Best Recommendations Around

Friday November 6thNew Features, New Releases, OurShelf Category

Today we released the first version of our recommendations system.
Login to check them out now.  We make suggestions on:

  • New items for you
  • Items to get friends that have upcoming birthdays
  • Notify of what your friends just shelved
  • Similar users you might want to friend or browse their shelf

Recommendations are presented on a new tab on your profile.  The recommendations are refreshed twice a day as long as people shelve new items.  If you look for recommendations during the refresh period, it can take up to three minutes until they become available.

Recommendations get better the more you shelve and rate items.  If your recommendations are terrible right now, add some more items to your shelf  (via searching or importing) and rate as many items as you can.

Recommendations are not heavily influenced by your wishlist (which is why we provide the wishlist link on birthday recommendations).

Let us know if you’d like a new recommendation category.  We’re always happy to add new categories, and as always, we love feedback.

Happy Shelving,
Paul and the OurShelf team.

We also released enhancements to DVD and CD/Music Item pages.  You can now try to stream movies on hulu and Epix, and lookup musical artist information on

New features for all

Tuesday October 27thNew Features, New Releases, OurShelf Category

We’re always looking for ways to get features into the hands of our users, that allow them to do things they haven’t been able to do before.  This new release is packed full of features:

  • A new group search
  • Enhancements to the mobile version, including create, join, and search for groups
  • OurShelf mini, an embeddable version of OurShelf (the base of our Facebook application)
  • Alpha of our Facebook application (still under heavy development)
  • Alpha of Shopper, our new platform to automatically shop on the internet for you
  • The base framework for us to provide advanced suggestions and recommendations (which will be released in the next week or two)
  • TweetBoard to drive live conversations and messages while on the site

To begin using these features, login now.

With this release you can now socially catalog in a group like never before.  This release allows users to engage in mobile social shopping while in stores across multiple locations and shop with users who are also on computers or laptops.

OurShelf mini allows the services and features of OurShelf to be embedded into any other site or service, enabling companies to have realtime social shopping and social cataloging be an integral part of their user experience.

For early access to the Facebook Application or Shopper, please contact us.  Space for the early trial is limited and access is given on a first come basis.

Our blog is full of great how-to articles to get you started using OurShelf.  Also read our about page for a great overview on how OurShelf can empower you.

As always, we love feedback.  Please let us know what you think by commenting here, using our site’s Feedback widget, or emailing us directly.

Paul and the OurShelf team

Another release, more features!

Friday October 9thNew Features, New Releases, OurShelf Category

We’ve been busy, working hard to empower you, the user, in every way we can.

The release has the following new features and bug fixes:

  • Manuals and recalls for every item (when viewing the item profile)
  • The ability to login to our site using Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Gmail, and more.
  • Link additional social networking sites to your Shelf (through profile update)
  • Searching is 41% faster while keeping the same accuracy
  • QVC support and plugins (check out this search)
  • An alpha version of our Craigslist sell through (hover over an item on your shelf and choose sell)
  • An alpha version of out mobile platform.  This let’s you socially shop, any time, in any location

Let me know what you think.  We have even more changes coming out shortly.
Paul and the OurShelf team

Special How-to: Saving money in College

Thursday October 1stOurShelf Category

This how-to is by request, for moms and college students, on the three best ways I found to save money in College.  I’m a fairly recent college graduate and the founder of a start-up company, so I know a few things about living on the cheap. :)

1.) Ways around textbook costs
Getting around high textbook costs is a GREAT way to cut back on the cost of college.  A single textbook can cost over a hundred dollars, so saving just a little goes a long way.  One rule of thumb I used was if I thought I was going to really enjoy the class, book, or need a reference guide in this area of study later, I almost always bought the book.  If you fall into this category, you can buy books cheaply from eBay, craigslist,, Amazon, as well as second hand books from your campus bookstore.  I hate buying used books when I’m buying a book for my personal library, so I almost always purchased from Amazon.
If you’re just looking to have the book for the class, term, or semester, DON’T BUY IT AT ALL.  The amount you get back from most university bookstores is laughable.  One trick I found was to get a digital camera, check the book out from the library (usually on hold, by the professor’s request), and take high resolution pictures of the pages I needed to read.  This way I could have an easily readable, digital version of the book on my laptop, and carry it with me wherever I went.  If you don’t have a digital camera, your college or university most likely has an office or location where you can borrow digital goods (like cameras and projectors).
If you’re the type of person who just can’t do digital books and needs the physical thing, no worries, this is what OurShelf was made for!  People have already begun shelving their textbooks, so that students can save money by borrowing and lending them instead of buying them.  To make this work at your college, it’s best if you and your friends sign up (which is easy if you have a Facebook account already), so you can start with a powerful borrowing and lending community.  As more people from your university or college join OurShelf, the more you save.

