Thursday, March 05, 2009

Blellow beta review

I joined Blellow -- a web service that enables people to collaborate and share knowledge -- in its beta stage. So far I've only been on it one day and haven't done much. I've only tested its basic features. I'm writing this review so as to enter a drawing for an SXSW badge. :-)

Here are my notes on some of Blellow's features.

Meetups. I already have a suggestion for Meetups pages (though I realize meetups are probably not the most important feature of this site). I wish each event page had a message board so we could post questions to other members or the organizer. It would also be good to be able to contact the organizer of the event with a click of a button (or in any way at all, really. Right now there is no way.)

The "follow" thing. I clicked a "Follow" button under a person's name, but did not understand whether that meant I now was following her on Twitter, or if it was a special Blellow-specific "follow". I looked for help pages, but couldn't find any (another very important feature that's missing). My Twitter account (@elze) does not show I'm following her, so I guess a Blellow-follow is different from a Twitter-follow.

Groups. I was able to join groups without a problem.

Projects. I saw a list of other people's projects, but clicking on any of them produced the standard Ruby on Rails error "We're sorry, but something went wrong". Oh well -- it's beta.

How do I login? One thing that really baffled me: when I went to home page on another computer, I could not find a "Log in" link. It was embarrassing. Made me feel really stupid. Yet there was truly no link. I eventually logged in again by following a beta invitation link that was emailed to me. I can only assume that the login is deliberately hidden from the general public, and will appear when Blellow is out of beta.

So far it seems the main activity one would do on this site is answer "What are you working on?" question. There is a lot more to do, such as participate in group discussions, but the "What are you working on?" page is the one you get immediately upon logging in. Well, this question certainly makes more sense to me than Twitter's "what are you doing?". It's good that the status area (which, at 300 characters, is much more roomy than Twitter's 140) allows you to attach a file and to check "I feel like sharing this" or "I'm looking for help" radio boxes. Obviously, though, you can't share your company's code in a public forum, so this is at best good for hobby or side projects. But, since I often get stuck on some Ruby on Rails problem (new as I am to this technology), I could see myself asking for help in this manner. It's good to have a framework where asking for help is built into the system, thus doesn't feel awkward.

One more thing -- maybe I'm just not thinking creatively, but I can't "unpack" Blellow's name. What exactly does it stand for? Blue and yellow? That's a stretch even considering the prevalence of green on its website. Does the "ellow" part signify it's kind of like yellow pages for freelancers? That would make some sense, though I think yellow pages is an outdated metaphor for a site whose goal is to promote collaboration and interactivity (as opposed to browsing a static list of people available for hire). In any case, I'm sorry to be blunt, but the name is a bit offputting. The "ble" part immediately evokes such associations as blech, bleary, or bleat. I think this site deserves better than that.

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