The instantly likable Mena Trott, dressed in a Diane von Furstenberg-style retro-printed frock, looked more like she was about to unveil a collection of fashion accessories than what could be the hottest web application since, well, Moveable Type. But the Six Apart co-founder had a less than cheery reason for starting Vox. To the crowd of about fifty at a downtown Boston nightclub, she stated very plainly, “I didn’t like the people who had come into blogging over the past four or five years.”
“I’m a private person,” Trott explained, so as readers of her blog emailed her “leave your husband” after she once jokingly refer to him as a tyrant in a post; she realized bloggers needed some way to protect their privacy. Not all of us are soapbox pontificating. Sometimes we just want a few people to know what we had for dinner last night.
Vox includes that crucial safety net: a drop-down menu providing the user with the option to post just for friends, just family, friends and family, or for everyone to view. See, your mom can use it and she won’t ever find the posts where you call someone a cuss word.
But don’t mistake Vox with a less tawdry MySpace. Of course there are no bikini girl photos and horny guys commenting on them, but there’s also no push to be someone’s “friend” or to be social in the Internet-oxymoronic sense of the world. In fact, the “add friend” feature is so elusive, it took me about five minutes (five years in web time) to figure out how to get someone in my network.
If anything, Vox is an adult version of LiveJournal (another Six Apart enterprise,) but that is also an incomplete comparison. Vox is for keeping in touch with the people you already know. Its user-friendly, search-and-post format means you can instantly insert images and videos from Flickr, iStockphoto, Amazon, and YouTube.
When I uploaded an Aubrey Beardsley image to demonstrate the photo option to my mom, I tried closing it without including any text for the post. A dialogue box asked if I’d like to title it, “Oh, this was so interesting,” “Joanne’s postulations,” or, the title I decided to use, “A post about Beardsley.” While some might grumble these features — and the user’s inability to play with HTML — make for a dumbed down program, remember that once “technology” was considered only as a tool to make our lives easier. Given the context of this application, I really found no need to trick-up my Vox anyway.
Still, no one really wants to go through the whole pick-a-user-name-pick-a-password process unless there’s a real potential payoff, either a valuable website one expects to use again and again or a free gift that isn’t a size XL promotional t-shirt. So can Vox deliver?
Well, that depends.
About a week after signing up, I ignored Vox and expected never to sign on again. I’ve got a blog and I’m on MySpace, and waste enough time on both. But then something funny happened: I watched the movie The Science of Sleep and really wanted to write something that was both too private for my weblog and too silly for my Moleskine. Using Vox, not only did I have the perfect home for this thought, I could also set it next to a YouTube clip.
I clicked “friends only,” then “post,” and then I was done.
Almost seven years ago, I signed up for the Internet oddity Pitas.com, and recorded my year studying abroad in Europe in glittery glib posts that embarrass me now, but were my training wheels to learning to write. Vox captures that same sense of pseudo-secrecy; the healthy need to get out some glib for the friends that don’t judge me, a place I can both quote Max Frisch and talk about boys without it conflating with my professional life.
As much as I would like to email my far-away friends on a weekly or even monthly basis, it is hard to keep up correspondence. And the static voyeuristic nature of social software programs like Friendster and Myspace sometimes seems to further distance them — as a change in photos or favorite books is not the same as expressing oneself in words.
But I’m busy and they’re busy. There’s no telling whether we will find the time to make Vox worth our while. Vox can give us a tool to keep in touch but it won’t change our hectic lives.
Joanne McNeil is Brainwash’s Science and Tech Editor. Her Vox page is http://jomc.vox.com and her website is joannemcneil.com
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire