NY Times article on Pownce made me laugh

Post ImageAfter writing my review of Pownce a few weeks ago, I figured I’d never write about the site again. However, after reading an idiotic article published in the New York Times yesterday, I knew I’d have to. Author Jason Pontin had me shaking my head right from the opening paragraph:

JUST now, the hottest startup in Silicon Valley — minutely examined by bloggers, panted after by investors — is Pownce, but only a chosen few can try out its Web site.

Hottest startup in the valley? News to me. Maybe three or four weeks ago. Anyway, let’s continue.

Within days, invitations were selling on eBay for as much as $10. Mr. Rose has declined all requests to be interviewed about the service, including my own. But as a consolation, he sent me a coveted invitation. I enjoyed the rare thrill of cyberhipness — and got to experiment with the site.

Coveted? Are you kidding me? Pownce tells me I have nine invites to give out. I’ve had them for weeks. I am positive I’m not the only one. Sorry Jason, receiving an invite to Pownce is anything but a hip cyber experience.

After some general information and background on Kevin Rose, Jason concludes that media executives should keep an eye on Pownce:

What struck me most was the site’s potential to be powerfully disruptive. Most file-sharing occurs on public sites, which can be monitored by media companies; if the users violate copyrights, the sites or the users themselves can be threatened into compliance or litigated out of existence (as happened with the original Napster). File-sharing on Pownce would be difficult to police.

If I didn’t know any better I’d think Jason was trying to make a joke. Because I sure laughed.

The RIAA has sued children, senior citizens, and everyone in-between. They’ve shut down company after company, and they’ve successfully petitioned ISPs for records detailing the activities of their subscribers. Somehow I don’t think policing Pownce (a system which knows exactly who is sharing what with whom, btw) would be a problem. Evidently Jason hasn’t heard of BitTorrent, which actually does make it difficult to police file-sharing (especially with the recent work done on protocol encryption).

I really wish the NY Times would stop publishing useless fluff pieces like this one.

I should mention that my main criticism of Pownce is set to be remedied soon – they are starting an API. Should be available in September, though the undocumented API that their desktop app uses has already been, um, documented.

Read: NY Times

REVIEW: I think Pownce sucks

Post ImageI mentioned in my last notes post that I’d write about Pownce, so here it goes. Nothing can top the iPhone in the hype department, but Pownce has come close recently. And unfortunately for Kevin Rose and his crew, it doesn’t live up to any of it, unlike the iPhone (note: I don’t have one). Ted was a little mean over at uncov, but for the most part I have to agree with him.

Let me get this out of the way right now – I really like Twitter, but I’ve been just as annoyed as everyone else with their crappy service at times. It has gotten much better lately though. And my first impression upon hearing about Pownce was – what does it do for me that Twitter or Facebook or instant messaging doesn’t already do?

Here are some thoughts on Pownce:

  • It works kind of awkwardly in Opera. Scrolling is not smooth, and clicking on the “home” button at the top takes way too much effort (you have to be right on the text or something).
  • Spam. By default, Pownce thinks it’s cool to send an email to your inbox each time something happens. Problem is, you have to click through to see any details.
  • Crazy invites! Who are all these people that have requested to be my friend? I have accepted them all, but I only know a few of them. This hasn’t happened to me with Twitter.
  • Maybe I am blind, but I don’t think Pownce has ever heard of RSS. I’m surprised their blog has an RSS feed. Seriously, why can’t I subscribe to anything?
  • Lack of mobile support. That’s the second best thing about Twitter as far as I am concerned, so it sucks that Pownce is web/desktop-only.
  • The best thing about Twitter is the API – Pownce doesn’t have one.
  • The file sharing feature of Pownce strikes me as a solution looking for a problem.

Honestly, Pownce is a horrible attempt to aggregate the functionality of a bunch of services into one place. Twitter is better for messaging (heck so is IM). Email/IM is better for sending files to individuals, services like box.net do multiple people. Facebook is better for creating a network of friends, and for creating and sharing events. del.icio.us is better for sharing links.

And here’s the thing: I already use all of those services, so why would I switch to Pownce? It would have to be ten times better than all of those services to make it worthwhile. It’s clearly not.

Sorry folks, but if it weren’t for Kevin Rose, Pownce wouldn’t have received a fraction of the attention it has thus far. I realize I am contributing to that attention, but I see this post as a sane reply to these idiotic ones. Two of the authors of those posts admitted their gut feeling was to hate Pownce. My advice? Learn to trust your gut.

Another thing: who gives a shit what technology Pownce was written in? Only the very geeky will know what django is. Twitter had the same problem – who cares that it’s written using RoR? Make it work dammit. And to anyone who thinks Pownce will get tons of people to install Adobe AIR – get a grip! AIR will be installed very widely, yes, but it won’t be because of Pownce. I’m all for getting my geek on, but shiny new web frameworks distract from having a solid, usable product.

One more thing (heh I sound like Steve Jobs…): why not use Leah Culver (Pownce’s lead developer) to your advantage, Pownce? If her photo appeared in every Pownce review I’ve read, or on every page of the site, I might feel better about the service. Heh, sorry for getting chauvinistic, but come on, I’m trying to find something that would get me to use Pownce. And besides, would you rather look at Leah or Kevin? Thought so. Maybe that’s what we need for Podcast Spot – an attractive, female lead developer. Hmm…

Okay, that’s it. If for some reason you’re dying to try Pownce, I have some invites left, just send me your email.

UPDATE: I just found some feeds! Turns out you have to visit someone’s public profile to see an RSS icon of any kind. Dumb!

Read: Pownce