2.) Earning money while you cut costs
The great thing about being a college student is you have nearly endless resources at your disposal.  Some grocery stores give college discounts, you can rent free DVDs from the library, you get access to sporting and concert events for reduced rates, there are entire discount programs for college towns (like, and best of all, you’re at the heart of ground breaking work in the field you’re interested.  Almost every college and university produces research or cooperatively works with area businesses.  As a student, I was able to get half of my tuition paid for, as well as make some pretty good money, working in a research lab at the university.  In my classes, I was learning the theory, history, and basics of my field.  And in the lab, I was helping advance the research that was leading my field.  It was the best of both worlds, and best of all, I was cutting my tuition and earning money to pay the few bills I had.

3.) Learn to dumpster dive, love IKEA, and shop on craigslist like a pro
I just felt every parent cringe (including my own mother), but hear me out.  In the areas around a college, people are always moving and the college is always circulating their equipment.  It’s common find a two year old computer, laptop, desk, chair, or collection of old books put on the side of the road or dumped in a drop-off center.  A good friend of mine once found a full drum set on the side of the road at Penn’s campus.
If there is an IKEA near your school, study the catalog well.  I was able to furnish my first apartment for about $1000 (including a bed and mattress) and that furniture has been with me ever since.  If there isn’t an IKEA around, there is most likely a discount furniture store that markets and advertises direct to your campus.
Craigslist is a great place to buy things you need cheaply, as well as find affordable off-campus housing.  Using CrazedList, you can create RSS feeds of craiglist searches.  Doing this makes watching deals, items, or apartment availability much easier.  OurShelf also allows you to sell your items on your shelf direct to craigslist.  This is an easy way to manage and track your personal inventory (also a huge plus for renters insurance), and when you’re done using something, earn some money off of it with just a click.

I hope these three tips helped, let me know if you want more!
Paul and the OurShelf Team.

OurShelf makes being a mom easier

Monday September 28thOurShelf Category

I love my mom.  She’s a great woman who has given me endless support, great advice, and believed in my dream as I worked day and night on OurShelf.  She says I was an easy child to raise, but I have my doubts.  I was the type of child who wanted to explore everything.
My sister now has two beautiful little girls, one in elementary school and another in preschool.  I’ve seen her celebrate the joys of having children and watched her as she took on modern motherhood without wincing once.
Even on the OurShelf team, we have a new mom!

The point here is clear, I’ve seen how difficult modern motherhood can be.  Thankfully, there are great communities, blogs, guides, and support structures both on and offline to aid in the experience.  OurShelf is joining the ranks.

Straight from our About page:

If you’re a mom, OurShelf can help you, just as it has helped other moms, to organize your baby gear and books, make a wishlist of things you would like to purchase or borrow, lend unused items to friends or automatically post them on Craigslist for resale.

OurShelf makes cataloging your personal goods, sharing them with friends, finding new items, and grouping around items easier. Ourshelf can help you, the empowered mom, to:

OurShelf makes being a mom easier.  It can help you to:

  • Stop wasting money on youth sporting gear
  • Easily find out who you lent your standby stroller to
  • Make smarter purchases based on targeted, trusted reviews
  • Earn money from the toddler items and toys that you hardly used
  • Have a shared shelf for the mom community you belong to, with items the whole community finds useful
  • Have a shelf or group shelf to promote the items you review in your blog
  • Shop with your friends and other moms even if you’re at home

OurShelf was built for you, and it only gets better when your friends and community start using it too.
Login or sign up today (you can also log in with Facebook Connect).  The blog is full of how-to articles to help you get started and make the most out of OurShelf.

Thanks for reading.  We love our moms!
Paul and the OurShelf team

New features and updates

Monday September 28thNew Features, New Releases, OurShelf Category

I told you there were more changes just around the corner. And here we are, around the corner, with more changes!

We added:

  • Better group and social shopping management that is integrated right into your profile.
  • More features to the group shelf.
  • Started on the first version of our mobile platform.
  • Made a good number of small tweaks based on emails and feedback we got from you, our lovely users.

