UrbisThe ability to express one’s ideas through storytelling is such an amazing gift, yet at the same time it can be very difficult to convey one’s message through writing. Also, finding the right criticism for your writing is often easier said than done. However don’t fret, Urbis is a new online network that allows you to post your creative writings for others to see. Founded by the New Yorker Steve Spurgat, Urbis enables you to: find people who enjoy your type of writing and collaborate with them, help others out by sharing your own thoughts on their writing through constructive criticism, or just browse the community for a good read. (MySpace for writers anyone?)

With the seemingly never-ending amount of social networking websites emerging online these days, it’s getting tough to distinctly categorize the good, the bad, and the ugly. So let’s begin. Urbis’ foundation and backbone is, of course, its society and users. The more users there are, the more interaction there is, the more chances there are for your pieces of writings to be found. In turn, this results in more opportunities for people to critique your writing. However, here lies the main dilemma I have with the web application.

Urbis is focused around credits. Credits are their type of currency within the network and also, coincidently, is the only way that you’re able to pursue getting any feedback on your writing from others. Basically, the method behind their madness is this: The way to help your writing become more well-known within the community is to participate. While I have no problem with openly participating, it comforts me to know that I have the choice of whether to participate or not. Participation is the golden rule to Urbis, and by rule I mean necessity. You’re dependent on credits to reveal any reviews that have been made about your work, however to gain additional credits you’ll be obligated to review other people’s writing.

Before you even enter a page containing an author’s work, a default amount of credits that can be earned is specified. This number is calculated simply by the amount of words in that particular piece of writing. The amount of words that your review consists of is also put into the equation. The sum of these two variables equal the amount of credits you’ll earn for the review you give the writer. Pretty much what I’m getting at is: the more time and effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. (fancy that) The only other way to gain some credits is to invite other people to join Urbis. (go figure) So the endless (and essential) cycle of: uploading your work, reviewing other people’s work, and spending credits to see what others have said about your writing will have to become somewhat of a routine for you if you plan on frequently using Urbis.

Also, the reviews that you construct have to follow a set of standards. To make it so people get the most out of Urbis, (and also so they don’t cheat the system) Urbis’ management has come up with a set of guidelines for when someone reviews someone else’s work. To summarize the rules briefly, no short: “Great post!” reviews, no bashing an author within reviews, and you’re not allowed to use exceedingly, unnecessary large quotes from the context of the author’s writing just to gain more credits.

Following in the footsteps of the plethora of social networking websites already populating the online world, you also have the ability to invite other members of Urbis to become your friends. This helps congregate people who might have similar interests in certain types of writing as you. You’re able to check up on your friends and see if they have any new pieces of writing. Also, if you prefer to keep some of your writing more private, you can specify it to only be viewable by your friends. Along with that, Urbis offers the normal features such as simple statistics which track the amount of reviews you’ve completed, comments that were made, credits earned, credits spent, etc. They have also implemented a simple goal system in which you can obviously create and keep track of goals for your writing, nothing overly extensive in this department though.

I actually enjoyed the time I spent on the network. I’m a writer myself and I believe they did a nice job thoroughly thinking out the website. So, to give my general impression on Urbis, it goes as follows: Urbis provides a great way for anyone from novice to experienced writers to share their writing while additionally helping others by criticizing their writing through reviews. The only thing is, is that it doesn’t bring anything notably new to the table. With the traffic jam of social networking websites being released all over the internet, finding new innovating features is a rare gem. However overall, yes, it’s a great network and I encourage people to sign up and at least give it a fair shot. Who knows, it may just be your cup of tea. Authors of all ages have signed up to Urbis so you will find a variety of depth and style between each author, but if you’re just there for a quick glance, I can’t promise you that you’ll come across the next James Patterson.


8 Comments on “Urbis: Judging the Books Without Covers”

  1. links for 2006-12-15 « timtowle says:

    [...] Urbis: Judging the Books Without Covers “Urbis is focused around credits. Credits are their type of currency within the network and also, coincidently, is the only way that you’re able to pursue getting any feedback on your writing from others. Basically, the method behind their madness is th (tags: SocialNetwork verticalnet niche payingusers) [...]

  2. Ethan Bodnar says:

    I just blogged about judging book by their cover.
    http://www.ethanbodnar.com/2006/12/15/i-judge-books-by-their-covers/
    I have also been thinking alot about a community and website like urbis. Since I do not have the time to do it (I am a junior in highschool) I am glad that they have done it, and what a great job they have done!

    One other thing, I have found that I have gotten tired of reading Techcrunch. There are so many posts. But here at Solution Watch. We get quality reviews of some really nice web applications. Thanks.

  3. Steve Spurgat says:

    Hey Matt,
    Thank you for the very thorough review! Urbis is actually still in development, and our grand vision has yet to go live. Stay tuned…
    Best,
    -Steve

  4. Matt Wilson says:

    I’m glad you both liked it Ethan and Steve. It was a pleasure reviewing Urbis.

  5. My First StartUp Org. » Blog Archive » Urbis - social networking and creative… says:

    [...] Vía Solution Watch & Mashable! [...]

  6. Diana’s Writing Blog » links for 2007-01-07 says:

    [...] Urbis: Judging the Books Without Covers (tags: writing) [...]

  7. Writers Online Community § No Categories says:

    [...] For a complete introduction to the idea behind this website, read the writup, “Judging the Books Without Covers“at the ambiguously named website, “solution watch”. [...]

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