As much as I love Portland, there are still any number of things — or lack thereof — that can cause a ton of frustration. Like the lack of infrastructure for getting connected to the startup community. Time and time again, I hear from folks how difficult it is to get connected. Because while Portland tends to be a very one-on-one meeting sort of town, it’s not obvious where to start.
Zloop: Simple social networking for almost anyone
I know. I know. You read the headline and let out an exasperated sigh. Another one? Seriously? But stick with me for a minute or two. Because I honestly think Portland-based Zloop has got something interesting happening.
Zloop helps anyone—and I literally mean anyone—create small social networks. They call them “loops.” And they can be about something extremely limited, like my family, or something larger, like Portland startups. These loops can be created on the fly. And you can belong to as many or as few loops as you like. You can manage multiple profiles, like a personal one, a business one, full details, limited details…
Again, I realize this sounds pretty standard.
But Zloop makes small social network creation so easy that even the ungeekiest person you know could use it. I’m not talking about your coworkers. I’m talking about your parents, your grandparents, your kids. Anyone. It’s like the—and I mean this in only the most positive way possible—the AOL of social network creation.
In fact—like AOL—it, quite simply, may be too easy and seemingly constricted for you to have any interest in it. And that, my friend, is the sheer genius of it.
This isn’t for you and me. You and I can go geek out on Ning or some other existing social network. We can jump on Drupal or slap some Django components together and bang one out. We don’t need simple tools like this.
And that is exactly the point. This is for the other 99.9% of the population. And that’s what I think makes it interesting.
So simple, I’m confused
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brett Meyers, the community evangelist for Zloop, to talk about their solution and where they were hoping to go with it.
“So how do I find new friends via the interface?” I asked.
“You don’t,” Brett replied.
“So, if I want to join a bunch of different groups…”
“You don’t really do that here.”
“Can I get an RSS feed off of this?”
So there I am, sitting there with a confused look on my face. I mean, in terms of Web 2.0 social networking functionality, Zloop wasn’t pushing the envelope. They weren’t even bringing the common, roll-your-own feature set. What they were bringing to the table was, to my Web 2.0 addled brain, boring.
“But… hmm. What about… um,” I said, continuing to struggle.
And that’s when it hit me: some people—arguably the majority of the human race—form “social networks” in an entirely different way than the infinitesimal segment of us Web 2.0-focused geeks do. In real life, it seems, these social networks are actually formed in person.
No, I’m serious.
It seems that there are any number of groups—schools, churches, businesses—where people actually meet and get to know each other in person before they ever think about interacting with one another online.
Weird. But to each his or her own.
And that market—that gigantically broad market—is the group whom Zloop hopes to serve. Or as Brett put it, “We want to provide something that helps strengthen the communities that are already happening in real life.”
Zloop, with their inherent simplicity, their gentle and thoughtful AJAX transitions, and their “just enough” functionality, have some thing very interesting to offer. And that is Zloop’s genius.
Just like a Basecamp or a Twitter, Zloop—at first blush—is both incredibly difficult to explain and seemingly surreptitiously lacking some sort of whiz-bang that would make it of any use whatsoever.
And that’s why I think they’ve got something here. Something simple. Something pared down. Something straightforward. Something for a specific use that applies to a very, very large segment of the population.
Is it cutting edge? Absolutely not. Is it entirely unique? Not by a long shot. Does it have a chance? If they play their cards right, I think it does. A very good one.
If you’re interested in trying Zloop, just let me know by—ironically enough—dropping me an email or sending me a message on Twitter. I’d be more than happy to give you access to Zloop and hear your take on it.
Portland on Fire: Slow social networking
Some people get married and then push everyone else to get married. Some people do the same thing with having kids. Me? I submitted my Portland on Fire profile, and now I expect everyone else in town to do it, too.
What’s Portland on Fire? I’m glad you asked.
Portland On Fire is a daily discovery of PDX people. The site introduces you to a person in the Portland, Oregon (PDX), area every day. Reach out and connect. The site was created by Raven Zachary and launched on January 1st, 2008. Early profiles [focused] on individuals in the tech and creative arts communities in Portland, but there is no reason why it must stay focused in these areas. The talent pool in Portland is large and diverse, and this site hopes to make this fact evident.
Portland on Fire has been described as “slow social networking.” A profile a day. That’s not really too much to ask, is it?
