Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Finding Your Vox

Six Apart, the San Francisco company who has brought us Movable Type, TypePad, and LiveJournal, has released a preview of their new blogging tool - Vox.

Vox is a new personal blogging service. It's all about ease of use, privacy control, playing well with other web services, and staying connected to the people you care about.

I received an invitation and have had a mixed experience so far (see my experiment). In many ways, the UI looks instinctively simpler than TypePad (heavily influenced by Flickr), but the more I use it, I am finding it distracting. They want to make it very easy to add photos, audio, videos, and tags, so you are constantly staring at a lot of options. In fact, if your session is active, your view of your own blog and other Vox blogs is very different from a normal reader - your admin options (Explore, Compose, Organize, Design, and Connect) are always present, along with the ability to edit or delete one of your existing posts, add tags, or edit your profile.

You can easily grab photos from Flickr, Photobucket, or iStockPhoto and videos from YouTube. They also have some nice templates to choose from. The sites include Google Ads and a lot of Vox promotion, so I presume there will be a free version available, along with an advertising-free option for a monthly fee. The tool is targeted at personal bloggers, with TypePad now emphasizing its professional and small business capabilities.

The most interesting part of Vox is the concept of a neighborhood. You can add other Vox users to your neighborhood and stay current with their posts within the tool itself (no separate newsreader required). You can also flag people as friends or family and then designate who is able to view what you post (no matter what the media type). This would potentially allow you to have one blog to share both personal and public things. I have to imagine that this is handled through the site itself and not the RSS feed, which is a somewhat inconvenient. And these friends and family also have to be Vox users, greatly limiting the possibilities.

Vox is an impressive undertaking, inspired by some very real needs. I don't think it's quite there yet, though. For something that is designed for new users and those unfamiliar with blogging, there are too many options and distractions. I would never use the phrase "dead simple" to describe Vox - it strikes me as unfocused. However, in an age when millions of people are enjoying the kitchen sink experience of MySpace, I may be outside of the typical demographic.

Vox is still in preview, though, with many more changes coming. I was given two invitations to share with others. The first went to Ben, who loves to play with web tools even more than me. Check out his Vox experiment, which is much more impressive than mine, along with his awesome post on Lord of the Rings. He just read the entire trilogy in a month (I was never even able to finish the first book) and we watched all three movies as he finished each book. Ben also points out that Vox is the name of Jimmy Neutron's computer, which I'm sure is what inspired the name at Six Apart :)

If you love exploring new software, let me know and the second invite is yours!

p.s. I see an incredibly clever U2 fan has reserved bono.vox.com. Brilliant!