Helioid Team Launches First Snaggle Demo

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Update: we've added icons distinguishing each category.

The Helioid Team is currently developing an online bartering service, named Snaggle, which extends the general philosophy we've taken to web search to shopping and trading online. The two aspects of web search we've primarily been developing Helioid to address and improve upon are web exploration and user-specific adaptive search. With Helioid, we are taking the next steps in web search by connecting users with the web content that best fits their specific interests, even when the user is engaged in relatively undirected exploratory search. In all of our projects, our overarching goal is to make users' online experience more immersive. Obviously, in the case of Helioid, that means equipping the user with search tools that render online content more intuitively explorable, in the way that one would explore collections of books in a library. In the case of our next-generation user interface project, IoImmersive, that means developing ways for users to manipulate and organize items on their computer in three dimensions, in ways similar to how they'd organize physical objects in their home. In the case of our nascent online bartering service, Snaggle, that means providing users with more intuitive, comprehensive representations of the space of available transactions online, while simultaneously relieving the user of as much of the work load as possible in navigating that space, as well as incorporating Snaggle into users' social networks in order to turn the search for stuff into a fun, communal activity. A screen shot of the demo is shown below.

Snaggle is a bartering site, through which users can buy, sell, or trade items online. Users will be able to create lists of things they want and things they have, and Snaggle will recommend related items that the user is likely to be interested in. Clearly the exploration of the online trading community facilitated by Snaggle opens up a whole new world of possible ways for users to get the stuff they want. And as an added bonus, online trade increases the life span of items that might have otherwise been thrown away if their owner was unable to sell them, which means trading on Snaggle reduces waste and helps the environment.

Of course, there are some online bartering services in existence. Several young sites like U-Exchange, Tradeaway and Swap.com are specifically geared towards the trade of goods and services online. Furthermore, that seasoned, stalwart facilitator of finding random stuff online, Craigslist, has a bartering section on which users can list things they want to find and things they're willing to trade away. But what these existing services are lacking is the very thing that we have tried to exemplify in all of our projects: an immersive online experience. Using Craigslist's barter section, you can search and peck by city for currently available trades of interest, but

  • you can't search for trades over a broader region
  • you can't submit a list of trades you'd be interested in which would return relevant trades as they become available
  • you can't easily explore the trades related to a particular item or set of items if said items are not themselves available in the network.
Although the aforementioned online trade sites attempt to facilitate these activities to varying degrees of success, none of them quite hits the nail on the head. What's more, these services fail to fully integrate with users' social networks, when there is so much potential to leverage user activities on social networks to facilitate cooperative exploration of the space of available trades. By more effectively getting users to talk about interesting possible trades, online barter sites would gain access to a huge resource of trusted product recommendations, while making the process of finding transactions of interest online more fun, community oriented, and richly immersive.

Check out the demo of Snaggle's map feature at snaggle.gnoskos.org.