Small Demons: Enter the Storyverse

I’m a sucker for anything Adam Lisagor is commissioned to make a video for, and Small Demons is no exception. While I was originally drawn in by the internet-celebrity video endorsement, I signed up for the service and have continued to use it because of how awesome Small Demons actually is.

I can’t give too much away right here in the intro–that’s not what AppStorm pays me for–but rest assured that once you enter the Storyverse, you won’t want to leave.

Premise: It’s Like Wikipedia Ran the Library

I know that that subtitle up there doesn’t make Small Demons sound very appealing, but it really is. Small Demons is like a layer behind every book that you’ve ever read, showing the connections between stories and offering you information on the items that you look up.

When Adam Lisagor says to enter the Storyverse, I listen.

When Adam Lisagor says to enter the Storyverse, I listen.

Let’s say that you want to check out a popular beverage mentioned in a book. For the sake of this argument, we’ll also say that you have no idea what Coca Cola is. All you have to do is search for Coca Cola on Small Demons and you’ll be taken to its page in the Storyverse.

Product Pages

Looking at Coca Cola, we can see that each product has a certain categorization with a subcategorization as well. Coca Cola is a Thing (as opposed to, say, a Character or Place) and its subcategory is Soft Drink. All of this is fairly standard information, but it’s just a small taste of what Small Demons will show you.

On the banal side of things, Small Demons offers a picture of the product and a brief description; think of it as Wikipedia, but instead of a long history you’re given the highlights. If you’re doing in-depth research on the item you’ll want to go elsewhere, but Small Demons does a good job of giving you an idea of what you’re looking at.

The top of the product page, with a bit of information and where the item appeared within a certain book.

The top of the product page, with a bit of information and where the item appeared within a certain book.

Further down the page is where things get interesting. Right there you can view all kinds of books that mention the product; in Coca Cola’s case this can be anything from popular pieces like The Help or more obscure mystery novels. You’re also shown where Coca Cola is mentioned within that book, and you can choose to see every mention within a particular novel.

Now, all of the sudden you’re shown just how often Jodi Picoult felt like mentioning Coca Cola in a novel. Is this necessarily useful information? Maybe not, but it’s pretty cool to know.

Some product pages will also allow you to purchase the item (typically from Amazon) but that isn’t an option everywhere.

Book View

If you want to take a higher-level look at things you can get information on a single book within Small Demons. The layout is similar, with buying options and a small description at the top and further information shown further down the page.

I would have liked for the book view to have been a bit more fleshed out; the information there is adequate if you’re looking to be tossed around to different pages, but the information that’s actually on the page is minimal. It would have been nice to be able to see where the book you’re viewing has been mentioned elsewhere, and perhaps a discussion page or method for keeping track of what book you were originally viewing should be included.

Design and Performance

I’m going to come right out and say it: Small Demons is one of the most well-designed web-apps that I have ever had the pleasure of using. The colors used, contrast, typefaces, everything has been so well thought-out that it’s hard to find anything to nitpick.

Mmmmm, look at all that pretty.

Mmmmm, look at all that pretty.

Of course, Small Demons is about more than just being a pretty face. The service is powerful, and has an astounding amount of information housed behind its HTML and CSS. Unfortunately, all of that information and beauty requires a fair amount of loading time; I never felt that Small Demons was painfully slow, but its performance isn’t quite up to snuff when it’s compared to most modern web-apps.

It’s Still a Beta, Guys

What’s most amazing about Small Demons is where they plan on taking everything. They have a page dedicated just to showing you what the company has planned for later on down the road, and it’s fantastic. From mobile apps to a more comprehensive collection of books and references, the Small Demons crew have definitely committed to the platform.

Just a small taste of what's coming up.

Just a small taste of what's coming up.

I don’t know when those things will be coming, but I’m eagerly awaiting them. The Small Demons crew have already shown their commitment to building a quality product, and their entire concept fascinates me. If they can accomplish half of what they have set out to do I’ll be impressed, and they’re definitely a group to keep your eye on.

Should You Sign Up?

As with any young service, signing up for Small Demons is a commitment to the present and the future. While the service is interesting in its current iteration, it’s still maturing and is a work-in-progress. If the ability to look up information on just about anything that appears in a book is appealing to you and you’re willing to work with the current limitations of the service I would say that Small Demons is certainly worth a shot.

I’m excited to see where Small Demons can go. Most other book-centric services I’ve tried have let me down, whether through a lack of features or a 90’s-era design, so Small Demons feels like a breath of fresh air. I’m ready to keep an eye on the app, and look forward to exploring the Storyverse a bit more.


Summary

Small Demons is a powerful service that allows you to see the connections between books based on the people, places, or things found within.

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