Update: Big in Japan

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Usually, I my ratio for criticising-to-praising products and services that I review is is 1:9. Recently, I quite bashed the Big in Japan set of products for the fact that most of the things were hard to get working — and some didn’t work at all. What I didn’t realise though was that when they said alpha, they meant it unlike some other products where alpha merely translates to “debut product, please please don’t bash and put us out of business.�

The reason I’m writing this is that Alex and Brian, the folks behind Big in Japan commented on my post. I think it’s important that I feature Brian’s comments:

Sid: wow, really appreciate you working so thoroughly and giving such a careful round of feedback on the current crop of Big in Japan tools. We say they are in Alpha, and we’re serious. We really are gathering feedback, working on the core functionality and dramatically improving the workflow.

PodServe has seemed to catch a few eyes, mostly because audio is tougher than it needs to be. We didn’t really set out to do creation tools, but have ended up working on exactly that. We’ll be adding a feature where you can give PodServe a phone number, and it will call you to record a ‘cast. Also will have some browser-based tools. But, our primary focus is on making it simple to create a podcast feed, give it a hosted home, and let you merchandise that feed.

elfURL is a just a little flourish on the great idea that is tinyURL. With elfURL, you can tag your small URL’s, get stats associated with that URL, and subscribe to a feed of those stats.

FrankenFeed is getting a full rewrite to fit with the overall toolbox. (We had done a quick version to prototype it for ourselves, and all we’ve done so far is reskin it to match the others. We know it has issues, but this is a really useful tool for us, internally.)

As is InstantFeed. Also lots of work to do there, but we find it helpful. We’ll be tidying these up, finishing the initial round of SocialMail, MailFeed, FeedVault, the stats tool and one new one in the next few months. Then we’ll be working on making all these tools as mashable and mixable as possible.

We’d appreciate your feedback as we progress. Very valuable.

Ok, I have to admit — that explains quite a bit. Alex had a bit more to add:

The tools really are in Alpha, i.e. that means we have released them on the ‘dev’ boxes. So each time we add a new feature, fix a bug or test a new idea the tools get modified directly. Once we move to beta we will only release new code after it has been tested in a dev environment. Sorry this was not clear. I think you are the first person to do a ‘real’ review of the tools. Once we release all of them and do so in beta I would like to invite you to try again.

With regard to adding shows to your podcast on podserve this is done by clicking on the podcast you have created and hitting the ‘add a new show’ link. I have taken a screenshot and added on Flickr for you here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexmuse/132285479/ Before we release in beta we will have cleaned the UI and made it easier to understand. Thanks again!

Before I say anything else, let me just tell you that if I’ve ever seen a good and mature way to respond to intense criticism — these guys have to be it. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything or maybe someone (usually someone involved with the product itself) to say “Not that you can do better!� or “These guys rock, what are you talking about?� I was quite happy to get such a conscise respons — thanks guys.

Anyway, getting back to the product, I think it was a bit harsh for me to review an alpha product with such detail and attention. As Alex describes, the products are currently on dev boxes and that the product will get much much better in beta. In my opinion all Big in Japan products have great concepts and ideas — and if you’re telling me they’re going to get much better as in the actual product itself once they’re in beta — I can’t wait. So I’ll apologise for being so harsh and let these guys off for now, but once they’re in beta or better still, fully launched, watch out.

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