Pownce was recently launched (I'm here for anyone wanting to 'friend' me, though I don't see myself being too active in the near future, plus good luck getting the site to actually come up) as a so-called 'Twitter killer'...I'll sum the Pownce experience up in a nutshell:
"If you thought Twitter was unreliable, you'll be pining for Twitter's level of uptime after just a couple of hours using Pownce™."
For any readers who don't know what Twitter is, I'll give you a few minutes to Google it. Go ahead, take your time...
My biggest beefs with Pownce at this point are:
- A complete lack of any type of public API (it may exist, but there is zero documentation on it). We might not even need that if...
- No centralized community discussion portal. As far as I can tell, Pownce's only avenue for support requests is by adding a comment to this thread (which as of the time of this post has around 400 posts...try searching that to see if your issue has already been mentioned). There is an email address as well, but I'm pretty sure messages sent to it end up in the same places as socks in a dryer. I've submitted several issues in the past few days and have heard nada back. It's very frustrating when it seems like no one is listening (or even wants to feign listening), especially in a community which is bound to have a bit of web development talent floating around in it.
- No SMS support. Are you kidding me? That's a deal breaker for most folks right there.
Of course all the pro-Powncers might come here and say "well, it is still in beta." I'm sorry, but that excuse no longer cuts it on the web, especially when you're in a particular space of sites where competition is high, and users will leave and never look back after just a couple of disappointing experiences. If you're launching it to the general public, it better scale and have almost no downtime at the very least. Other stuff can be forgiven, but in the case of Pownce (as I stated above) who knows if anyone is even listening or gives a damn what their users think. For me, that's the ultimate slap in the face...go and build what could be a really nice service, and then take a let's-launch-it-and-hope-for-the-best type attitude. Their blog has 2 entries, and I've yet to see any mention of bugs that are either A) fixed or B) in the process of being fixed anywhere else on the Pownce site. Is anyone driving this thing???
The most unfortunate part of all this is that I wouldn't even get this wrapped up in a post like this if I didn't actually like the site itself. When Pownce is up, it blows Twitter away in terms of features, and overall experience. Pownce supports more than just sending out plain text content...you can:
- Upload media files, which will be displayed inline and can be viewed/played/etc via an inline viewer/player. Nice touch.
- Group messages to be sent to specific 'sets' of friends, which you can create. Or send them out to the entire Pownce community. Or just reply to a specific message. Or forward a message on to a different group of folks (with a nifty 'only send to friends who haven't seen this message yet' option). With Twitter it's either for the whole world to see, or for just one person.
- Other little timesaving things which I'll leave as an exercise to the reader to discover.
The bigger question is pretty obvious at this point though: Why do all of the sites in this space seem doomed to repeat each other's mistakes? I mean seriously, how hard can it really be to get apps like these to scale well, and also provide a nice end user experience? Is it the LAMP approach (I doubt it, but they do have that in common)? Is it lack of money to throw some hardware at the problem? Is it teams that aren't experienced in delivering highly available/scalable web applications (my money is on this one)? It's a big mystery to me at this point, because it really does seem like a drop dead simple concept, something that could be coded up in a weekend, stress tested for a few days, and deployed on a small web farm the following weekend.
I do wish Pownce all the best, but I am pleading with them to open up some better lines of communication. We're not all going to stand around waiting for the site to just magically be fixed for very long...we'll either go back to our preferred site, or wait a couple of weeks until another team releases their own Twitter killer.