ClickFYI: Thought to Execution

This all started as an idea…

July 2015: The internet was about to see dozens upon dozens of new Global Top Level Domains, or gTLD’s, allow registration. These gTLD’s would allow more specific URLs. We are all familiar with the common gTLD’s: .com, .net, .org, and .edu. The new gTLD’s introduced: .ninja, .photography, .realtor, .life, .store, and more. I pre-registered a few domains at these new gTLD’s: takes.pics and click.fyi, to name a few.

I knew what I wanted to do with takes.pics but I really lacked a good market for it, especially after a buddy asked me “What’s stopping someone from registering nametakespics.com/.net or nametakes.pics themselves?” After that realization I relegated the purpose of the site to friends, though takes.pics still has a landing page as if it were a service. I do have plans to finish what I started with that site, even if it’s just for myself and friends.

I sat on click.fyi for a while. Not really sure what I wanted to do with it. Granted, I had ideas but never the thought that I could do it myself. I believed that Click.FYI could be a great start for the next “clickbait” site but in a sea of thousands there was no way I’d be able to make the site stand out. Conversely, clickbait is everything I hate; there was no way I could justify making this site. So I put it up for auction in November 2016. I think I started the bidding with a reserve of $2000. I chose that value because I considered the domain premium. It was short, to the point, and rather descriptive. Click For Your Information. As the first auctioned ended without a bid, I lowered the reserve to around $400 and set the “Buy Now” to $2000. Still no bids, so I lowered the “Buy Now” to $80 as it would be enough to cover the 2 years of hosting and get a little extra. Still, no one went for it. I then decided to cut my losses and let the domain expire, as I thought the domain wasn’t desirable enough to be snatched up.

By now it was May 2017. The domain was just over four months away until it expired. I wasn’t depressed but I was bummed. I truly believed that this domain was worth something. A month or so later I found a use for the site. So, did my morals change? Did I all the sudden believe in clickbait?

I was killing time browsing imgur when I stumbled across a “fact dump.” I read every one of them. So I looked for more of these fact dumps. Some of the facts I could believe, others I was sure couldn’t be real. As I read the comments, it seemed I wasn’t the only person who seriously doubted these facts.

I got thinking to myself. It’d be great if there was a site that let people crowd source the information in facts. But I realized I was basically describing Wikipedia, a crowd sourced online encyclopedia. A site which lets anyone edit the contents of the article but somehow, miraculously has accurate mostly information. The site has tools to inform visitors a article is too short, lacks adequate sources, and so much more. How does one create a fact website without being a wikipedia clone?

I visited the websites that were listed on the images of these fact dumps. They were horrible ad-ridden pages hosted on either Tumblr or ran from a word-press installation. A majority of these sites were ran as if it were a blog. Additionally, it was hard to find specific facts because the search either didn’t work well or was not available. One site even listed 60 or more facts per page. Each fact had a source, which was great, but there was no way to link back to that specific fact. Additionally, there was zero text on the page, each fact was an image so searching on the page was impossible.

I started listing what I thought a site needed. Just three simple points:

  1. Needs to focus on one point.
  2. Needs sources clearly listed.
  3. Needs a dedicated page.

Focusing on a single point sets the site apart from Wikipedia, as a Wikipedia article focuses on an encompassing history of an event or person. So, because of this there are multiple facts on a Wikipedia article. Facts can be hard to digest in paragraph of other information.

Sources need to be forefront. Not a small link that says “Source” but something that informs the visitor what the source is, such as the source URL. At a glance, it gives the visitor a glimpse of the source before clicking through to read the source material.

A dedicated page allows the fact to be shared and it’s one thing that I hold extremely important. If I’m telling someone a fact I read online, and they ask me for proof what do I do? Send them a link to a page with 60 other facts? Tell them I read it online? Send them the image with text on it which doesn’t have a source?

I then started breaking these points down into smaller goals. For #1, focusing on one point:

  1. How long is acceptable? How many words should each fact be? I don’t want to read an essay, let alone a paragraph. So maybe a long sentance or 2 short ones?
  2. Facts should be user submitted.

Length was important. Because the site shouldn’t be a Wikipedia clone facts should be to the point. We don’t need the supporting information to the fact. The fact itself should encourage the visitor to click the sources to read more information.

User interaction with the site is ideal. There’s no way I’ll be able to curate all the facts submitted to this site. I noticed that some fact sites did allow visitors to submit facts but those sites didn’t attribute the facts to those visitors. The sites took the facts, created an image, and created the post. I don’t know if the sites checked the sources (if any) but one site used the honesty system because they didn’t ask for a source only that the facts “must be real.”

For the sources:

  1. How does the site deal with bad sources?
  2. Should the site prohibit sources from specific sites?

This was another tough one. If I let visitors submit facts, how do I deal with bad sources? The obviously biased ones. The sources that are riddled with ads and misinformation? I decided voting was the best answer. If the community was submitting facts, then they should regulate the information too. Voting up and down sources would let others know how reputable a certain source is, and by association how true the fact may be.

Prohibiting sites was a big concern. In college, we could use wikipedia for research but we could not use it as a source. This is because a Wikipedia article is editable by anyone. You can read it one day and when you submit your paper the information you used could be removed or altered. Instead, we were encouraged to follow and read the source links on the wikipedia article itself.

For the dedicated page:

  1. A short URL
  2. Contained all the information
  3. Was easy to find

A short URL would be easy to fit on an image and share with others. This here was when I realized I needed to allow the facts to be turned into images if I wanted them to be shared easily. Seeing an image dump of facts is how I got started with this idea after all.

Pages need to contain all the information. From the fact text, to the sources. The account who submitted the fact to the tags associated with it. This is also when I realized I needed to make searching easy by associating additional information such as tags (i.e. hashtags on Instagram, twitter, Facebook, etc) and a category.

Through that information, when visitors search the site any facts should be easy to find. If they want to find a fact about fish sleeping. They can include any tags that may be relevant, and some keywords. But, if they are trying to followup on a fact image they saw, they should be able to type in the short link.

It was only after getting these three points down I thought of a perfect method to link to a direct page. It’s impossible to embed a link in an image, so in order to visit a website in an image you have to manually type it out. My solution isn’t perfect but it’s a decent first step: QR codes. Android and (recently) iOS incorporate a QR reader in the default camera app, which allows people to scan QR codes to join WiFi networks, visit web pages, start an e-mail, and read additional text.

July 2017 came around. I finally figured out what I wanted to do with Click.FYI. I renewed the site for another two years and got to work.

Continue to Part 2: Facing Challenges

Photography & Technology is my thing.