Monday, July 20, 2009

Introduction to Kelpp Screencast

We have created a screencast that provides an introduction to Kelpp, covering the "basics" of searching and writing a review.

This is the first screencast we have created, so it is a bit "unpolished" but hopefully gets the message across.

If you have any questions or feedback, we'd love to hear them - you can leave a comment on the blog, or send us an email or tweet. There's many features of Kelpp that we didn't show in the screencast, so we're planning to create a few more of these in the near future.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Using Kelpp with Twitter

We are continually looking for ways to improve the Kelpp experience. As part of this process, we will occasionally try out new features, including ones that are a bit "experimental" which we aren't yet entirely sure about ourselves.

In this spirit, we are rolling out a new feature that enables users to search Kelpp using Twitter. The core idea is to let users do something that they do naturally (asking their Twitter followers for recommendations), and by applying a little bit of structure to their tweets, enable them to search Kelpp without ever leaving their Twitter client.

To try out this feature, please visit You will need to log into your Twitter account (using OAuth) so we can set up the right following relationships.

Down the road and depending on user feedback, we may extend this functionality further, e.g. capturing "reviews" within tweets, tracking friend recommendations, etc. We think there is a lot more we can do to leverage the "real-time stream". I have to call out as a source of inspiration for this feature, and the geoslash concept in particular. As always, we'd love to hear any feedback or comments.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Find More using Kelpp

We're happy to announce that Kelpp now lets you find a richer set of recommended businesses. When you search for something on Kelpp, we will show you a combined set of results that includes both:

(1) Businesses in your area that have been reviewed by Kelpp users for matching tags (for example, if you search for "sushi" you would find businesses tagged with "sushi", "fresh sushi", and "best sushi"). We indicate whether these businesses have been reviewed by any of your Facebook friends or friends-of-friends, and rank these results by their ratings.

(2) Other nearby businesses which include mentions of "sushi" in either their Kelpp reviews or their web content (using Google Local).

With (1) you get high-fidelity results that match exactly what you're looking for. With (2) you get a broad range of results - maybe not as precise but still very useful.

With this enhancement, we hope that Kelpp becomes your one-stop shop for finding what you're looking for: Do a search and get the best possible set of matches that are available. Ask your friends for recommendations and track their responses. Review a business and share your experiences with your friends.

We hope you like the changes - give Kelpp a try and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Better Biz Search

We recently made an enhancement to how searching for businesses works on the Kelpp. Previously, when you searched for a business (say to write a review on it), you would see potentially two sets of results: matching businesses stored in Kelpp, and matching businesses from Google Local. While this kind of worked OK, it was a confusing and suboptimal experience for users - why can't I just get a single list of all matching businesses?

I'm happy to say we've addressed this issue and Kelpp users now have a simplified and streamlined experience when searching for businesses. Go ahead and try it out - preferably by writing a review and sharing it with your friends and the Kelpp community :) As always we would love to hear any feedback.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ferret with Ruby on Rails: Tweaking application performance

When we initially built Kelpp, we really didn't worry about performance, scalability and all those other "luxuries". See I'm going to scale my foot up your ass by Ted Dziuba to get a sense for where we started from.

...Engineers love to talk about scalability. It makes us feel like the bad a**, dick-swingin' mother*** that we wish we could be....

However scalability wasn't really the problem, it was just that some queries ran slowly and pegged the CPU at 100%. This was a clear case of end user impacting perf slowdown.
It was time to do some improved indexing and searching.

Numerous solutions for fast indexing and optimized searching exist for Ruby on Rails. We picked arguably the most fully featured and best documented one: Ferret.

"Ferret is a high-performance, full-featured text search engine library written for Ruby. It is inspired by Apache Lucene Java project. "

A few days of optimization followed and voila: our query speeds on most queries were atleast an order of magnitude better.

At this point we are a lot happier with query performance but wanted to know if any of you had other suggestions for other indexers that are either faster or have functionality that is missing in Ferret? Do you have a Ruby on Rails blog that addresses this? Let us know and we'll link to you.

Once the performance optimization bug bites, it is hard to resist. Our site, like most could benefit from some speeding up anyway.

Please try out the new and improved query engine in Kelpp and we'd love to hear your suggestions!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kelpp mentioned in the Seattle Times

Seattle Times technology and business blogger Brier Dudley covered Kelpp in his blog post.

Two veteran Microsoft software developers have launched their side project: Kelpp, a location-based, social recommendation service. Anthony Chavez and Ram Viswanathan started discussing the concept last summer and began actively developing the self-funded startup earlier this year. Kelpp allows community tagging of businesses and services, and integrates with Facebook to connect users with recommendations from friends and family.

And the name? Chavez noted via email that kelpp "provides a rich, dynamic underwater ecosystem" while Kelpp similarly "provides an ecosystem that connects the user's social graph + businesses + 'tags' that describe goods or services, which enables a much richer recommendation experience."

You can catch the whole article here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New features: Better Integration with Facebook and Twitter

Hi Folks,
We are super excited to announce the numerous enhancements and feature additions to Kelpp in the last few weeks! While this blog has been quiet over this period, we think you’ll appreciate the features we’ve been busy adding during this time.

