A Touching Email
On the 4th of May we sent out the painful email that described the upcoming close of Barkles. What followed was a great amount of support for our decision and some who were very sad to see it go. While our decision to close is final, it is great to know that what we built had a powerful effect on some people. This is the reason why most entrepreneurs do what they do - to help grow and change the world in some way.
What follows is an extremely touching email from the students of Frisco Elementary (Colorado, USA). Thank you Peder & Students for your kind words and for allowing us to republish this.
Dear Diesel and Jay,
We are a group of students from Frisco Elementary, in Colorado, USA. You might recognize our user names as a group that all ends in “FR11.” We wanted to write you and tell you that you did solve a problem for us, we are sad to see Barkles close, and want to thank you for your solution.
The reason that we have used Barkles this year has been to learn more about debating. This is an important part of our curriculum and a great life skill.The problem that we often run into is that our community is small and there are few people to debate with. Many times these debates in our classrooms are short, simple, and uninspiring. Your website has solved this problem by broadening our debate community and connecting us with people who want to debate the same things we do. We have been the only class in our district to do this, and sadly we are the last. Our whole class, as well as our teacher, had planned on using this site to teach and practice debate skills for years to come. We know it would not be enough for you to live on, but we would gladly pay a subscription fee if this site were to come back or continue.
Thank you for making Barkles. It has been a one-of-a -kind debating site that has helped us learn and grow. You have allowed us to go from pencils and chalkboards to using technology that extended our debates in time and to the world. Barkles has made learning debate skills more fun for us!
Barkles’ Biggest Fans (The Frisco Elementary 5th Grade Students and staff)
Barkles is Closing
What follows is an email we sent out to our members:
Today we bring you some unfortunate news and our last email.
We have decided to close down Barkles on the 1st of June.
To some, this may come as a shock, and for that we apologise.
For over 6 months Jay and I (Diesel) have been working behind the scenes on Barkles to build it to where it is. We have gone through many ups and downs and have learnt a huge amount about the way startups operate. In all honesty, there are a few main reasons that we would like to share with you as to why we are shutting up shop. Hopefully, others can learn from our mistakes.
1. What’s The Problem?
One of the main rules about starting a new startup is locking down the problem you are solving. Without a strong problem, you will have less people needing/wanting your product which will result in low traction/return rate. In many cases, Barkles was a cool solution looking for a problem - a reason for people to use it if you will. Had we of nailed down our problem before building the solution we probably wouldn’t have built Barkles in the first place.
Jay is very passionate about development. I am very passionate about design. Over time however we lost our joint passion for continually building Barkles when we started realising we had built a solution looking for a problem. We still enjoyed watching the debates come in and people using it on occasion - however for us to move forward and get that passion back it would require a big overhaul to the product, with the likely chance we would be pivoting far away from the product it is today. This pivot would have taken us 3-6 months to fully realise and even then we would not be any closer to working on a problem that people want solved.
3. Financially Viable
Building a freemium product is hard to do if you have low traction and have lost passion in the product itself. Often what results is the founders redirect focus onto paying work (hey, we’ve all got to live!) which pushes the freemium product into the background of their minds. For others in this situation we recommend financially securing a ‘runway’ (a bunch of cash you live off for a set amount of months) to give yourself that focus and dedication that is needed when building a long term freemium product.
It’s Not All Doom And Gloom
This process of creating a startup, getting members on board and iterating the product has been the most incredible experience. Jay and I look at the closing of Barkles as a “succesful failure”, a journey we have learnt a lot from. We have enjoyed over 1400 debates, met countless people who inspired us and now know what it’s like to run a startup. We would like to thank our advisors, mentors and other entrepreneurs who have helped up learn and grow througout this journey.
Barkles.com will be closed on the 1st of June.
Jay and I will continue freelancing in the areas of development and design and see where the road takes us. We will still both be actively involved in the Melbourne/Perth startup scene.If you would like to contact Jay (I can attest to his great development skills) you can get in touch: Jay’s Email and you can contact me via Diesel’s Email.
Thank you for your involvement with Barkles,
Jay Whiting & Diesel Laws
Your Opinions Are Bullsh*t
Your opinions are a representation of an emotional connection to your views. Sharing an opinion shows your individuality and can also connect you to like minded people. So when someone shares a differing opinion, how do you react?
