Tapestry 2.0 - Beautiful Storytelling
When we started building Tapestry last fall, our goal was to create a quiet place to read and be swept away by beautiful, great short stories—no interruptions; simply an enjoyable, immersive reading experience.
Touch devices and Tapestry stories evoke emotions in a way other media cannot. It’s a medium that celebrates some of the most important aspects of storytelling: succinctness, pacing, and creativity.
That’s why we love Tapestry. Our ever-growing collection of stories allows you to experience storytelling with greater intimacy and more impact than a blog post or a tweet. Like listening to a story around a campfire, you’ll find yourself hanging on every pause and inflection in anticipation of the next reveal.
With all this in mind, we developed and are excited to announce Tapestry 2.0.
Since our initial launch last November, thousands of stories have been added to the Tapestry library. With this major update, we’ve made it easier to discover and read more of these amazing stories. The best Tapestry stories are accessible in the app, either by search, categories, or tags.
The stories you have written—public, published or still in process—are available within the app for you to view. Your reading history, both on the web and in the app, is also available. These new features, plus search, make it easier to find your stories and stories you’ve heard about, like that Italics story by Robin Sloan.
And lastly we have refreshed the branding and design. We kept it clean and simple to stay out of the way of the stories, while also connecting a bit more with our sister companies here at betaworks.
In addition to the updates to the app, today we’re introducing new stories from new artists, authors, and publishers. Quirk Books introduces William Shakespeare’s Star Wars on Tapestry, and Jean-Christophe Castelli, Associate Producer of Life of Pi, goes behind the scenes of the film in Fearful Symmetry. We’ve also collaborated with a few great brands to experiment with our new storytelling medium too.
The outcome? We couldn’t be more excited to share Tapestry 2.0 with you.
“The way you change and help music, is by trying to invent new ways to play” -Miles Davis
Want to build? Join us.
The next step of building is to transform these products into companies - a step that requires uniquely talented designers and engineers. This phase is one of the best times to join a startup — there’s already a clear product-market fit with initial funding and you’ll be one of the first on the team so you can have a major impact on the company.
Joining an early stage company at betaworks has a few unique advantages:
- All betaworks companies have funding clarity. For anyone that’s been part of a small team trying to fundraise in the past, you’ll know how distracting it can be for everyone involved. Obviously startups are most productive when they’re building, not endlessly pitching partners, so we have created a platform that ensures our startups and teams can focus on building.
- Our studio is filled with creative entrepreneurs, not employees. With 50-60 people in our studio at any one time, you’ll notice something that I’ve never seen before - you could tap anyone on the shoulder and get an interesting story. The interests and hobbies of the folks at betaworks are as impressive as their engineering skills - they’re illustrators, musicians, comedians, art collectors, world travellers, or whiskey connoisseurs. They are also perfectionists. People who love what they do, people who craft their work and take pride in what they are building and what others around them create.
- Nothing lasts forever, and we get that. We’re fully aware that the challenges a company reaches at different inflection points are more interesting to some than others, and we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You might be more interested in creating a product for the first million users than the next ten million, or the other way around. Either way, we get it and the designers and engineers that join our studio companies have unparalleled options when it comes to joining a new company, or starting their own.
- New York. There’s something special happening here with tech startups in NYC and it’s unlike anywhere else in the world. If you don’t currently live in the city, joining a betaworks company is a great excuse to move out here and be part of a fast-emerging startup scene.
Dots - now on iPad
With great organic growth since it launched nearly a month ago, Dots now has over 3 million downloads and about 250 million games played. We’ve released an update to Dots today that adds native support for iPad and a fun new multiplayer mode.
Giphy - Search Animated Gifs on the Web
A few months ago, we “announced” Giphy - a search engine for animated GIFs. I’m using quotes because, to be honest, we weren’t really ready to announce it. The product started taking off and we felt it was best to give the couple hundred thousand folks and countless publishers that started using it a place to direct their feedback, bugs, and feature requests. Needless to say, there was a lot of duct tape holding the search engine together — until today. The Giphy team, started by hackers in residence Jace Cooke & Alex Chung, have been hard at work building a robust search engine, responsive site, realtime crawler, and most importantly (for us) a way to handle attribution.
While a lot of what we’re launching with this “version 1.0” is behind the scenes, some of the new features you’ll notice are a sexy homepage, a browse mode, much faster searching, and about a dozen featured GIF artists with their own pages to host original content. This is the first step we’re taking to help organize a historically fragmented community, and give GIF artists around the world a legitimate platform to start the next big Internet meme.
Telecast - TV quality entertainment on your phone
The promise of video entertainment on mobile devices is a theme that quickly emerged in our hacker in residence group. Matt Hackett was particularly frustrated that despite the simplicity of an iPhone and iPad, it’s incredibly time consuming to find video entertainment worth watching. Traditional mobile video apps did one of two things - they either pulled uninteresting video from social streams, or they relied on extensive keyword searching only to find a semi-entertaining 30 second clip.
At the same time, traditional television, for all it’s flaws, still does one thing well - when you turn on a TV and switch to a channel you like, you’ll get professionally programmed video designed to (hopefully) entertain you. Why can’t we do the same thing on an iPad or iPhone?