The first big change we made was to move to a new hosting company. This should allow Kelpp much more headroom with the increasing traffic we're seeing.

Another change is a cool new feature addition. We’ve now integrated twitter posting into the Kelpp request/response workflows!

How does this work? Say you are looking for something unique, say "cardamom tea" near Seattle WA and make this request on Kelpp. We will post this request to the Kelpp twitter profile at This will allow folks that are following kelppme on twitter to make a recommendation on Kelpp.

Moreover, when someone writes a review in response to this request, we will post also this fact on twitter. This allows you to easily follow recent requests or recommendations on Kelpp using any twitter client!

Of course, we value your privacy, so we anonymize your private information on our twitter feed. Only your friends will know your identity when you make a request or respond to a request!

Further, we’ve made numerous other changes to integrate Kelpp much more smoothly into your Facebook experience. Each time you make a request for anything: say for a handyman that works weekends and is reasonably priced, we’ll let your friends know about it by sending them a facebook notification on your behalf. We will also write this on your profile so your friends can help you. (assuming you give us permissions to do so)

If one or more of your friends respond to your request, we will let you know through a notification or profile post. This should allow you to follow responses to your request easily from Facebook!

We think these features should make Kelpp better integrated with the applications you already use today. If you haven’t recently used Kelpp lately, please give it a whirl! Don’t forget to follow us on twitter. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Home Page

Hi Folks, it's been a few weeks since we launched Since then, we've been working on some improvements to the site to make it a better and more useful experience.

The most visible change is that we now have a brand new home page. I've included "before and after" screenshots below so you can see the difference.

Old pageNew page

As you can see, the new home page is quite a bit more "rich" than the old version. We heard feedback from users that it wasn't clear what kinds of things they could do with Kelpp when they visited the site, so we realized that we needed to do a better job of surfacing some of the key features on the home page.

The home page now shows you:

  • "Most requested tags" - what people are looking for.
  • "Recent reviews" of businesses and locations.
  • "Popular reviewed tags" - what people are reviewing.

In addition, you can search for recommendations or a specific business. For the richest experience, you should login with your Facebook account - if your friends (or friends-of-friends) have written any reviews recently, we will show you these. We'll also let you know if your friends have asked for recommendations. (To share a review or ask your friends, you'll need to login as well.)

We hope that you like the new home page and as always, we would love to hear your feedback, suggestions, or questions. You can send mail to or submit feedback at

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hello from the Kelpp team

Welcome to our blog! In this first post, we wanted to explain a bit about the thinking behind Kelpp and how it works.

Why we built Kelpp

Despite the power of today's search engines, we noticed that certain types of information are still hard to find. Kelpp was built to remedy this deficiency.

Suppose you are new in town and need to find a plumber to fix that leaky faucet; or maybe you are traveling to Singapore and want to find a good yoga studio. Or perhaps you are simply looking for a place that makes awesome blueberry pancakesYou could use traditional review sites and choose a place with positive ratings and comments. 

But wouldn't you feel more comfortable if you got a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance whose opinion you trusted? We realized that many of our own decisions on where to find things are based on recommendations from people we know and trust. We thought that a service that enables people to query one of their best resources for information - their friends - would be valuable. 

A further limitation of many review sites is that they organize information based on a fixed set of categories. Suppose you are looking for a restaurant that serves chicken donburi - which not every Japanese restaurant serves. Or suppose you hired ahandyman who is a superb electrician but a mediocre carpenter, and had him work on your kitchen cabinets with poor results. With Kelpp we wanted to make it possible to capture these important distinctions and share them with your friends and others.

In short, we built Kelpp to be the search engine for your social circle that answers"where can I find?" for absolutely anything.

How does Kelpp work?

Our goal is to make Kelpp super-easy to use. To start with, we realized that Kelpp should integrate with the social networks you already use today. This means no annoying sign-up process and needing to invite your friends to join a new service - we work seamlessly with Facebook today, and plan to support more networks in the future.

To find recommendations, just search for whatever it is you want - for example, you can search for something as specific as "family friendly Japanese restaurant". If there are existing reviews, we show them to you and highlight any reviews from your friends. If there aren't any exact matches, we'll show you related ones - for example, there might be recommendations for "family friendly Italian restaurant".

At any time, you can ask you friends for recommendations. We automatically post your request to your Facebook profile. When your friends respond, Kelpp tracks their recommendations and lets you know. If you find a place you want to recommend to your friends, Kelpp makes it simple to do so.

The Kelpp community and you

We value and respect your privacy. Kelpp won't ask for or keep any information, besides the reviews you write and requests you make to friends. And you won't get asingle junk mail from us. Kelpp is collaboratively built and managed by you and the Kelpp community. With your help, we can build a great collection of recommendations on where to find anything imaginable. No matter what city, state, or country you call home: precise and trustworthy recommendations is our objective.

Kelpp is currently in alpha. This means there may be a few issues here and there, but hopefully no major bugs. We invite you to try out the service. We value your opinion and would love to hear your feedback - you can either fill out this form or send us mail at