Here are a few ways in which people react negatively to differing opinions:
The Automatic Defense
The Automatic Defense is a blocking technique instead of really listening to what someone else is trying to say. Often, this is to protect your idea from any attack to avoid any confrontation. This is also commonly referred to as a close-minded view which can ultimately lead you to stamp out anyone else with a differing opinion.
Why is this harmful?
By blocking out another persons opinion immediately we come across with an attacking attitude. In turn, this will lead the other person to push harder or walk away in disgust. The automatic defense can actually cause more harm than good by blocking any external opinion, thus leading to a narrower view on that topic.
The Instant Back-down
The Instant Back-down is a surprisingly common approach to avoid confrontation and an attempt to keep the other party happy. When opinion B is offered, the person who gave opinion A will agree with the other person while pushing their original opinion down as quickly as possible.
Why is this harmful?
While this tactic can be useful in some circumstances, it can often come across as a weak test of character. It can show that a person won’t stand up for what they believe in, instead opting to ‘keep the peace’. This could easily deter businesses, entrepreneurs or professional people from working with or employing that person.
The Fake Instant Back-down
The Fake Instant Back-down is another attempt to keep confrontation to a minimal. When opinion B is offered, the person who gave opinion A will appear to back down yet behind their back will still run with opinion A.
Why is this harmful?
Sharing opinions is a great way to genuinely get to know another person. When one becomes not genuine, the reason/need for the debate becomes void. By doing this, the person with opinion A is representing themselves in a negative light with only a matter of time before the other person finds out. This can cause a lot of harm and unnecessary distraction down the road.
The Listen And Laugh
The Listen and Laugh technique can come across as rude and often causes more conflict than The Automatic Defense. With it, the person receiving an opposing opinion will quickly rebut without any facts or further knowledge.
Why is this harmful?
Anyone who is willing to share an opposing opinion is already putting themselves in the line of fire. Attacking/degrading them further for being honest can lead to stronger confrontation and a negative outcome. It can also demonstrate a weak character flaw. In future, it could lead to less discussions with that person and fake debates to avoid confrontation.
So as you can see, there are a few ways in which to badly handle differing opinions. To encourage honest opinions and strong debate with more positive outcomes we recommend the following approaches:
The Understanding Embrace
The Understanding Embrace is an ego-less stance to taking others opinions and connecting with them. When a differing opinion is shared, the person with opinion A evaluates opinion B for what it is - removing emotion from the decision process and instead focusing on the points raised.This leads them to embrace the differing opinion with humility and honesty even when disagreeing with the points raised.
Why is this helpful?
When someone offers a differing opinion, they are sharing their views from their own emotions and experiences. It’s in these areas that we must take in the information (excluding the emotion attached) and honestly evaluate the points raised. This will allow us to grow our understanding of the topic by being aware of the differences in opinions. By having both sides of the topic in our minds, we can make stronger decisions (outcome vs ego) that benefit both parties if we so choose.
While this approach is very powerful, there must be a word of caution with its use: Many people find this technique to be less than genuine and often ‘big-headed’ by definition. The Educator is when a differing opinion is listened to and understood by person A, then reformulated and re-educated back to person B.
Why is this helpful?
Having a larger amount of opinions on a topic can give you a broader understanding of it’s context. By educating person B on how both opinions are valid (or one over the other) they too can learn a lot more about the topic at hand. Quite often The Educator will find that this approach will “fall on deaf ears” or be met with The Automatic Defense, which is why a strong word of caution must be attached.
The Humble Admission
The Humble Admission is where a differing opinion is offered and completely understood by person A. They then choose to evaluate and humbly admit that they agree with person B.
Why is this helpful?
When sharing an opinion it’s important to be open to others. This approach removes emotion from the differing opinion and simply looks at the context. By humbly admitting, you are keeping your mind on point with the actual discussion rather than getting caught up in the moment. Unfortunately for many people who employ this tactic, it’s often confused with The Instant Back-down and the result is often a slightly childish “I Win” look or action from the other person.
When sharing opinions remember that others will often see something different. This is perfectly fine, and important if we want to the world to continue to adapt and change. Keep strong to your opinions but be open to listening to others.
Thanks for reading,
At Barkles we strive to be open to all types of feedback at any time. While we still have a lot we want to push through we have made some simple changes based on some simple, yet great feedback from our users.
What is Barkles?
