Toward a Simpler, Better Branch

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Starting today, Branch will look a little different — but this time, we’re not announcing new features or functionality. Instead, we’re excited to tell you we’ve stripped a lot away in service of a simpler, better product and exciting future.

We talk to each other every day. But for all the conversations we have in the real world, we have very few online. Most of us don’t talk here at all — we’re “lurkers” — and those of us who do often talk to each other by trading monologues. Our mission at Branch is to take all the great conversations you have offline, from dinner tables to town halls, and bring them online.

To do this, we’ve created a simple tool: you pick a topic, add people, and talk to each other. That’s Branch at its core. And you’ve used it to talk to each other about everything from paying freelancers and the future of libraries, to the presidential election and your favorite Hanukkah foods.

Over the last few months, we’ve spent time adding features to this simple tool: features like groups, a notification drawer, ask-to-join, and “branching.” But we’ve also spent time listening, and when we did, we heard that while these features make having conversations easier and more delightful, they also make Branch more complicated. And that’s the last thing we wanted to do.

So starting today, you’ll find a simpler www.branch.com.

Just like before, you can start a branch, add people to it, and talk to each other. You can also still take your conversation and put it anywhere: embed it on a website, share it on Twitter or Facebook, or link to it in an email. What you won’t find is a complex notification system, groups architecture, ask-to-join process, or a way to “branch” individual posts. (But don’t worry! All your content is safe and sound.)

Our team is proud of all the ways you’ve used Branch to talk to each other so far, and we’re even more excited about what you’ll be able to do next. Most of all, we think you will be, too. Stay tuned!

As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have feedback for us. Send us a tweet @branch or a note at concierge@branch.com.

Posted by Josh Miller 1 year ago

Featured Groups

We launched Branch Groups three months ago. Since then, we’ve been so impressed by the people you’ve brought together and what you’ve talked to each other about — everything from community builders and librarians, to your neighborhoods and favorite coffee.

Until now, though, these great groups have been hard to find. Starting today, you’ll see a Featured Groups tab on your branch.com homepage.

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Browse the tab (We’ll be adding new groups every day!), and if you see a group you like, ‘Ask to join’ or ‘Watch’ in just one click.

Posted by Josh Miller 1 year ago

Edit Your Posts on Branch

Over the last few months, you’ve told us one thing loud and clear:

"I want to be able to edit my posts!"

We hear you: There’s nothing worse than a typo. So starting today, you can edit your posts on Branch.

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One out-of-place letter or misspelled word can ruin an otherwise funny punchline or insightful comment. Now, if you spot one of these mistakes, just click “Edit post” in the upper right-hand corner of your post, fix it, and you’ll be good to go.

We hope this makes Branch an even more stress-free place for you to share your ideas.

Posted by Josh Miller 1 year ago

Explore Branch

Since Branch came out of private beta last month, many of you have told us you love browsing the Popular and New branches in the right column of your home page.

Now, these sections have their own space — in a tab on your main feed — and are even easier to browse. 

Click on the Explore Branch tab to find out great branches that you can watch, highlight or ask to join!

Posted by Cemre Güngör 1 year ago

Psst! Have you tried Branch on mobile lately?

We hear you! Using Branch while you’re on the go is important.

It’s important to us, too, and getting you a native mobile app is a big priority. In the meantime, we optimized Branch to be even faster and more responsive on mobile browsers.

Now, talking to each other on Branch is easier (and faster!) than ever on the go.

Give it a whirl: www.branch.com.

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Posted by Josh Miller 1 year ago

What’s the Best Sentence You Read this Week?

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longreads:

We’re doing a little experiment with Branch today.

Our friends at Longreads, which curates the best longform writing on the web, are experimenting with Branch by asking their community to share the best sentences they read this week.

Have one of your own to share? Head over to Longreads’ Tumblr and ask to join!

Posted by Libby Brittain 1 year ago

Add Friends Via Link

So far, Branch makes it easy to add people to your conversations via Twitter or email. Simply type in friends’ handles or email addresses, and we’ll let them know you have something to talk about.

Now, you can choose to add people to your branches using a unique invite link. Anyone who clicks it can post. No need to ask to join.

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There are millions of communities on the internet, and they all look a little different — maybe you still hang out in an old forum, have a favorite chat room, or run an active email listserv.

