When Facebook announced that it would push the new Timeline format on all its users eventually, some of my friends began to wonder if they will continue using it.
Add to that the constant annoyances of Facebook games posting on my wall asking me to water some virtual crops and the Kip Drordys and all the porn spammers of the world continually asking me to approve their friend requests, and I began to wonder if I might also jump ship.
The question becomes: Where to go next? Facebook is, after all, the leading web site of its type and while it does tend to inundate one with ads galore, it remains a free site to this day.
The alternatives for that kind of social networking have been less than exciting to me until recently. Enter: Subjot, stage right. If Facebook and Twitter got together and had a series of non-disastrous dates, and a subsequent union of their respective codes, something like Subjot might be the resulting offspring.
Created by Chris and Becky Carella, and currently in Beta stage, Subjot is open for public use and costs nothing. Subjot’s name is derived from the word Subject combined with the phrase “jot a note down”. It offers a place to start and engage in conversations with your friends or even complete strangers without all the extra things bugging you all the time.
So, with Facebook and Twitter already offering similar fare, what makes Subjot any different? Why use Subjot when you could just post your thoughts on Facebook and have those same thoughts show up in the ‘news’ section of your friends’ Facebook pages, or have it appear on your @MyName page on Twitter? Chris Carella says “it’s all about the subjects” and, indeed, Subjot’s core experience is about the conversational subjects posted by its users. Described by the creators, “Subjot is a place for sharing, following and discussing your many interests. Every post has a subject. You only see posts from people you are following in the subjects you follow. You can follow all of your friends’ music posts or just one friend’s music posts. You have the power to fine tune your feed. Whether people are talking about friends and family or sports and hobbies, you’ll only see the things you care about while having the freedom to share everything that interests you!”
Subjot allows you to post a thought, or conversation topic/question, and then have other people respond in a ‘thread’ type conversation. The major difference with Subjot is that it only shows you the subjects you want to participate in, from people you have chosen to follow. Facebook has implemented a somewhat similar feature, with the ‘subscribe’ option, but it still lacks the clean, hard-edged impact of Subjot’s basic interface. For example: let’s say you post a conversational topic on Facebook that says “I like chocolate pudding.” The next thing that happens is that all your friends will see that thought posted on their news page. Now, the folks that have ‘subscribed’ to your page will see it appear near the top of the list, and those that have not used the subscribe button yet may also see it as long as they have not blocked your posts. They will also see all the posts from all their other friends, and if you’re lucky you might get a few responses from others that enjoy or hate chocolate pudding. For people who have tons of friends, it is a hit or miss situation that they may or may not stumble onto your posting and decide to converse about it. This is rather like being in a crowded nightclub full of people all talking at once, and shouting at the top of your lungs, trying to get your pudding opinions heard above the din.
Subjot, on the other hand, takes you into a quiet little coffee shop to talk about your pudding preference, metaphorically speaking. It does this by showing you only the conversations that you have elected to see. It won’t show you the subjects that you have no interest in, even if they are from your friends, unless you go looking for them. That is to say, once you start a conversation, others must choose to ‘follow’ that conversation in order to get updates on it. If they don’t follow it, then they don’t see it. This is a great feature for anyone who has ever said to themselves, “Yeah, I like Ted but I really don’t care that he loves making balloon animals and dressing them up in Victorian era clothing for photo shoots,” or something similar.
Subjot is organized based on subjects, as mentioned already. What this means is that when you post a topic, you get to pick a subject to list it in. Sort of like a yellow pages of conversations, as opposed to Twitter or Facebook, where you are getting information from whoever is in your friends list and/or subscribed list. This means that if Ted posts a conversation about balloon animals, you won’t be bugged by that particular topic unless you want to take part in it. In order to see a particular conversation, you will have to search for it or start the conversation yourself. You can search for conversations based on subject or based on the authors of the subject, but either way the reigns are in your hands. The pro-active nature of this system gives you the security and sanity of knowing that you’re not going to be flooded with conversations about chocolate pudding unless you want to be.
