Giving Plazes a chance

After Jyri told me about the exciting possibilties for location aware social software, I once again gave Plazes a chance. The showstopper last time I tried it was their ugly and buggy OS X “launcher”, which you need to use in order for Plazes to discover where you are. Since then, they’ve opened up their API, and Martin Pittenauer from Coding Monkeys has made a much nicer launcher that sits in the menubar just like it should.


Plazes

I figured it would be cool to have a badge on my blog, announcing where I’m currently at. However, I quickly had to give up on getting that to work after encountering too many stumbling blocks too quickly. I’ll share them here; hopefully the Plazes guys are listening.

  • The new launcher plugin did indeed turn out to be buggy; its auto-login feature didn’t work, and it crashed several times when my Powerbook wake up from sleep. That makes it practially useless for now.
  • It could not identify the VPN network that I have to use at my school. I read that the Windows version had VPN-support though…
  • There is no way to customize the badge, and the current badge code sucks. I ended up parsing the current code, extracted the location link with a regex, and wrapped it in my own container.
  • The website doesn’t keep me logged in (by using a cookie).
  • I won’t talk more about the actual website here as it contains so many profound design mistakes that it would take up too much space to list them all…

What I’m realising is that if a site is going to be in beta, it’s still very important that does it’s core business right from the start — in this case providing people with a transparent way to announce where they are — otherwise users will leave after the first hype. Now Plazes is left with 30-40 concurrent users and 10-20 new plazes per day. There are 50 plazes in Stockholm, and 11 users.

It will take a lot more than fixing the bugs listed above to push Plazes out of its current state.