Now, with ‘Invite via link,’ it’s even easier to take Branch to wherever your friends are.

Posted by Josh Miller 1 year ago

One More Thing: Profile Cards

Yesterday, we told you about improvements we made to your logged-in homepage in the week since Branch came out of invite-only beta.

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We realized we have one more thing to share.

Now, when you click on someone’s name on branch.com, you’ll see their “profile card.” It gives you a quick snapshot of who you’re talking to — including what they talk about and who else they talk to.

We built profile cards as part of our goal to help you feel more connected to the people you talk to on Branch. Head to branch.com to check them out!

Posted by Josh Miller 1 year ago

Personalized Recommendations on Branch

A week ago, Branch came out of invite-only beta and launched a handful of big improvements to the site. Today, we’re excited to announce another new addition.
 

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Now, when you visit branch.com you’ll see what people you know are talking about (and we’ll let them know what you’re talking about, too). You can find these personalized recommendations on your logged-in homepage, alongside other recent activity like people who have watched or viewed your branches, highlighted something you said, or watched or joined your groups.

The recommendations you see won’t be perfect, but they’re another step toward making your Branch experience even more engaging — even when you don’t have something to say.

Posted by Josh Miller 1 year ago

Branch Opens To The World

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After an amazing year, Branch is starting 2013 by coming out of invite-only beta and opening up to the world. Beginning today, anyone can visit branch.com and start a branch or a group right away. (No more wait list!)

We have a few big improvements to unveil, too. We took out a bit here, added a bit there — all in the name of a more rewarding product experience. Below, I’ll tell you about what’s new and why it’ll make Branch an even better place to talk to each other.

Highlights: Rethinking Positive Feedback

Creating content online can be nerve-racking and time-consuming, so we think it’s especially important to give feedback and encouragement to the people who do openly share their ideas.

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We’re used to doing this using actions like Favorites, Likes and Hearts. Upvotes and downvotes. These gestures are powerful, but we wanted to create a feedback mechanism that signals not if something is good or bad, but whether it’s worthy of your time. Content can be interesting, controversial, original, thoughtful, or funny — and worth reading, and worth telling other people to read — but still not feel quite right with a big red heart on it.

In school, we’re taught to highlight something when it’s core to understanding what we read — when it’s important, notable. With this metaphor in mind, we’ve built highlights for Branch.

Simply double-click any sentence in a branch to highlight it. You can also type into the text box that appears to branch the sentence off into a new conversation.

We think this serves two purposes: creating valuable feedback for writers by letting them know when something they write is great, and a helpful signal for other readers by making branches easier to skim.

Activity Feed: Know Who’s Listening

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One of our design principles is “People matter most.” We think this is real magic of publishing on the internet: it lets you connect with other people. We wanted to bring this spirit to Branch, so now, as soon as you arrive at branch.com, you’ll see who’s listening to what you have to say.

Your Branch homepage tells you when people watch or view your branches, highlight something you said, or watch or join your groups. We were inspired by the illuminating analytics of a dashboard, the community of Twitter’s Connect tab, and the jovial vibe of Foursquare’s feed.

More than just giving you numbers to optimize, we designed this as a way to help you feel more connected to people who care about what you have to say. Our hope is that by showing you that people listen to your ideas, you’ll feel more empowered to share them.

A New Way To Start Branches: Write Like You Talk

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The hardest part of writing is making your ideas sound good.

Think about the last time you had an idea. It sounded great in your head, right? It was coherent and convincing. It just made sense — and you probably wanted to share it with someone. But when you tried to turn it into a paragraph, you got frustrated. You wrote and rewrote, chopped up sentences to “make it flow,” and flipped back-and-forth between the dictionary and thesaurus. All while you heard the same nagging question: “Will anyone even read this?”

Now think about how you would have shared that exact same idea in the real world, if you were sitting around a table with friends. You wouldn’t be worried about diction or prepositions, or whether you had a perfect introductory sentence. In person, eloquence isn’t as important as getting across the heart of your idea. Communication, not presentation, matters.

We want sharing your ideas on Branch to feel just like sharing your ideas around a table with friends. With that goal in mind, we’ve redesigned what it feels like to start a branch.

