Oh Ning It! The Cost of Free

April 27th, 2010 |

Ning, a community builder, is now phasing out their free version, leaving all the non-premium networks without a home. While relocating to another place may not be an issue for most people (small, non-serious niche sites), the ones who planned on making a business out of their site are pretty much left with two choices; build elsewhere or upgrade.

If you find yourself leaning towards the “build elsewhere” option, you might want to take this lesson into consideration: Even free has a price. While it’s a common sense lesson, I constantly run into people who forgo my advice to pay for something they can actually call their own, instead choosing to go the DIY route in search of free.

Free doesn't always equal freedom

I remember a client who wanted to purchase my domain name and services… only to reverse their decision and use a Ning site instead. After trying for a year, their attempt at branding the site not only failed (the brand name competed against my former brand), but they underestimated the complexity of the net in general. They thought upgrading to premium features would help. They did not understand what they were getting into, causing confusion to both the owners and the members. Oh, and they lost a lot of money in the process.

Are free web apps and sites are the devil? This isn’t always the case. I, myself, use free apps on a daily basis because I understand “the cost of free.” The cost I’m referring to can be expressed in a simple equation:

(Ease of use + Ability to grow) – Frustration with limits = The Cost of Free Read the rest of this entry »

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nukirk

Is Chatroulette a Gamble? You Bet Your Sweet Ass!

March 8th, 2010 |

If you haven’t already read the previous piece by Sunil on the Chatroulette site, let me give you a short breakdown. Chatroulette is a video chat-based “networking” site, consisting of two windows for video. The top window will be a random stranger from anywhere in the world, and the bottom window is you. To the right there is a text window. You can turn your video off, but you won’t be getting any action on this site without it. Sunil and I had different ideas about whether this site gets a thumbs-up…which has a whole different meaning if you spend enough time on Chatroulette.

My review is slightly tainted after finding myself more often than not coming “face to dick” rather than “face to face” with these strangers. Sunil found the site “unorganized”, but I think the better term might be primitive. You can “Next” people, “Report” people, or “Stop” – that’s about it.  To me, this is actually VERY organized. I had to give my dad a tutorial on Facebook, which might be user-friendly to the networking generation, but Chatroulette is an attractive site for people that find all the profiling and posting and gifting and fanning and following…overwhelming. And for people who don’t want a profile for one reason or another, there is another turn-on – no membership required! No email and no password, no way to trace or block anyone who disobeys the site’s BS clause forbidding obscene or pornographic material.

I couldn’t get the site to see my built-in camera. While I was problem solving, I figured I could get some help from this great network of people. But with strangers not being able to see me, I got skipped before I could even type “WAIT, HELP” or “Having technical difficulties.” Jeff Foxworthy’s doppelganger skipped me. He appeared to be networking from a suburban, country home den, the kind where your quiet and “keeps-to-himself” neighbor researches the anatomy of young children in a hidden cellar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rocky Mills

Chatroulette for Social Networking? The Verdict

March 1st, 2010 |

When we think of social networking tools, the obvious choices that come to mind are Facebook, Twitter, and (perhaps) MySpace. They  follow a somewhat similar format; you can add your own media (music, pictures, links, etc.), there’s a place for you to give everyone the 411 on what you’re up to or who you are, but more importantly, you can socially network. Your friends or people you awkwardly added to your friends list can interact with you and vice versa. You can even follow people or have them follow you, despite how unbelievably creepy that sounds. So when I first heard Chatroulette being mentioned in this arena, I really began to wonder…is this really a social networking tool?

Here are some things you should know about Chatroulette.  First, unlike Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, there is an age restriction to Chatroulette -  you must be 16 and over to enter. Secondly, anything goes for the most part. Despite the weak warning from the site, anything you do is really all good unless someone reports it. You can see an Al Gore masked man, followed by boobs, followed by some American troops stationed overseas who are just as curious about Chatroulette as you are. Thirdly, this was invented by a 17-year old boy in Moscow, yet the servers for the company are in Germany. Why Germany? Because it’s halfway between the United States and Russia (there’s something oddly politically poetic in that precise planning).

But, I digress. As much as I wanted to shun Chatroulette from the realm of social networking and put it in the category of short term novelty/failed speed dating site, I have to admit, there is some social networking going on there. I don’t just get a link to a rockers music – she can play it for me live. I don’t need to look for the latest pictures; there’s a live feed of your face. And I don’t need to add a comment on a wall and wait for a response. I can tell that strange Asian guy in a bra “Dude, that bra is working for you.” In a way, I am social networking.

It is nowhere near as organized as one of the other major social networking sites, but it works, and maybe it’s better. Socially interacting with total strangers seems to be a bold move, but it’s strangely making the world a smaller place which seems to be the overall goal for social networking sites. In the end, Chatroulette might not be the prettiest person at the party, but it’s the one you’ll have the most fun with.

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Sunil Ramsamooj