails, but how often would I update those?
  • pre-made buttons or images for embedding with links and more importantly branding

In true beta, they are soliciting feedback on features from users. Not openly mind you, but via reply emails. I sent a note about the first and last items on my list and got a personal note back asking me to describe what I wanted. This post will be my reply, so let’s see how that goes–I think it will go well.

Here are my ideas:

Embed Script
I like the simple stuff. Just a list of the Top 5 Trails I created. With options on most recent, most popular, or by category so I can create trails to match my blog content. For the folks that like a bit more flare in their widgets I would think that something that rotates or scrolls or displays the screenshots of the blazes would be fun.

I hope I don’t have to elaborate that.

Blaze Caching
Basically a FURL like feature so that if your domain dries up my trail won’t.

I don’t much use categories, but I do like their more flexible cousin tagging. But it seems like its easy enough to have both. Searching the trails currently is a bit hit and miss without a better sense of where you might be headed.

RSS for Trails
You can get a feed for updates to an existing trail, but not as far as I can tell for a particular user’s list of trails. This seems like a great thing to have because if I find that someone has the same tastes as I do, I want to know what new trails they are blazing.

Good God don’t make me start having to do the branding. Get me a standard button I can throw into a post with a link the the apposite trail so that users can get used to seeing them. This is the most bang for the buck marketing-wise.

One A few I whipped up:

trailfire plain

My trails so far:

Update to my wish list
The ability for followers to comment on the original comments rather than on the page itself (if it even offers such).

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4 Replies to “Trail Fire”

  1. The other thing that occured to me was that with the ability to embed some HTML into your comments, you might be able to link to an online survey tool. Students could rate the page or take a quiz or something along those lines.

  2. Pingback: Bud the Teacher
  3. Thanks for the post Douglas. We are certainly trying to build something different from the typical social bookmarking product. We let users connect pages and publish ideas anywhere on the web. Instead of a read-only medium anyone can now turn the web into what they want it to be. Your lesson illustration is great. Teachers (lessons and syllabi), writers (quotes and bibliographies), and bloggers (trackbacks and links) have been doing this sort of thing for a long time. It is their job to put together ideas that others have not. Now anyone can do this anywhere on the web.

    Thanks for the ideas too. We are madly working on most of the features you mentioned above. The first release of any product is a guess at what users want. From then on we solicit and listen to your feedback.

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