Another nice side-effect of the Subjot system is that you can take part in any conversation you deem interesting enough to type on. Have you ever seen a conversation between a two people on Facebook, and wanted to take part, only to discover that you can’t unless you add another person to your friends list? Facebook will often show you the comments that one of your friends makes on the page of another friend that you may not have on your list. This means you can’t add your own voice to the comments until and unless you send that other person a friend request, wait for them to hopefully accept it, and then hunt down that particular posting and offer your thoughts on it. This is a long way to go ‘round the bend just to post your thoughts on pudding, a funny picture or even on a serious conversation about the possible tax benefits of declaring yourself to be a sovereign state, separate from the Union. By the time that person has actually responded to your friend request, you may have forgotten what you wanted to say, may have totally lost interest in the conversation, and may or may not want to see all the postings from this new friend, but you’ll get them anyway unless you choose to block that person’s posts. All of this can be avoided with Subjot, since it is based on subjects, not people. That’s not to say that Subjot doesn’t take people into account. It offers the option to log in the first time using your Facebook or Twitter information so that it can scan for your friends and see if any of them are already using Subjot. This is a nice nod to the supremacy that those two sites share in the social networking world, and says to me that Subjot is not trying to replace them but rather to enhance the user’s experience with the internet overall to provide discourse on the things that matter most to us.
Now, from your friends’ point of view, Subjot offers them the ability to follow your postings specifically or to only follow postings on specific subjects. What if, however, you log onto Subjot for the first time and find that none of your friends are using it yet? Well, that is taken care of by the handy search feature of Subjot, which offers suggestions of subjects for you, like “Tech” or “Music” or “Life”. You can search through those basic topics, or even type one into the search bar and find conversations posted by total strangers and take part in them. Again, you will only see the conversations that you have chosen to see, at that point. The controls for the conversational ship are in your hands and if you hit an iceberg it’s because you chose to do so. This is a nice feeling for me, especially since I have sometimes felt overwhelmed by the over-zealous nature of other websites that offer somewhat similar tools. Twitter, for example, offers me the option to follow a particular person and see their postings, but I have rarely (if ever) seen a really in-depth conversation about anything that really matters to me on there. Sure, I like to know what my favorite celebrities are up to, for example, but that doesn’t satisfy my desire to take part in a conversation about something that is dear to me. Knowing that a particular movie star is about to fly to New Zealand to begin working on their latest film is nice, but it’s not as much fun to me as being able to voice my opinions and hear other opinions about what the best music to listen to is for a particular activity. Bob Vila, for example, has a posting in Subjot asking what your favorite music is when doing home repair or modification. While I may or may not be a big fan of Bob in particular, I do enjoy music a lot and I also enjoy home improvement or DIY projects. This is just one example of a conversation I can take part in on Subjot that wouldn’t likely be something I would even see on Facebook or Twitter, much less actually do anything about. Given that I have a lot of opinions on music in general, I can see myself posting a lot of conversations in that general topic, and in many sub-topics of music as well.
In performance, Subjot is responsive and the interface is slick. It loaded very quickly on my old jalaptopy and didn’t have any problems with Chrome. It doesn’t overwhelm you with extra options or even slap you in the face with ads every two seconds like some other sites do. It offers you the meat of the Subjot experience (the conversations) right from the start and makes it easy to find your way around. The site’s design is spartan without being too minimalist, and has a clean look that doesn’t offend the ocular organs. Within moments of signing up, I had already determined that none of my Facebook friends are using Subjot yet, and had posted my first topic and gotten some interesting responses. I can see myself using this site a lot in the coming months, as the weather turns colder and I spend more time indoors and consequently in front of the computer. I even found that the page loads nicely and allows me to access my account without problems from my Android’s browser. I was unable to find a dedicated App for it in the Market, but given time I am sure they will develop one. The home page for Subjot shows the page being used on what appears to be a smartphone, so I am sure the idea is in the works. Currently, Subjot does offer integration with Facebook, Twitter and even Bnter, and also offers a handy bookmark feature so you can share your ‘jots’ from anywhere.
In my eyes, Subjot seems like the logical and inevitable evolution of the older BBS and the more recent Forum conversational systems and I am pretty excited about its Beta release. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Subjot will replace Facebook and/or Twitter in your daily social networking; it’s not meant for that. For me, however, it will probably be replacing Facebook for having conversations about things I actually care about. I will still be posting the obligatory “LOL” when my best friend uploads a funny picture of her dog dressed up like a hotdog for Halloween, but for topics that I actually want to hold a conversation about, Subjot is likely to be the place that I post. So, for the moment, it doesn’t look like I will be jumping ship from Facebook, but I do have another site to satisfy my conversational needs. Until next time, my friends!
[Thanks go to reader Panzer for the tip]
Tested on: Windows 32-bit Home Premium using Chrome (5.0+)
start a conversation at: Subjot.