First and foremost, on behalf of the writers, editors, and management at MakeUseOf, I would like to extend a heartfelt Happy Holidays and New Year to each and every one of you.
Whether you’re a long-time fan of MakeUseOf, or a brand new reader who just arrived, you already know that at MakeUseOf, we’re a little different than most tech sites. Setting aside the complex jargon and technical lingo, we like to offer regular people extraordinary ways to make better use of the technology in their lives.
The manner in which we do this for you has changed over the years. Those of you who have been with us for a while have likely seen all of the transitions and the growth we’ve gone through. You’ve seen the theme updates, features like Courses and Guides come and gone, and much more.
Rewards Program Shut Down
As the holidays and the end of the year close in on us, it’s a good time to reflect upon all of the changes we’ve been through together over the past 12 months.
2014 marked the removal of the long-running Rewards program that we had going on at MakeUseOf for a while. The Rewards program gave visitors “points” for certain activities like commenting or sharing. After building up those points, readers could exchange them for products like software or t-shirts.
The program was a part of a movement many sites across the web were trying at the time, called “gamification”. It was a way to encourage reader engagement in a fun way.
However, with gamification comes “gaming” – wherein a few people attempt to “game” the system in order to accumulate as many points as necessary in an artificial way. In addition, the gamification of such activities removes a bit of the sincerity of a reader actually sharing a post with friends because it’s really interesting, as opposed to just getting points.
For these and many other reasons, we ended the gamification/Rewards program, and allowed readers to “cash out” their existing points for items that remained in the Rewards program catalog.
A lot of people ordered t-shirts – so many people in fact, that many of those orders are still being fulfilled. Thank you for your patience!
MakeUseOf Guides Moved
2014 was also the year where we decided to refocus publication back to our core offering – our articles on the main site. This meant the migration of all of our many guides that readers have come to appreciate over the years, over to our main site.
To do this, we converted the long-form guides into a blog-post article format, and republished them on the site. This meant that while our guides “page” disappeared, all of the same guides you enjoyed can still be found on the site, using our simple search tool on the main site.
Since we’ve done this, I’ve received a lot of emails from readers wondering “where Guides went”. If you are one of these readers, a little bit freaked out by the fact that the “Guides” page disappeared, then this may make you feel a little better: By bookmarking the tag page for those newly re-published guides, you can find all of your favorite ones listed right on that page.
And don’t worry, these longer, more intensive pieces have not disappeared from the site. We still write longer guides and other long-form articles on the site, we just categorize them under the section – like Windows, Android or Mac – where that article belongs.
“Best-Of” Pages Moved
Just like the transition of Guides to the main site, we’ve also transitioned all of those “Best-Of” pages we had over to full-length reviews of the top products or services in each category.
For example, while we previously had a page filled with icons and short descriptions of the top Mac software, or the top Windows software – we’ve converted those over to actual articles on the main site with the same listings, but with some extra details about each item and a slightly more in-depth review and ranking process on the part of the author.
You will notice a “last updated” marking on these articles, since we plan to update these reviews and rankings every six months.
As with all of our changes in the past year, this change was made with the intent of providing our readers with a more valuable and informative resource.
On the editorial side of things at MUO, we’ve had some tremendous change going on, particularly with the formation of several new sections that we’re very excited about.
We now offer new areas of content at MakeUseOf focused on Self Improvement, Creative, Do-It-Yourself, Future Tech, and Web Culture.
These are changes that our own staff are very excited about. I asked our crew for their own highlights from the past year – things that really made them excited about working for MakeUseOf.
Mihir Patkar wrote:
“The start of the Self-improvement section. I’m excited to see how productivity techniques can be applied with the technology we use every day.”
Saikat Basu, the editor for both Self Improvement and Internet sections, reflected upon his expanding list of responsibilities with MakeUseOf over the past year.
“Being responsible for two sections makes me ideate more. Sometimes forcibly, sometimes intuitively. It has broadened my outlook and made me more aware of things around me. Thinking about solutions and not obsessing over the problem has been a quiet habit change.
With work, it’s such a pleasure to see our work improving every day. I look forward to catching up on my MUO reading every weekend. With the start of a new week, I look forward to resuming work with a bunch of fantastically creative people. I learn from them every day.”
Harry Guinness, one of several new hires who we brought on board in 2014, expressed his appreciation for changes in the new year in his own, unique way:
“Hiring Harry was the best decision Tina ever made. The only thing sexier than his prose is the dulcet tones of his Irish accent during screencasts. He’s improved the site 2000% just by being here.”
Bet Harry didn’t think I’d actually publish that quote! But the reality is, there’s a lot of truth to the statement. Our new hires over the past year have elevated our standards and our offerings at MakeUseOf, and we’re very grateful to have so many talented, new folks on our staff.
Article Highlights from 2014
Some of the greatest article highlights of 2014, chosen by our own staff, are listed here for your enjoyment.
- On September 23rd, Ben Stegner wrote an article titled MakeUseOf Says Goodbye to Windows Phone. The article simply highlighted Ben’s disappointment with the fact that Windows Phone articles were not so very well received over the time they were covered by MakeUseOf. Ben’s post followed an internal announcement that we would not be focusing on writing a lot more Windows Phone articles for the time being. However, Ben’s title choice looked like an official MUO announcement of a ban on all Windows Phone articles, leading to an intense slamming (poor Ben) of this new policy (which doesn’t actually exist) – totaling an impressive 415 comments since the article was published.
- We’ve often written about new social networks at MakeUseOf, but none were as well-received as Matt’s September 27th post about the new social network called Ello – an ad-free social network with the mission to counter Facebook’s constant privacy failures. The response – 495 comments from readers, to be exact – revealed great discontentment with Facebook, and an intense desire for something better.
- Always one to find some unique angle on time management, Justin Pot published an article back in February about how to manage your time better using Legos. Yes…Legos. Before you doubt whether it’s practical, read the article. Justin created the perfect (and very fun) way to manage time using color-coding in the real world. It was one of MakeUseOf’s most popular articles of the year, leading us to believe that our readers love Legos just as much as Justin does.
- Back in May, our very own tech-guru James Bruce created a six-and-a-half minute video detailing everything you need to know about the new Raspberry PI you just purchased. It was a perfect introduction to the PI, and much in demand for new users. So much in demand, in fact, that the video has already had almost 210,000 views – and climbing.
These are just a few examples – a very tiny slice actually – of the wonderful things offered every day at MakeUseOf.
Whether your “thing” is seeking out the greatest new Mac apps, researching custom Android ROMs, catching reviews of the coolest new games, or learning about new cutting edge virtual reality technologies, MakeUseOf has you covered.
As we expand our selection of offerings into the new year, we hope to expand our audience as well. So, we look to you, loyal reader, to share your love of MakeUseOf with your family and friends.
How has MakeUseOf influenced your life? Do you use the site to learn new things or to research new products you’re planning to buy? Share your favorite MUO article from the past year with us in the comments section below!
And from all of us at MakeUseOf to all of you, here’s to a joyous holiday and a very happy and productive New Year.