I am the ideal target for a new tech company: young, urban, constantly connected and quick to adopt new and interesting technology. So why, then, was Pownce dead-on-arrival as soon as I started using it?
If you’re not familiar with Pownce, you probably know one of its principles: Kevin Rose of Digg fame . He teamed up with some friends to create their own micro-blogging platform. This follows, of course, in the vein of Twitter and Jaiku.
As Jason Pontin highlighted in his article for the NY Times, Pownce is currently floating high on the halo effect of Kevin Rose and the exclusivity of its closed launch (this is somewhat offset by InviteShare, the invite swapping site recently bought by TechCrunch). I got my own invite through my colleague Chris Difonzo and decided to take the service for a test drive.
The concept is simple enough: broadcast persistent notes to all or select portions of your network through the site or downloadable interface. Whereas Twitter is focused simply on the question of “Where are you?” and Jaiku is more social and sharing oriented, Pownce is honing in on extending micro-blogging to files, events and links. As Jason pointed out, there is a nice potential for a closed-door file sharing network, though Pownce has technologically nipped that in the bud for rich media by limiting files sizes to 10 m.b.
The problem is I never got to experience any of these features. Fewer than 25% of the people I invited were interested in even joining and the ones who have joined haven’t Pownced anything. No matter how much I might want to check it out, my friends simply don’t care about Pownce. I think there are 3 key reasons:
- Lack of Critical Mass – Unless you’re ensconced in a world of early adopters, it’s hard to get people to experiment with the latest platform. For my friends, there is no incentive to even check it out (they’re not intrigued by technological exclusivity). Without enough people willing to play in the game, I got tired of Powncing by myself.
- Social Media Saturation – Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Digg, Blogs… the list of ways that I can virtually socialize is endless, but my time isn’t. I only end up investing my time where my network already exists instead of trying to recreate it every time on the latest and (potentially) greatest new thing.
- Death By Fragmentation – As content leaves its mother nest and spread its wings over web 2.0, I’m the guy trying to keep up and not to get pooped on. Each new platform ends up adding a layer of complexity and most of my friends are hesitant to try something new without a hook.
Of course, there’s no good complaining unless I can offer a solution. Here’s what I really need:
- Social Aggregators – RSS readers do a great job of collecting all of my feeds, but that’s just one aspect of my life. I’ve got IM, Skype, MySpace, LinkedIn, 2 personal email accounts and a work one, blogs to write, blogs to read, a work calendar that intertwines with a personal one and more. I need a tool that unites my life instead of layering on complexity. Twitter and Jaiku have both worked on Facebook-to-Micro-blog porting and Pownce has a forthcoming API. Still, the closest I’ve come to uniting my life is my iGoogle homepage and that leaves much to be desired.
- Automatic Network Building - I can’t be bothered to tell you all of the people I know or, worse yet, try to remember and type them all in. I want your whiz-bang servers to do the work for me. And I’m not talking about just getting my Gmail contacts: I want you to track down everyone on all of my other sites and lists and make connecting to them through your service easy. If I have to think, you can forget it.
- Free Prize - I don’t actually need a plastic figurine of Kevin Rose, but I do need a compelling reason to invest my increasingly scarce time in your service and, more to the point of this blog, get my friends involved (this is social media, right?). It could be functionality, e.g. I’d like to be able to “Pownce” songs from the web or my iTunes to share with friends. It could be promotional, e.g. strike up some exclusive content partnerships or offer deals–anything to give me a reason to move from awareness through trial through repeat usage.
All of these services are still largely the play thing of a minority of users at the moment, but we all know how that goes. Stay tuned.