Somewhere in our excitement in moving forward we forgot to stop and think about what Barkles IS to a new user. A few people pointed this out and even recommended we show new users a quick video demo of what Barkles is. So, Diesel did just that:
This quick tour video now appears at the top of most pages to give people a quick intro to what Barkles is.
Facebook & Twitter
Signing in with Facebook and Twitter should be as easy as possible. We’ve now removed the need for a password when signing in with these services. You can always add a password later on for an alternative log in with your username.
Backgrounds 2.0 (the non-blur edition)
With a change of direction comes change in design. To appeal to a larger audience, we felt the need to update our current background choices to clear, crisp versions. To update your background, head to Settings.
Look forward to seeing you on Barkles!
- The team.
1,000 Dogfights & Awesome Dogtags!
We’re excited to announce we’ve hit a cool milestone - 1,000 Dogfights (Thank you Inspiredworlds)! We’ve had some great Dogfights added by some of our 1,600 members over the last 3 months.
We’ve Listened To You.
Thank you. It is with your comments & feedback that we are pleased to announce a fresh Barkles just released today.
For the last month we have been reworking our core platform to allow for many items that have been requested including Edit, Topics & better Tracking buttons to name a few.
So What’s New?
One of the first things you will notice on Barkles is the fresh redesign.
Many users mentioned our previous lovely simple and clean design, with a few honestly noting that it was a little ‘plain’ (Thank you for your honesty!). We’ve taken that honest feedback and pushed far away from plain in our latest update by adding the choice of multiple backgrounds while enjoying Barkles. We’ve also refreshed the layout and cleaned up various items around the site.
Topics Take Center Stage
The Barkles redesign focuses around Topics. The Topic boxes on the home page allow a user (logged in our logged out) to follow Dogfights in topics that interest them.
We have taken special care to keep Topics as simple as possible; So at any time you can search for a Topic by adding it to your home page or by going directly to Barkles.com/topics/ANYTOPIC (e.g. Barkles.com/topics/Google, Barkles.com/topics/Movies).
We really appreciate the feedback around topics and will continue to develop them in the weeks to come.
Edit, Edit & Edit
We’ve had a great amount of requests to allow Editing on Dogfights and Responses. Thank you to all those who requested and made it one of the hottest items in our list! You can now Edit any Dogfight and Response by hovering over the text and clicking the Edit button. To keep the system fair (and to avoid Edit button abuse) the Edit function is disabled once someone has added a Response/Reply to that item.
Those who love sharing Dogfights/Dogtags with their community now have the option with simple sharing buttons. Whenever you see the buttons, click Share (Facebook) and Tweet (Twitter) to share that item.
Tracking is a new addition to keep better tabs on the Dogfights that interest you. If you find a Dogfight you would like to keep track of, simply click the Track button on the Dogfight. This will do two things:
- It will add the Dogfight to your Tracking box on the Home page for quick access.
- You will receive an email once someone adds a response to that Dogfight. (You can adjust your email notifications in Settings).
If you decide you no longer wish to keep track of a Dogfight, simply go to the Dogfight page and click Stop Track.
The Bigger Picture
While we have only just launched the redesigned version of Barkles, there are many things coming in the future that will expand the platform like nothing before. We will continue to listen to your great feedback and develop Barkles to allow for even more incredible questions and opinions.Thanks for following our progress.
- Diesel Laws and Jay Whiting
Keep connected to us via Twitter.
Teacher Uses Barkles To Initiate Change
At Barkles HQ we love watching the many different uses of our debating platform. One such use is the recent influx of schools (or more notably teachers) creating debates for their students relevant to their classroom material.
We reached out to one teacher, Keith Schoch about the recent debates with his sixth grade students at Bedminster Township Public School. Keith shared some insight into how he came to know about Barkles:
After seeing its mention in a Diigo group, I investigated Barkles after some dissatisfaction with other debate sites which were honestly too clunky, busy, and “full featured” to use with sixth grade students. I know from experience that they will only actively and voluntarily use sites which are clean and straight-forward, without a lot of clutter.
I personally love the ease of sign-up, the intuitive functions, and again, the clean design of the site. My students loved the extended metaphor of the dogfight, barks, bites, dogtags, chasing, throwing a bone, and so on. All of us appreciated how easy it was to follow the threads of votes and comments.