And I have to admit, it’s really working for me. Here are some of the interesting folks that I’ve met (all virtually and some in person), thanks to Portland on Fire:
- Jessica Neuman Beck
Designer, writer, crafter, geek
- Paul Bingman
Web programmer, film junkie, railroad movie consultant
- Ben Bradley
Soon to be the former Captain Bradley
- Larissa Brown
Mommy, knitter, knit designer, author, artist, runner, friend
- Bill Burcham
Technologist, craftsman, inventor
- Joel Burslem
Founder of the Future of Real Estate Marketing blog
- Jennifer Cloer
Information junkie, wife, friend, sister, daughter, aunt and colleague
- Mara Collins
Mother, Wife, Philosopher, Blogger
- Serena Davidson
Free-Range People Photographer, Geek Magnet, Entreprenuer, Chocolate Fiend
- Selena Deckelmann
Sysadmin, Event Organizer, Chicken Keeper
- Melissa Delzio
Designer, Artist – can sing greek alphabet, has squeaky hicupps
- Kurt Deutscher
Chief Technology Evangelist, Portland Native, Jazz Drummer
- Audrey Eschright
- Daniel Etra
Nourishing complexity + digging deep for real solutions
- Sioux Fleming
Technologist, computer threat security evangelist, avid camper, cat person
- Dawn Foster
Community Manager, Event Organizer, Blogger, Podcaster, Vegan, and Technology Enthusiast
- Adrienne Fritze
Mom, artist, social entrepreneur, risk taker, passion monger, creative freak
- Lyza Danger Gardner
Introspective, Inquisitive and Surly: Portland Native Eschews the Humdrum
- Sarah Gilbert
Finance blog editor, writer, photographer, knitter, mama
- Mark Gross
Linux kernel engineer, open source tinkerer, robot builder, intellectual wanderer
- Hideshi Hamaguchi
Concept creator, strategist + designer who cannot draw pictures
- China Z. Hamilton
Artist & world traveler turned advertising student
- Sam Keen
Coder, Event Organizer, Open Source Enthusiast, Geek
- Justin Kistner
Online marketing strategist, web designer, and Rock Band drummer
- Sam Lawrence
Chief Marketing Officer, Jive Software
- Kent Lewis
Search engine marketing guru, recovering entrepreneur and family guy
- Steve Libbey
Novelist, guitarist, personist
- Melissa Lion
Professional Writer: Fiction, Food and Sex
- Jadene Mayla
Plant-lover, artist, zombie movie fan, ecstatic dancer, and writer
- Kathleen Mazzocco
Independent public relations consultant
- Aaron Meyers
Level 1 Dad LFG PST
- Todd Mintz
Eclectic Search Engine Marketing / Internet Marketing Specialist
- Wende Morgaine
Educator. Connector. Innovator.
- Steve Morris
Entrepreneur, startup coach, hobbyist technologist, former DJ
- Matt Navarre
Relational database developer, guitar nut
- Lynne Joy Nesbit
Relentlessly curious, business owner, artist, psychotherapist, mother, feminist, believer
- Chris O’Rourke
Father, husband, geek and general nuisance to computer problems
- Bram Pitoyo
Account planner, creative researcher, brand strategist & most other things
- Paige Saez
Interaction designer who likes ubicomp, conceptual art, painting, digital anthropology
- Craig Schwartz
Entrepreneur, raconteur, agent provocateur, bon-vivant, gadfly, sapient primate
- Eva Schweber
Cat herder, baker, recipe whisperer and dairy goat herder (retired)
- Urban Scout
Post-apocalyptic anti hero… With a blog!
- Greg Sorber
A technical writer who is decidedly non-technical
- Gary Walter
Quintessential 5th gen Portlander on a road not taken
- Amy Sample Ward
Lover, blogger, activist, biker, dreamer, worrier, lover
- Raven Zachary
Technologist, open source industry analyst, event organizer
- Nick Zolotko
Star Wars nerd with a hint of normality
But, honestly, for as interesting as all of these folks are? I’d still like to meet you. So why don’t you head over and fill out a profile? I’m looking forward to reading about you, soon.
Viva la Platial
Heading to Mexico in the next few weeks? If not, need an excuse?
The Platial team has left Portland, en masse, with plans to do some thinking, building, and learning in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, you’ve been invited to drop by.
We scored a fantastic house in San Miguel from friends from which to start this experiment. It’s hard to tell if your indoors or outdoors in every room of the house. Fountains, tilework and patios abound. The experiment goes something like this; If we are building a global resource doesn’t it make sense to be untethered and actively collaborate with developers, artists, thinkers and users around the world? The challenge is to do this cheaply, effectively and with visible advancement and development.
Platial enables anyone to find, create and use meaningful maps of Places that matter to them. It was created with the hope of connecting people, neighborhoods, cities and countries through a citizen-driven common context that goes beyond geopolitical boundaries.
Consider San Miguel officially connected.