Matt and a small team of builders, including Jason Morrow (product design), Juan Alvarez (iOS), Mike Byhoff (editorial), Grant Custer (front-end extraordinaire) spent the next 3 months working to fix this problem: Enter Telecast.
We believe in what makes TV special, professionally sourced and programmed shows. At the same time, we feel the most interesting video content now exists on the Internet. Telecast brings you three 5-minute bursts of seriously good, personally tailored video every day.
One thing’s for sure - you’ll love the shows. Download Telecast now and give it a shot.
Telecast is currently only available in North America, additional markets coming soon!
Dots - 25 million games later
We recently launched Dots to an amazing response. In just one week, Dots has been downloaded 1 million times, has become the #1 app in 8 countries, and is a top 5 app in 15 other countries. Our Twitter and Facebook streams were quickly filled with friends, colleagues, celebrities, and complete strangers talking about the game and challenging others to beat their Dots score. Needless to say, we’re thrilled with the response.
There’s a lot to do, and we’re working hard to release an update shortly with a few bug fixes, new features, and iPad support. Check out the blog on Dots to see what we have planned (plus a few tips and tricks).
Dots - a game about connecting
About 3 months ago, Patrick Moberg started experimenting with various iOS interaction designs as part of the hacker in residence program. We didn’t set out to build a game, but quickly realized there’s a desire for well designed mobile entertainment so that’s where we focussed. Patrick worked for a few weeks to build something that looked beautiful and provided you some level of stimulation. After a few days playing one of the initial concepts, we were all completely hooked. Several betaworks employees and their partners clocked hours and hours of playtime off a fairly rudimentary pilot. Over the next few months, we refined the scoring, design, and overall aesthetic to come up with what we simply call Dots - a game about connecting.
As you play you earn “dots” which is the game’s currency for advanced powers. You can earn these by playing or via in-app-purchases, but both routes produce the same outcome. One of the principles Patrick established from the start was to never take advantage of players — so you can always earn your way to powers if you don’t want to pay for them. You’ll never reach a point in the game where you have to shell out cash to keep playing or advance.
We think it’s simple, beautiful, and fun. Give it a try and let us know what you think.
Blend.io — make music together
A decade ago, a band called The Postal Service started making songs by sending instrumental tracks back and forth through the United States Postal Service. Oddly enough, the process of musical collaboration hasn’t evolved much since then.
Music creation today often includes messy email threads and quirky hacks by the industry’s most determined. And though music creators are so passionate about sharing and distributing their work, there isn’t really a “beta” community for them to share it in. Yes, countless products have been built to help people discover, share, and listen to music — but we feel that music collaboration has been left out of the digital revolution.
Today we’re announcing Blend.io, a collaboration network for musicians. With Blend.io, musicians and producers can share in-progress tracks. And they can connect with other musicians to collaborate on works in progress. Blenders can browse artists and their projects or comment on and remix tracks.
The vision is to enable collaboration for all musicians, but we’ve decided to focus on electronic music to start — specifically targeting users of Ableton Live and Maschine. We’ll add additional support in the near future, but want to make sure we get it right for this initial audience.
The community is invitation-only at the moment, but if you’re actively using Ableton Live or Maschine, request an invite — we’ll approve requests as fast as possible!
Poncho — a much simpler weather service
For centuries human beings have been trying to predict the weather, or more precisely what will fall from the sky today. The history of meteorology as a science goes all the way back to Aristotle. Over a century ago, meteorology became advanced enough to start (sort of) reliably predicting weather patterns. But as computing power increased, we hit information overload — and we needed a human to boil down the sea of numbers into simple advice. We were not sure exactly what it meant when the barometric pressure was falling, but weather forecasters told us to bring umbrellas, and we did.
But then a funny thing happened. The internet and, more recently, smartphones began to deliver real-time weather information. While this certainly looked like progress — more data available anytime, anywhere — the experience actually got worse instead of better. Weather again seemed like a sea of numbers. We want to fix that. And so Poncho was born.
Poncho explains the weather in plain, clear English — just like weather forecasters used to do. But, this time, it’s personal, local and timely.
Instead of providing you with more data and visualizations to interpret, it gets to know you — when you wake up, how you commute to work, if you have pets to walk — and then gives you personalized advice. There’s no app to install or update, no graphs to interpret. Poncho will tell you just what you need to know to get your day started, and nothing more.
Poncho is initially launching in New York City. If New Yorkers like the concept as much as we hope they will, we’ll start rolling out to additional cities in the coming weeks.
The past few months have been a little extra-busy at betaworks. While our studio companies continue to grow at a fast pace, a handful of builders (hackers in residence) have been heads-down creating a new wave of products.
Now, we’re entering a new stage of building that we’re very excited to share with you - beta.
Starting this Wednesday, we’ll launch one beta product each week, for six weeks. We did our best to create beautiful, simple, bug-free software, but also set an aggressive timeline to ensure we focus on the most important features.
If you’d like to be first on the list to hear about the products, make sure you join Openbeta.