Keiths latest Dogfight; “Bedminster School will start an hour earlier so that the high school can start an hour later." received 33 For and 8 Against amongst his class. He went on to share the reasoning behind the debate:
Our second debate involved a current events issue. After reading that high school students are genetically disposed to later waking hours, students were asked if they would be willing to go to school an hour earlier each day (due to bus conflicts) so that the high schoolers could go an hour later.
A surprising number of students agreed to the change, and by listing their reasons, students were able to begin compiling some support for a persuasive essay they would later be writing. So although the essay would be their own work, the supporting arguments could be gathered through our Barkles crowd-sourcing.
Another interesting thing that we have noticed at Barkles HQ is the self imposed security amongst the sixth grade students for their Barkles Dogtags (see the responses on this Dogfight). Naturally, online security is important to schools and their students and the simplicity of a class/period number and student initials creates a layer of safety and public anonymity. It also allows the other students to focus more on the points of the debate rather than the individuals behind the opinion.
Keith added one last takeaway in response to our 200 character limit when sharing opinions:
The biggest takeaway for students thus far? Sometimes saying less is more. They were shocked to discover that their response space on Barkles was limited, and this forced them to cut to the chase. A good skill to learn and practice in the Twitter age!
Thanks to Keith and other teachers utilising Barkles for their school debates we will be working closely with them to expand our platform to cover these areas properly. If you are a teacher or student looking for a place to host simple and clean debates then try Barkles. We welcome any suggestions or feedback!
- Diesel Laws and the Barkles team.
Here at Barkles.com we’ve decided to go back over a few active Dogfights and see the current standings. If you’re keen on getting your Dogfights into this list in the future, make sure you share yours with your friends and get them to join in!
18 Agree | 13 Disagree
The main consensus seems to be that Macs are simpler by ‘hiding’ more advanced features, making them less versatile (according to the Disagree column). This simplicity and designer edge put it ahead in this Dogfight.
6 Agree | 2 Disagree
Here’s an interesting Dogfight that points out the differences in British and American comedy - namely the explanation of a joke and slapstick of American humour vs the dry wit and pessimism of British comedy.
41 Agree | 50 Disagree
Another highly controversial Dogfight surrounding religion has sparked many points of opinion. The agreeing many believe that Religion is evil by facilitating wrong-doings in large groups with only one ‘allowed view’. The people disagreeing believe that the word/meaning behind religion is used as a ‘scape-goat’ to allow evil people to do evil things.
We will continue to highlight active Dogfights that engage great opinions so keep sharing your opinions and asking great questions on Barkles!
-Diesel & The Barkles Team
New To Barkles: Ask A Question!
Hello, would you like to ask a question?
We’ve been listening! Thanks to the feedback from our users we have made some great updates that you can start using right now on barkles.com.
Ask A Question
You can now ask a question on Barkles (from any page). Asking a question is easy - simply ask your question, choose the answers (or add your own) and start the Dogfight. You can watch a quick video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTO9UktqZOs. If you would rather share an opinion, just choose Agree/Disagree as your answers.
Recent Dogfights Tab
We have had many requests for this feature - so much so that we implemented it in the main area. The Recent tab replaces the Popular tab and offers a rolling stream of the most recent Dogfights across Barkles. We’ve made it easier for you to find new Dogfights and people to Chase. We have something big in store for the Recent tab in the future so stay tuned!
Sharing (Now with Google+)
We’ve simplified the share area within Dogfights and added Google+. We will be making a few more updates to the share area in the coming weeks.
We’re happy to say we’ve quickly passed 1000 users! This means that your Dogfights are getting much more attention.
Thank you all for your great feedback and your great opinions that have fueled some powerful debates.
We look forward to joining your Dogfights,
The Barkles Team
We Look Different, We Feel Different
We’ve Updated Our Look…
We now has a brand new home page complete with screenshots & feedback from around the world. The new design reflects our direction as we move towards something bigger for Barkles - can’t reveal it all just yet!
Only One Response Per Dogfight
In a possible controversial move we have restricted the Dogfights to one response per user. When you post a response (or start the Dogfight) you will see the above share area. We believe that by keeping the responses to just one that:
- The tally will now reflect a more accurate ‘score’
- The focus will be on providing one strong opinion
Because of this change we have made the reply buttons more obvious - providing a way to continue the debate.
All of these changes are in place for our future plans which will be revealed in the coming months. We have something very exciting to preview as we move towards the next phase of Barkles.
As always, if you would like to contact us just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
- Diesel Laws and Jay Whiting