Interview With The Guys Behind BOLT

Last year, we showed you guys something that was going to change the internet; BOLT. Today, we catch up with it’s creators Jamie and Matthew Roche and find out what went on behind the walls of BOLT to get it prepared for it’s public launch which happened earlier this week. Read on to find out what inspired BOLT, and why you should never mud wrestle a pig.

Where did the idea for BOLT originally come from?

We felt like we see great, valuable things on the web everyday and it drives us nuts when we can’t easily find it when we need it. We wanted to give real people control of the web. We thought it was frustrating that when you include a link to a cool page in a blog post or tweet, the actual page behind the link might disappear. We believe that good content lasts more than the 18 hours of an average tweet or the few months of a bookmark. The only way to give control to the people was to give them a way to identify and share content that wouldn’t change.

What was the response from early users on the Beta platform?

The Beta group has been phenomenal. Their high levels of participation and engagement helped shape the direction of the BOLT you see today. Our Facebook BOLT Beta group has been extremely supportive, and has provided great ideas that made it into the product. We could not have asked for a better group.

What’s the best feedback you’ve received regarding BOLT?

Honestly, my favorite feedback was from an early beta user who called it her “secret weapon” for social marketing. It has a slightly cloak and dagger appeal!

We reviewed BOLT last June. What’s new since then?

When we launched last year, we got a lot of buzz for BOLT’s technical abilities, but the place felt too secluded. We wanted to give our users simpler ways to share, comment and organize so they could be inspired by others and vice versa. While we retained our core purpose of facilitating permanent collecting and simple sharing, I think we have better captured the balance between creating collections and finding inspiration both professionally and personally. We now have a completely revamped visual interface, the ability to create and share collections, features to enable conversations within the BOLT platform and on actual bolted pages, expanded social sharing options not only for Twitter and Facebook, but for Pinterest and Tumblr… the list of improvements goes on and on. You have to explore it for yourself.

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have faced when developing BOLT?

Copying pages is a difficult technical feat, but the biggest obstacle is fear. Our goal is to distribute content through our members so that great content gets spread more widely, while preserving the ads and other monetization on that content to keep publishers happy. But some folks are afraid of what happens when they release their tight grip on their content. Though we’ve found that content that is shared throughout networks of likeminded people gains relevancy and reaches untapped audiences, I think it is a balancing act, and we are always willing to talk and take advice. Another interesting obstacle is that consumers expect greater speed, simplicity and intuitiveness to use an app for free than corporations require for applications that they pay millions for.

How long did the development of BOLT take from start to the first release?

One year.

What would you say makes BOLT different from URL shorteners?

BOLT saves valuable pages on fast servers instantly and forever. Shorteners and other curators just send around text links. It really is apples to oranges.

BOLT has a lot more features than a URL shortener, but permanence is our game. When you use BOLT, you share your own copy of a page, not just a link. So when you are actually building collections of what you love and saving pages to refer back to, it’s not just links that will turn into 404 “page not found” errors. Some content doesn’t need permanence, but great stories, articles, how-to guides, travel tips and recipes are valuable for the actual content on the page, not just the URL.

Where did the idea to implement a ‘followers’ network come from?

We see ourselves as an evolution of Tweeting and Microblogging. We find Tumblr inspiring, and hope that people will use us (in conjunction with Tumblr) to “Tumble the entire web.” We have enhanced our following feature to go beyond just people because as a curation platform, our content tends to be around interests. So we allow you to follow topics and collections, not just members. We realized that when people store what is important to them (rather than what they think others will like) the quality goes through the roof. By opening it up, we become not just a place to put things but a place to discover them.

What’s next for BOLT?

Our goal is to be the place you keep the content that inspires you, so expect more ways to add and consume content, including an enhanced mobile product, as well as more creative ways to share it. Our platform is literally evolving and getting better each day.

What is the BOLT team’s main motivation?

We believe that there is incredible content on the web… it’s just really disorganized and often difficult to find. We want our members to be able to reorganize the entire Web to make it fit them, as opposed to the other way around.

What question have beta users asked most often about BOLT?

How do I get a Beta invite, mainly because we were not liberal with our Beta invites, in order to preserve the quality of content. We also get asked about the browsing layout – the Masonry layout (made popular by Pinterest) is simply better than the grid that was used for over a decade. We would be foolish not to acknowledge it as a better way to visually browse content.

Are there any sites you can’t bolt?

Yes. We have opted not to fully support Flash, and we will not override pages that wish to block us from bolting. For these sites, our bolts are not copies, but are instead links that work identical to any bookmarking or URL shortening site. We also have systems in place to fight malicious or illegal use.

For any readers out there who haven’t heard about, or used BOLT, how would you describe the service?

In a single sentence: BOLT lets you save and share webpages forever.

We allow you to instantly grab and store anything on the web, including entire, working web pages, in your own private or public collections. And we are a beautiful space to find inspiration from the people with whom you are connected.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Matt: “Never mud wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.” Sounds odd, but you would be amazed at how often it is applicable – especially in social media.

Jamie: “Don’t quit, don’t quit, don’t quit … ”

If you guys hadn’t developed BOLT, what would you be doing with yourselves now?

We would be building some other software that sits between design and productivity, something that helps people amplify what makes them special.

What’s been BOLT’s biggest accomplishment in your eyes?

From Matt: Creating a visual sharing environment that is more than just pretty pictures. There have already been about a million bolts, which are real pieces of content that folks really care about.

From Jamie: We copy pretty much any page instantly. It’s awesome.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I look forward to seeing what you share. It is the best part of my job.

Why not head over to bo.lt to start your own journey of shaping the way you want the internet to look by signing up for your free bo.lt account today? Trust me, you won’t be disappointed! Don’t forget to follow the guys on Twitter @getbolt and like them on Facebook here.