We noticed that the real world, we often speak point-by-point, letting thoughts roll out one right after another:

The Knicks are doing so well this season!
Carmelo has really hit his stride.
Imagine how much better they’ll be when Amare returns.

Now, when you start a branch, you’ll be able do just that: quickly jot down what’s on your mind — as informally and casually as you would to a friend. That’s it! We think you’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to get your ideas out of your head.

SoundCloud and Spotify: Play Music In Branches

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Sometimes little changes can make a big impact. That’s why we decided to integrate Branch with two of our favorite music sharing services — SoundCloud and Spotify — to let you share and listen to music right in your branches.

We noticed that you love using Branch to talk about your favorite songs and share your newest finds, but until now, you had to use embedded videos to do it. Now, you can just paste links to songs from either service right into your post. Just like we do for articles, photos, and videos, we’ll make your picks look great and let you listen inline.


Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the amazing team that has made all of this happen: Hursh, Cemre, Andrew, Libby, Julius and Ian.

Head over to branch.com, and add any of us to a branch to let us know what you think. We’d love to talk about how we can make Branch better.

Thanks for listening,
Josh

Posted by Cemre Güngör 1 year ago

Ev, Biz and Branch on Charlie Rose

Last night, Twitter co-founders (and Branch investors) Evan Williams and Biz Stone appeared on Charlie Rose to discuss Obvious Corp.'s new projects and their ideas for improving online conversation. Here’s what Ev had to say about Branch:

We have a couple of projects we’re working on. One is Branch, which is an online conversation platform, and the concept there is very simple. If you want to have a good conversation around this table, you can’t just say, “Whoever wants to show up can show up,” and, you know, say two words and leave, as if it’s just a free-for-all. That’s essentially what online conversation has been for the past decade, and there’s a beauty to that. The openness is great, but it doesn’t lead to quality conversations. What Branch does is allow people to host dinner-party-like conversations and say, “Pretty much everybody can watch, but we’re limiting who’s actually invited to sit down at the table.”

To read the full interview, head over to Fast Company.

Posted by Libby Brittain 1 year ago

The Year on Branch

In an effort to write a year-end list you actually want to read, the Branch team put our heads together and created a list of our favorite moments of the year on Branch. From getting “Fireballed,” to working with Frontline PBS and Fast Company, to having lighthearted conversations about our first websites and favorite throwback technologies, here are our picks.

1. Frontline used Branch to cover the 2012 election.

image Boy is that ever true about rhetoric and delivery, Jim. Clinton is an actor; Obama less of one.
– David Maraniss

Leading up to the premiere of their documentary “The Choice 2012,” Frontline PBS used Branch to bring together presidential biographers and political journalists for three conversations about artifacts from Obama’s and Romney’s pasts. These branches gave context and meaning to the artifacts, which were uncovered while researching “The Choice” and had never been seen before by journalists or voters.

2. We learned about how blogs need to evolve.

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Valid point, Paul, but what if the act of commenting were also the act of me starting my own blog?
- Anil Dash

We started out 2012 learning from the founders of SixApart, Metafilter, and Blogger about how blogs can stay relevant in the midst of social media. “It seems like some of the basic elements of the form such as comments,” Anil wrote, “have been stuck in a model that doesn’t work very well.” (This branch was also one of our first ‘big wins’ of 2012, so we have to admit feeling pretty fondly about it.)

3. We got Fireballed. Twice.

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Branch continues to impress me.
- John Gruber

John Gruber’s technology blog Daring Fireball has become famous for what’s known as “Fireballing” the sites it links to: sending massive amounts of traffic all at once, sometimes taking them down in the process. Luckily, when Branch got Fireballed in August (and then again in October), we only narrowly managed to avoid that fate — but we think that’s a good thing. Thanks, John!

4. We found out librarians are awesome.

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I’m curious to see if your library is using local vendors to purchase materials for circulation. 
- Justin Hoenke

This year, our team learned that sometimes the people who use and love Branch the most are ones we’d never expect. Probably the best example of this is the vibrant community of librarians, led by Justin Hoenke and his Branch group called The Library, that uses Branch to discuss the intersection of library science and technology.

