Wednesday, July 11

On Ravelry

I confess I am on ravelry. Didn't want to admit it because before I got my invite I hated reading folks blogging about it. But it's time to fess up so I can add my 2 cents.

First, some data. I first read about ravelry on Jessica's blog, on May 1. I immediately put my name on the waiting list. I got my invite on May 31st. I think the wait has grown a bit from one month.

What is ravelry? Mostly it's a database to allow knitters and crocheters to list their projects by various attributes. So if you want to see pea pod jackets, you search on that. All the pea pods show up along with what yarn the knitter used. Then you can go to that knitter's page and find more details. Any modifications, how much yarn was used, any blog post with more details, more photos. Or search on other designs by the same designer. Or fall in love with the yarn and search on that. We want this. I know we want this because that's the kind of searches that folks use to find my blog. Ever since I blogged about my flower basket shawl in Sea Silk I got tons of hits for sea silk. Isn't that what you would do? After taking the plunge and paying over 30 bucks for one skein of yarn, wouldn't you look for as many design choices as possible? And when you find someone's data, don't you want to know needle size and the size of the finished garment and maybe even how much yarn was left over?

Recently I blogged about Leda's Dream. Within 48 hours I got about a dozen hits from folks searching for this. At first I figured that it was the same person, but then realized that the searches were coming from all over the world. Sure, Leda's Dream is "hot" right now since it was Melanie's Mystery Stole 1 and so many of us are going gaga blogging about mystery stole 3. But still. Anyway, Jenny Raye has the most drop dead gorgeous Leda's Dream imaginable, if you want to see it, click here to get to her blog post.

Ravelry is designed to be more efficient than searching blogs. It is. Mostly. As it gets bigger and more folks' projects are listed, I worry that it will lose some of its charm and effectiveness. Remember, data is only as good as what someone has input. So when more people join, if they are lazy or sloppy or forgetful or clueless and don't add details and photos, using ravelry could get frustrating. Maybe Jess and Casey can implement some "how useful was this information?" attribute. Then when someone searches for a popular design, they won't have to wade through all the folks who just mention that they are knitting but don't add any valuable information.

So if you knit or crochet and are not in the ravelry queue yet? Sign up. In the meanwhile, get yourself a flickr account and start loading all your photos. WIPs, FOs, Stash, etc. Use flickr's functionality to record details about each item. Then you will be all ready to be a contributor to ravelry instead of just a consumer.

So why can't we all get into ravelry? Well even though I have a master's degree in computer science, before I got my invite, I was privately indignant about that and didn't understand. Even if I couldn't become a member yet, why not let me look? Now I understand. The number of members is a factor in scalability, but really what they have to limit is the number of folks using it at any given time. Each of those lovely addictive searches we members do takes bandwidth. Bandwidth that Jess and Casey have to pay for. At least until google or Interweave purchases the company or something.

A suggestion if they read this (and from seeing other blogs that mention ravelry and get a comment from Jess or Casey, it does appear that they might). For those in the queue, chomping at the bit, could there be a limited access available? Maybe 10 on the waitlist per day get a 24 hour window to play around with searches so that they can at least see what the fuss is about?

Oh, and Casey, if you read this. My husband's jaw dropped when I showed him the site. He's a computer engineer and understood exactly what it took to make ravelry. Some features that I took for granted he was flabbergasted about, saying that they were really hard. He said you were more productive in 6 months of evenings and weekends than his team of developers were in 6 months at work. So, everyone else., if you get to ravelry and find a bug or get irked that some feature isn't perfect, consider that.


pacalaga said...

Good points, all of them. I just blogged about the technological wonder that is Ravelry, myself, and someone in my comments pointed me here. It is a brilliant piece of work, I think, although your suggestion about allowing people to rate the usefulness of an entry is also very good. My only caveat to that is that my entries are weak right now on project dates and yarn usage and things - I am adding them as I remember them, and then I take time later to go fill them in. It's possible that once people get accustomed to what fields Ravelry includes, they'll automatically catalog that information. (fingers crossed)

laurie said...

I am so beyond jealous that you are in Ravelry. I am one of those lucky that are still on the waiting list. I know they add as many as they can...the response to this has been beyond anything they could have imagined.
Oh, and hello...I am rifling through the many blogs in KVVS lurking in the blog bushes so to speak, checking out projects, ideas, places of origin, etc.

casey said...

Thanks for the compliments! (and the ideas) We definitely spend a lot of time thinking about how the site will 'feel' as the number of users grows. We are lucky in that we can adapt quickly and change or improve when we see a need. (The beta has been great for this too. Lots has changed between user #5 and user #5000) Letting small numbers of guests in would be cool but it would be extra work and we're starting to get close.... We'll have our grown up servers in about a month :)