Looking at Six Apart's new Vox service
To get something off my chest straight away, I'm with Dave on the spelling issue - it really bugs me that the social network feature of the service is spelt incorrectly for anyone outside of the U.S.A.
I know spelling isn't my greatest skill, but it just screams out at me "I'm missing a U from Neighbourhood" in the toolbar on my Vox page. Getting the little details of localisation right is often key to making users feel at home, and that spelling really makes me feel like I'm using a 'foreign' service. Mind you, I've set my profile to say I live in Greece, so probably my toolbar ought to say Γειτονιά anyway.
Connecting my Vox blog to neighbors [sic] was very easy, from a drop-down menu that appeared with the kind of web2.0 dazzle you'd expect when clicking on the 'edit' button in the toolbar when I visited their page. It did take me a little while though to realise that 'edit' actually meant 'edit' my relationship with the person, and so I wondered if a dynamic 'add' or 'remove' depending on your existing relationship with the member might be more appropriate and easier to understand.
The blogging features of Vox are pretty standard fare, just with a rather nice interface. There were some little pockets of interaction over the site that I didn't understand at first. For example when submitting a comment on a Vox blog, you are offered a little check-box that says "This is good". I didn't understand whether it meant I was signifying that my particular comment was great (I mean, aren't they all?) or whether I thought the original post was special. I also didn't understand what would happen once I checked it - would my comment be flagged up "left by a big-head" on the target blog, or would it appear somewhere else as a selection of my choice comments. I really wanted some contextual help on that.
One of the other things that has puzzled me is who Six Apart are actually aiming the service at. TypePad was clearly intended as Movable Type for people who didn't want to deal with the hassle of UNIX file permissions, so what is Vox? TypePad for people who wouldn't be willing to pay for it? Blogging for people who don't find TypePad social networky enough? MySpace for grown-ups?
I'm not sure I agree with Six Apart's premise that "Many people still don't blog because they don't want to post private stories and photos and have them viewed by outsiders". That sounds like the kind of thing people say in focus groups when you ask them "Are privacy concerns one of the reasons you don't have a blog?". I suspect that the real deterrent is the time/effort required to keep it all going.
I also think that the way they are trying to initially populate the service pre-public launch by inviting waves of users from TypePad over is one that could potentially backfire. I can't see many TypePad users wanting to keep two Six Apart powered blogs on the go, and at the minute Vox is full of geeky early adopter types making "Hello, World!" posts, who will then presumably vanish leaving loads of ghost accounts.
What does seem to make the service a little different though is the feature allowing you to collect together pictures, video and audio, and arrange them into collections - and the way Vox 'plays' with third party services. Tomorrow I'm going to have a look at those features to illustrate what I feel works well, and what doesn't.