5. Eater gave the New York Times a run for its money.

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Is the move as risky as the people quoted in the Times piece make it out to be?
- EaterNY

Over the summer, the New York Times reported a big story about changes to Eleven Madison Park — a Michelin-starred restaurant here in New York. Eater used Branch to take a different angle on the story, bringing together food and restaurant critics from the Village Voice and New York Magazine to discuss the changes in the context of the restaurant’s ten-year run. It was one of our first (and still one of our favorite) publisher branches.

6. Four-star general and former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq Stanley McChrystal posted in a branch. Seriously.

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It’s important to decide certain things upfront: who you are and what sort of leader you want to be.
- Gen. Stanley McChrystal

Our team’s user “wishlist” — people whose opinions and insights we would love to see on Branch one day — gets longer all the time. We were thrilled when General Stanley McChrystal, who joined a branch hosted by Fast Company, was checked off the list. “This is where relationships are key,” he wrote. “Put people around you whom you trust and then over-communicate with them.”

7. You gave us feedback. A lot of it.

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A group for friends of Branch to talk about the site, give us feedback, and share ideas.
- Libby Brittain

One of the most rewarding parts of building Branch is hearing your feedback on it, for better and worse. Our team has done our best to get this feedback early and often this year, and (Luckily!) you’re not shy. If you want to send more our way in 2013, follow along with our Friends of Branch group, which we created as a place to ask questions and hear your ideas by clicking ‘Watch.’

8. The Branch team talked about our product in public.

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What did you learn from Twitter lists? We’re contemplating a similar feature on Branch.
- Josh Miller

We also think it’s important to talk about our product in public as much as we can. Our co-founder Josh Miller took the launch of Branch Groups as a chance to do just that, starting a group called Musings about Text Boxes with a few of our investors and friends of the company. Click ‘Watch’ to follow along and hear about what’s in store for 2013.

9. MG Siegler dominated Apple coverage with Branch.

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And what about the thought that Apple should plant fakes to flood the rumor mill? I think that would be pretty smart.
- MG Siegler

Former TechCrunch writer and Branch investor MG Siegler has probably written a small book with the number of branches he started about Apple this year. Whether he’s talking about their now-infamous hardware leaks or iPad mini pricing, MG has a knack for getting bloggers and technologists together to talk about what news items like these really mean — both for the technology community and Apple customers worldwide.

10. We saw the the best (and worst) of the 1990s.

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My first music was Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave your Lover,” which for some reason I liked when I was 4.
- Jon Lax

This year, we noticed that branches make great “campfires” — places to share stories and reminisce with friends. Recently, a few high-profile designers shared screenshots and links to the very first websites they ever designed, and earlier this year, the Branch team and a few friends traded a few of our favorite pieces of throwback tech. Give them a look for the best (and worst) of the 1990s — and be extra grateful that we’re headed into 2013!

Posted by Libby Brittain 1 year ago

Meet Branch Groups.

Posted by Libby Brittain 1 year ago

Branch ‘n’ Roll

Whether IRL or on Branch, there are a few topics that always make for a great conversation. Music is definitely one of them.

On Branch, you’ve swapped links to your favorite Spotify apps and cover songs, debated which band has the best live performances, and even invented metrics like “the ratio of good songs/mediocre songs for any given band or artist” to more scientifically judge each other’s picks. (Several of your music branches are even contenders for “Longest Branch Ever,” so you must be onto something!)

Here are a few of our favorites:

Branch on.

Posted by Libby Brittain 1 year ago

Branch Volunteers

Two weeks ago, the Branch team was holed up in our temporary offices — “Branch East” and “Branch North” — waiting out Hurricane Sandy. After five long days, power and water had finally been restored to much of lower Manhattan, including our apartments and Branch HQ.

But as Manhattan clicked back into motion, news reports, tweets, and photos made it clear that parts of the outer boroughs weren’t so lucky. So on Sunday, the Branch product team (Josh, Cemre, Julius and I) traveled out to the Rockaways, a small Long Island town hit hard by Sandy’s storm surge, to volunteer. We spent the afternoon ripping out basements, clearing drywall, and helping several homeowners begin to put their lives back together.

To get involved, donate to redcross.org/sandy or volunteer with Rockaway Relief, which is coordinating weekly trips from Manhattan to the Rockaways throughout the fall. Every pair of hands helps.

Posted by Libby Brittain 1 year ago