Update 2: Brian and Alex from Big in Japan commented on my post below. I’ve also posted an update to this featuring some of their comments.
Update: InstantFeed finally worked, but five hours after I installed it and it isn’t giving me all the updates (new posts), just a selected some. This is on GTalk, the MSN hasn’t worked at all. I guess this is the kind of alpha software you should expect — at least it works, well some of it.
In Web 2.0 space, I respect companies like 37signals which are really a dedicated group of people working on cool new things to help change the world. Another 37signals-like company is Big In Japan which is offering less-general tools as perhaps 37signals aimed specifically at prosumer bloggers, but nonetheless is still making your life easier.
So far, they allow you to podcast, combine feeds into one, shrink giant URLs, deliver feeds instantly to IMs, and ping countless servers. Note that more of these tools are on their pending list. They call themselves a ‘Web 2.0 toolbox’ and obviously, no Web 2.0 app can hide from Ruby on Rails. I tested their products out to see how they stack up. And I’ll tell you now, I wouldn’t call it impressive.
Since I’m not a podcasting wizard and I don’t have a comprehensive mic setup in my basement, my experience was limited with PodServe. But that doesn’t explain the fact that PodServe doesn’t let you create a ‘podcast.’ Let me explain. I signed up, and went to ‘create a podcast.’ Here I created a test podcast called “TalkTech.” What has left me puzzled is that there is no where to go from here. After hunting around for the next 10 or 15 minutes, I was still unable to find an actual ‘create a podcast’ link which let’s me upload or create the actual thing (episode 1) rather than a new podcast as a whole. Seriously, if you think this was me just being dumb, I’ll list for you the tabs.
- my podcasts
- create a podcast (this lets you create a podcast as in the whole thing not just an episode)
- social podcasts (if you’re an author of a ‘social’ podcast you can see it there)
- podserve directory
- I don’t need to go into this — it basically lists the categories etc.
Ok, you’re thinking. Maybe it’s on the left. Nope. On the left is simply a list of ‘Big In Japan tools’ and an ‘Alpha version’ box. On the bottom? No. Ok, so as you can see, I’m puzzled. I browse the directory and see all these podcasts. How the hell were they created? I’m not kidding. I’ve checked their FAQ and everything. They’re going to have a ‘PRO’ version of this service soon but for now they claim everything is free. Yeah, free, but working? So, all I can do now is create a ‘podcast’ for show called ‘TalkTechTest’ and listen to others in their directory. I don’t know about you, but a first thing a product with a rave review contains is all of its components. I don’t know what I missed, but using a service that lets you create a podcast for show and list it in the iTunes/Odeo directory but provides no way of actually creating an installment, an episode, an edition, isn’t too exciting.
That brings me to their second tool, FrankedFeed. FrankenFeed lets you create a ‘feed mashup,’ so to say, from a number of feeds. When I tried it out, I created a tech feed you can see here. Apart from the fact that it took its time (*cough* close to freaking half an hour! *cough*), this idea wasn’t too exciting to me and this product itself seems a dud. If you want a good ‘feed mashup,’ of all your tech feeds or whatever, I strongly suggest to you Blogdigger Groups. I’ve been using this for a couple of years now, ever since it came out, and unlike FrankenFeed, it actually works less than in half an hour and does close to real-time updating. Of course, you’d be missing the slick GUI, but who wants one when the core of the product will actually be in your aggregator?
I should mention though that the current FrankenFeed is in PHP and that they promise a Rails version in Q2 — quite soon. Maybe then it’ll actually work.
….is next on their list. ElfURL is, as they say it, a Web 2.0 version of TinyURL — the Web 1.0 tool that could. In hopes that this tool actually fully works, I input a Google query for TinyURL. Guess what? *grand drumroll* It works! It freaking works! No, I’m not kidding though, ElfURL has to be one of their best products because it actually worked without any ‘slight glitches’. I can’t say much about ElfURL other than question the need for it. What is the need, exactly? They describe this product a “Web 2.0 version of TinyURL,” but in fact it does the exact exact same thing as TinyURL, the only thing changes is that you input http://www.elfurl.com/blablabla instead of http://www.tinyurl.com/blablabla. What is a “Web 2.0 version,” exactly? The slick interface? The fact that it’s made in Rails? All this doesn’t make sense to me.
As we move down to the last ‘working’ (or not so working?) tool on their list, this is what I’ve been quite excited about. InstantFeed is what I want. IM alerts when a new digg post is posted or tech.memeorandum.com updates. So, I subscribe to the frontpage feed of digg and tag it ‘digg frontpage.’ Hit submit. It’s going good so far, so I set up my GTalk account to recieve the alerts. And I wait. GoogleTalk shows me “instantfeed has not yet accepted your invitation to Google Talk.” so I’m a bit worried. While I wait for digg to update or this to somehow work, I setup MSN and vigourously refresh digg’s homepage to see when a new post comes on. So, I add memeorandum and a couple other feeds to it. Then, wait and get myself a cup of coffee.
Almost 15 minutes later, and yes, after digg and memeorandum have vastly updated (even in their RSS feeds), no response in both Google Talk or MSN Messenger. What am I missing here? What do I don’t get? What am I doing wrong? Am I missing the fact that Japanese people like incomplete or non-working products (which just say they’re working but they actually don’t). Also, I doublechecked everything when I setup the feeds and indeed tried them twice and exactly how it told me to — so it’s not my fault, I can assure you that.
I know, I know, Big In Japan is in alpha and it’s unwise to bash alpha products. But alpha means at least that it works, right? I mean, you can’t use an alpha tag as a excuse to put out an incomplete product which claims that everything works and pigs can fly, but in the end neither is true. So seems to be the case with Big In Japan. I love their interface, their slick graphics, their colours, rollovers, everything, but when does this become a sacrifice for a crappy (yes, I said it) product (as a whole). I don’t know, may be they’ll become better over time, but let me just tell you that with my experience in Web 2.0 products — most of them seem to work and actually do what they’re supposed to.