At the end of this week, we’ll also start forwarding directly to the beta. Also, don’t forget to follow us on twitter for fast updates, contest announcements, and user polls.

I hope everyone had an awesome weekend,
Paul and the OurShelf team

ps: Secret update: As mentioned in a previous post, our mobile version is capable of some pretty interesting things.  Well, we have a working alpha we’ll be looking to test with a group soon.  Email me and let me know if you’re interested.

How-to: Making the most of your shelf

Tuesday September 22ndHowTo, OurShelf Category

This how-to will give you an introduction to OurShelf, help you get your shelf started, and explain all the features available to you while viewing your shelf.  Login and let’s begin.

When you login, you’re taken right to your profile.  You’ll see an overview of your shelf, reviews, and most recent friends.  This is also where all your notifications are presented (borrow, friend and group requests).

You’ll notice in the top right section of the profile, just below the main navigation bar, there’s a little button that says, “Share.”  When you hover over it, it provides you with options to share the page you’re currently viewing on lots of social media and news sites.  This button let’s you share interesting finds on OurShelf with your friends who might not be OurShelf users.

Let’s move to the shelf now, by clicking the “Shelf” tab in the profile navigation.

When viewing your shelf, there is a helpful “Shelf Overview” located on the left, just below your user icon. This is also where the import feature is located, making it easy to populate your shelf with large collections of items.

Importing is a great way to get a lot of items on your shelf all at once.  Currently, we can import all the albums from your iTunes Library, your past purchases on Amazon, your Shelfari book collection and your LibraryThing book collection.  To import, click on the “Import Items” link in your shelf overview on the left side of the profile.

If you’re doing a particularly large import (iTunes or Amazon), OurShelf may timeout or not pick up your entire collection in one pass.  If this happens, just import a few times.  Every single time, OurShelf will pick up new items it might have previously missed.

Creating labels is a great way to organize and use your shelf.  Labels group collections of items together.  An item on OurShelf can have multiple labels.  Take a look at my labels, for example.  I use them to group my movies, books, and music together, but you can use them to make an item collection that suites your lifestyle (college textbooks, baby goods, toys, kitchen and home goods, etc.).

Let’s add a new label now.  Go ahead and click the “Create Label” link.

Enter the label name.  It can be anything you want.

Next, select whether you want all users to be able to see the items in this label, or if you only want you and your friends to be able to look at it.

Besides organizing, labels also help you make certain groups of items private on your shelf, without having to make the entire shelf private.  (If you want to make your entire profile and shelf private, you can do so by editing your profile).

You can start adding items to your new label by hovering over the item, selecting the label tab, and applying the label. This is window is called the “Item Control Dialog.”

You can explore the other tabs in the Item Control Dialog too.  This same dialog is available to you when you shelve items from the search results.  This makes searching, shelving, organizing, and reviewing all in one step, a total walk in the park.

I hope you found this how-to useful.  Let me know!
Paul and the OurShelf team

How-to: Shop online with your friends using OurShelf

Tuesday September 22ndHowTo, OurShelf Category

In a previous post, we talked about how to form a group and the very basics of social shopping.   In this post, we’re going to cover how to shop with your friends online like a pro!

After you login, you’re first going to need to create or join a group that is focused on social shopping.
Tell your friends about the group and get them to join too!

There are currently two ways to shop: Using FoxyShelf (the Firefox browser plugin), and using the OurShelf search engine.  Using FoxyShelf has the advantage of being near-real-time.  That is, as you add items to the group shelf, your friends will see the item pop up on their view of the shelf in FoxyShelf, and you’ll see every item they add, as they add it.  Let’s look at an example. (At the time of writing this I’m using FoxyShelf version 0.3.3 on Firefox 3.5.3)

Start by browsing for items you’re shopping for.  In my group, I’m shopping for the hottest new autumn-related items.  As soon as you start browsing, you’ll notice FoxyShelf is activated (look on the lower bar of the browser)

Next you (and all your friends) need to pop up FoxyShelf, and select your group shelf.

Now just drag-and-drop links and images into the drop area to shelve and shop with your friends.  Think of it as a shared shopping cart.

As you browse around, everyone can add items they think are interesting to the shelf, and get inspired to go and find more items.  Friends that don’t have admin/shelving privileges can still watch the action on the group shelf page.

If you’re not using FoxyShelf, you can still socially shop on OurShelf.  Instead of browsing Amazon, you can browse other groups and users on OurShelf.  You and your friends can search for specific items and click the “Add to Group Shelf” button.

