Monday, July 16, 2007

Pownce: First Impressions

I have been contemplating how best to do a review of Pownce. I have decided to post it to this old Blogger account for availability purposes instead of posting to my Wordpress site and having it crash under the load of Diggers that will read this story.

Firstly, I am a tech junkie who likes to try just about every online application there is. I blog often (but not here on Blogger) and the thought of a micro-blog has always intrigued me. Leo Laporte has been praising Twitter (and more recently Jaiku) for months on TWiT now as well. I also have been following Adobe Apollo (now Air) so it just seemed like the perfect time for me to jump into micro-blogging. And, like most Diggers, I have been a Kevin Rose fan since the TSS days and, thusly, was overjoyed when I got that wonderful email that I had been invited to Pownce.

The online interface is sleek, and is sprinkled with humorous aphorisms and quips (like the option to pick 'dude' or a 'bloke' as your sex.) It's very simple to sign up and to post to - and is incredibly attractive to look at. It has the markings of Daniel Burka's elegant design and use of AJAX. If you think Digg has an intuitive user interface then you'll find Pownce effortless to use.

The desktop client is lovely as well. It installs easily and very very quickly. Both the Air framework and the Pownce application are very lightweight and installed in mere seconds. You can post new messages, links, files and events via the interface - but beware - you cannot reply to existing posts via the desktop app. Doing so will open a new browser window prompting you to reply via web. This is likely to change, however, as Pownce is only in Alpha 2.

The feature set is small and is markedly Web 2.0. The entire success of the end-user experience depends on the size of his/her social network that you build through Pownce's interface. You invite 6 friends, they invite 6, and so-on. You can become a 'fan' of another person's Pownce postings - or they can add you as a friend as well and you become 'friends'. I like this distinction, though I can't express why. Who has the most fans on Pownce? Kevin Rose, naturally. My only complaint is that the only people who can see your posts are your friends and fans. And therein lies the sole drawback with Pownce.

Though heralded as an IM client the desktop application is anything but. It is little more than a dedicated RSS reader that you and your friends publish to. On the Windows side you are unable to minimize to your system tray; on the Mac side you can at least hide it out of your way - though it doesn't remind you that you have a new message. The automated system emails you alerts when you have new messages which feels very 1998 to me. A simple alert from the desktop app would suffice. I would also like to see more than 20 of the last posts on the desktop client; so in future builds more options for this sort of functionality would be nice.

Listening to mp3's on the Pownce file viewer is atrocious. Though I like the idea of having the Flash player built directly into the chronology of posts it requires me to buffer the entire mp3 into memory before it begins playback. I also do not have the option to protect mp3 files that are uploaded from being downloaded to the desktop. Essentially, if you share it on Pownce you had better be okay with all of your friends grabbing it. And that's okay! Isn't that why we use these apps to begin with?

I want to keep using Pownce, but after my second failed attempt to explain to someone why they would need another blogging utility to post their hourly goings-on -- and the failure to convince them that, yes, indeed, people are interested in hearing what you're doing at the moment -- I gave up. Of my 6 invites only 2 people accepted and I'm saving my last one. I have 4 friends and 0 fans.

Though there is room for improvement it seems that the Kevin Rose magic hasn't worn off just yet. Between Culver, Rose and Burka there is a sense of personality and elegance to Pownce that you just don't get from other Web 2.0 apps. From the moment you sign-up to your latest daily musing it is a very enjoyable, but not perfect, experience that has the potential to give Jaiku and Twitter a run for their money.

Thanks guys!

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