Initial thoughts on Project 500
Just got a revelation – could this be our Government’s way of keeping tabs on our social media usage? Think about it, one web interface for all your social media needs. 1SocialMedia. *gasp* tee hee
I thought I’d just record some of my thoughts on the new Project 500, considering all the Tweets that I had sent out today.
In case you’re not in the know, Project 500 was a “top secret” project – at the moment marketed by Vocanic Pte Ltd in Singapore – that claimed to be looking for the Top 500 Social Media Users in Malaysia.
I first heard about it a few weeks ago via Twitter. Some people were talking about it, while others whined at the many questions they had to answer to register. @johnlim, my secondary school classmate, said that he stopped the moment they asked for his MyKad number. You see, no one knew what the project was all about and some people felt uncomfortable devulging their details.
I tried to register myself, but gave up after 2-3 pages of questions. However, and consider this a disclaimer, I was contacted by the organisation (or someone in charge of the project, at least) and given a speedy registration. I agreed, seeing as there was a human behind the project, and well, there was MUCH less things to fill up.
Later, at the Yes 2009 Summit, I actually bumped into a couple of people working on the project (including the person who had dropped me the email). We chatted a bit about it – but they won’t tell me any more – and we were even looking into what role I could play during the BETA briefing, hosted by Hannah Tan, and held at Cineleisure Damansara today. However, due to prior commitments, I was unable to commit to it.
This evening, as I went online, I saw a stream of Tweets regarding the project going by the hashtag #project500. I had totally forgot it was on today!
I thought I had missed the opportunity to test it out (I really wanted to, since I’m such a social media fanboy) until I received an email after the event saying that I was one of the 500 people invited to be “exclusive BETA testers”. Guess my social media elite status is sealed then!
Jokes aside, I went in immediately to check it out. Please do not take any of my comments negatively – after all, they are but one person’s opinion. I know many of them are negative, but they are constructive and it is nothing personal.
These are my observations:
2. The site only operates from Web (as @davidlian suggested, an App would make it more efficient). The problem with this is that it has limited ability for many of the social media tools it supports.
3. Take Flickr for example (or YouTube). These do not show on the interface, instead you can only upload images or videos (linked to those networks) and have to go to the respective sites to view it. So, once I upload a picture, it doesn’t show anywhere but on the Flickr site. What’s more, the only metadata attached to my image is Tags, so it would really make more sense for me to upload it straight from Flickr anyway (since Flickr has a desktop uploader tool).
4. Twitter: My list of followers and following are wrong. 99 and 93 respectively. Off by over 1,000. Maybe they didn’t set it up for more than two digits?
5. When I set up Gmail, it didn’t load initially. Later, when it finally did (after refreshing the page), it was showing me my lastest 25 mails. They were dated 21 Nov, 2007.
6. I had a lot of trouble trying to type anything into the status boxes to update. Each time one of the applications was updating or loading new data, the whole interface would pause or lag.
7. When I finally did get to type, I could only edit the text using the Backspace button on my keyboard. Moving and clicking my mouse to move the cursor didn’t work. And typing is slow. Felt like I was using Google Wave. P
8. Still on typing, the status box doesn’t tell you how many words you are typing so hard to guess when I’ve reached 140 characters. Of course, they couldn’t put a limit cos status updates on other social media tools like Facebook and Myspace.
9. When I sent my status update through, it didn’t – er – appear. Until now (6 hours later). Both on Twitter and MySpace.
10. Messaging services like Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger doesn’t appear on the interface. Instead, it appears as a link at the top of the page. So you keep having to click on it if you didn’t want a floating window blocking you.
11. It allows you to update your profile, including uploading a picture. I just wonder if this is part of a future plan to allow people to connect their respective Project 500 accounts, Otherwise, the feature would be redundant.
12. When I tried to add my Facebook account, a window popped up asking me to give permission to them to access my Facebook data (this is standard). I clicked next but kept getting an error saying I do not have permission to do that. Then when I logged out and logged back in to Project 500, a Facebook feature appeared with my details. How did this happen if they didn’t have my permission in the first place? Hope this is not a security issue.
These, I guess are some of the problems I’ve faced while testing the new aggregator/integrator (not sure what to refer it as). I supposed it’s also not going to be called Project 500 forever. I read a blog post which stated that BETA testing is 6 months slated for mid-January 2010 (apologies for the error but I wasn’t at the event and @demonick corrected me – he was there. I asked David to get me a press release, but they didn’t have one for the briefing today), and it will only be properly launched next year.
That said, I do wonder if we actually need a system like this at the moment. There are already others that exist. The problem also is that although it allowed us to connect with the other sites with one login, the features for each are limited for the moment. I can’t go into FB and check my pics, neither can I download any of my current images on Flickr, for example.
Also, because it has been such a Malaysian-centric project, I do wish the people behind it had a bit more of a local touch to it. I’m not sure how, and I don’t just mean the design, but custom-make it for the needs of Malaysians I guess. Just a thought.
I did share my general conclusion on Twitter though, that isn’t very flattering. I said:
More thought should have been put into this, I think. My comments above are solely on the interface. I think there are other issues hovering over the project, including issues of ethics (they claim to be searching for the Top 500 social mediaphiles, yet there is no acknowledgement of this “status” and instead people have been roped in as BETA testers which was never indicated earlier – @thechannelc).
I also wonder why there is no branding, which makes it relaly dubious. I actually know the name of a big organisation who is part of the project (not sure what role) but I will keep that to myself for now.
Some people have called it a scheme to collect database and do marketing research disguised as a social media tool. I guess the mystery behind the whole thing (even now, in BETA, we don’t really know much about it and it’s hard to believe that what it is now is all there is to it). This cause caused a sense of lack of trust, although I personally think the mystery is more a marketing gimmick than anything.
That said, I stand by my opinion that the project isn’t really ready for BETA testing even. Has anyone else tried it? What are your thoughts?
12.08am Malaysian time (+8 GMT)