Panels: Quintessential Portland entrepreneur Craig Barnes launches another startup

PanelsFew other entrepreneurs in the Silicon Forest have started and led as many high-profile local companies as Craig Barnes.

But that’s not stopping him from starting another.

Startups in his blood

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Craig’s track record, you should be. His record boasts a veritable “who’s who” of Portland tech companies:

  • Founded Now Software and in three years had grown it into the largest software company focusing exclusively on Mac software.
  • Founded Portland’s Extensis and grew the venture-backed business into a $100 million acquisition. Extensis recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.
  • Founded You Software, a Portland company that adds features and functionality to the software you already use.
  • Spun Attensa out of You Software, creating a company focused on building an attention-based RSS management system that garnered $12 million in venture backing. (For more information, I recommend reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s write-up on Attensa, back when he use to write for a little blog called TechCrunch.)

Introducing Panels

Now, Barnes has founded another startup. And much like the other companies he’s founded, it’s designed to help you deal with a glut of information by making the products you already use better.

But this time, it’s all about the Web.

Designed for bloggers, Panels uses a small panel to provide additional information about companies that are being covered, much in the vein of services like Snap’s Snap Shots:

Panels appear for any company or organization ranging from the biggest public companies such as Apple, Ford, AT&T, or WalMart to up and coming startups such as WebDiet (launched at the Demo Fall 08 technology conference this week) and Yammer (launched at TechCrunch50 this week and chosen as winner!) By the time we go live there will be millions of entities in the system with improvements and features appearing almost daily.

But to me, the most interesting thing about Panels is the depth of content that it provides.

Panels example

Unlike traditional “additional information” popup services, Panels provides a multi-tab view of information, including:

  • “About” – Basic company and contact info, URL, logo, and summary [including details from Portland-based company-information wiki AboutUs]
  • “Site” – A full preview of the home page, stats, tags and other goodies about the actual web site/blog
  • “Map” – Beginning with Google Maps, and others to follow, a place for geographic data
  • “News” – Headlines, Blog posts, News, Press Releases and more from a variety of sources
  • “Jobs” – Employment listings across numerous providers such as monster and simplyhired
  • “Financial” – If a public company, real-time info and quotes appear in several sub-categories

So why use Panels? Primarily, to provide a much richer set of information on the companies to which you’re linking—while keeping people on your site.

Basically, you’re eliminating the blind clicks that tend to draw the attention-deficient Web surfers away from what you’re trying to convey.

Also interesting? The inspiration behind the development?

Panels were inspired by the nutritional panels found on food that are mandated by the federal government. Like nutritional panels, our panels have a standard text-centric user interface that delivers consistent, predictable, detailed, real-time information from a variety of data sources across several categories.

Now, if I could only tell if the link was going to be nutritional or just so much Web junk food.

Panels is currently in closed beta. For more information or to see Panels in action, see Craig’s post introducing Panels. Or to request a beta account, visit Panels.

  1. “Doesn’t simplify anaything…” and “That and I really don’t see this as fulfilling a need in the marketplace. It doesn’t seem to solve an existing problem as far as I can see, I think all it will do is create a new one.”

    Hmmm. I definitely hear a lot about this from snap, and its unfortunate they got out there first with snapshots. Some snapshots are kind of cool and interesting but volume-wise most of them are mini screen shots of the target links home page. There is no doubt animosity towards them, i think they’re easy to ignore an are occasionally useful nevertheless.

    As for Panels…

    1) Panels are NOT snapshots are are the result of addressing some of the biggest problems addressed in human factors research around online navigation behavior. Specifically we set out top solve/improve why people don’t click – on either links (blogs) or ads (text based OR display.) To summarize the research there are two reasons people don’t click, including you whether you acknowledge it or not; 1) the link/ad does not have enough or the correct information to to sufficiently entice the user to click and 2) even if no.1 is addressed the user doesn’t want to be “detoured” (i.e. leave the page) at the given time.

    2) Panels are modeled, at least philosophically, after the nutritional panel found on food packages. Simply, a standardized, text centric “label” that over time the user/customer can depend on to be there if and and when they desire to see it. We don’t all look a the nutrition label on foods every time we buy something…BUT…we do know its there if we need it. And sometimes we use it, and we can quickly decide to return the object to the shelf, OR, put it in the basket. We go through this same decision when considering a click on a link/ad, and Panels will dramatically help in the same manner.

    Our model expects that most panels will be ignored most of the time – like nutritional panels – but will be indispensable over time because of their on-demand predictable utility. SO far my inbox is filled with positive, anticipatory glee about our early peek at panels. Time will tell.

  2. I have a good feeling I’ll be adding *.panels.net to adblock soon. This doesn’t simplify anything to me … does the opposite, really.

    That and I really don’t see this as fulfilling a need in the marketplace. It doesn’t seem to solve an existing problem as far as I can see, I think all it will do is create a new one.

  3. […] a lot of information for one little box. But Craig Barnes, one of Portland’s more well-konw serial entreprenuers, is looking to make it […]

  4. @Aaron I’m with you. I see these damned things on Vox and Blogger and they are universally unhelpful, obstructive, and slow down the experience. At least these come with a separate icon though, and aren’t just tied to the hyperlink itself (so hopefully you can avoid them most of the time).

    Now if they can find a way to put something genuinely useful in the panel then I might come around. But I think the key is subtlety. There’s a wonderful feature on nytimes.com: if you double-click on a ’25-cent word’ a definition pop-up will appear. That’s subtle and insanely helpful. (Although I haven’t figured out when or why it is enabled, as most stories don’t seem to work that way.)

  5. Barf.

    The web really doesn’t need another third party inserting popup annoyances into webpages. I hate snap.com and I’m not liking Panels for the same reason. I hope there’s a global perma-opt-out.

    Then again, I also believe that e-mail should be plaintext. I’m probably not the “average” user.

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