The drop-down that appears displays all the groups you can shelve items with.  Select the group you’re currently shopping with.  When shopping without FoxyShelf, you’ll need to check back on the group shelf to see what other people are adding.

Coming soon, we’ll support social shopping on OurShelf from your mobile phone.  This will stretch the boundaries of shopping like never before.  You’ll be able to shop in a store with a friend who is miles away on the computer, all in real-time.

I hope this how-to helped you out.  Feel free to invite me socially shop with you and your friends online!
Paul and the OurShelf team.

How-to: Forming Groups and Social Shopping

Monday September 21stHowTo, OurShelf Category

OurShelf Groups are a great way to connect with friends, family, and surrounding communities.  The groups on OurShelf are unique in that they allow all members to organize around one collection of goods, on one shared shelf.  This how-to will walk you through forming a group, approving membership and setting member permissions, and introduce socially shelving and socially shopping.  Login and let’s begin!

To form a group, click on the “Groups” tab in the main navigation bar on the top of the site.

Here you’ll see the group categories, and some interesting stats about the groups, like “Newest Groups” and “Most Popular.”  You’ll also notice in the upper right, just below the main navigation bar, a link to start a new group.

If you’re not interested in starting your own group, but rather join a group that already exists, you can browse the categories that interest you the most, view a group, and request membership.  If you’d like to start a new group, click the “Get Started” link.

Next you’ll see the group creation form.  First select the type or category of group you’d like to start.  All the options are pretty straight forward, except perhaps a Social Shopping group.  Social Shopping is the activity of shopping with your friends online, for the sake of shopping.  All groups can socially shop, but the category states their main purpose.

Enter a group name and quick description or mission statement about the group you’re creating.

Lastly, select whether you want this group to be Invite Only.  Selecting “Yes” here will make the group private and closed to the public.  Selecting “No” allows other users to browser your groups shelf and content, and request membership.

Go ahead and click “Create Group

You should now see your new group’s profile.  Here’s mine:

From this page you can view your group shelf, approve and set the permissions of new users, participate in group discussions and Edit the group settings (the same settings you set in group creation).  When you search the site or use FoxyShelf, you can now shelve items to this group’s shelf, and so can the other members.  In a later how-to we’ll discuss how to get the most out of OurShelf when socially shopping.

If you’re just looking for friends, and group seems like too much, no worries.  You can connect with friends on OurShelf by “Friend-ing” them.  To friend a user, view their profile or shelf.

You can see on the left, below the user’s name and above the profile box, a link that says “Friend Me.”  Clicking on that link will send the user (DKelly in this case) a friend request.  The user than accepts or denies your friendship (the same way group membership works).  You’re allowed to borrow and lend with friends, as well as see private items on a friend’s shelf.  Friendship also helps enhance search results when looking for new items.

I hope this helped you form a group or find a friend!  Feel free to friend me, my user name is OhPauleez.
Paul and the OurShelf team

How-to: Searching and Shelving

Monday September 21stHowTo, OurShelf Category

The OurShelf search engine is designed to present the most useful information within our results.  For example, look at this item search for “Cats”

You’ll notice a few things:

  • The first search results are items from your shelf (in this case, my shelf)
  • I can edit these items right from these results by hovering over “Edit Item”
  • I’m shown immediately which of my friends have shelved an item.
  • By hovering over a friend in the list, I can read their reviews or request to borrow the item from them

Let’s look a few pictures:

In the top left picture, we see the ability to edit previous shelved items right from the search results.  This means you do the same thing to search your shelf as you would to search for new items.

The other two pictures illustrate the ability to browse friends reviews from search results and borrow the item from a friends.

When shelving new items:

  • Search for the item you’re looking for
  • “Refine your results” to improve results
  • “Add to myShelf”
  • And optionally “edit item” to label, rate and organize

Let’s look at a picture again to illustrate these.  We’ve already seen how to search for an item above, but if the initial results are terrible, you can make them much better by selecting a category on the left of the results.

We are always adding new categories to make searching easier and to help you find what you’re looking for faster.

When you find an item you want to add to your shelf, just click on the “add to myShelf” button.  As the item is added to your shelf, this button will then turn into the “Edit Item” button, as seen at the beginning of this post.  Adding to a group shelf is the same process, but Groups will be covered in a later how-to.

Feel free to email any questions you have when shelving items.  The team is always ready to help a user out.

Have fun, keep shelving!
Paul and the OurShelf team