Addicted to novelty since 2001

Rojo Lacks Mojo

Rojo screenshotYesterday Roland wrote about Rojo (it’s, it’s…nope, it’s in beta, too), a Web-based RSS aggregator plus cheap-and-cheerful social software network. It looks to me like Bloglines met Friendster on a rainy rooftop and smoked some Flickr and del.icio.us tags. Here’s the official company line:

Rojo is a free, web-based service dedicated to helping information consumers efficiently discover, organize, read, and share dynamic content–such as online news and weblogs. Rojo enables users to easily search and subscribe to feeds (sometimes called RSS or Atom feeds) published by online content sites, blogs, discussion boards, and various corporations. Rojo helps users identify what content is most useful for them personally and Rojo’s community-building features enable users to easily share relevant content with friends and colleagues.

I can kind of see what they’re getting at, but I’m not sure it’s the right approach. Has the market demonstrated that it wants all-in-one info-sharing, social networking solutions? I don’t think so. The most useful and least faddish services are the specialized ones:

Their generalist predecessors–Friendster,
Orkut, Tribe–were
nifty to play with, but are, practically speaking, utterly useless. You can
find me on all of the services (well, I canceled my Friendster account after
this
incident
–no great loss there), but I’m only active on the first three.
It seems to me that Rojo is trying, needlessly, to be all things to all people.
The people don’t want that.

In terms of functionality, I’m underwhelmed.

  • It’s impossible, at a glance, to determine which items are from which from
    which feeds. The feed name (more important than the item title, as far as
    I’m concerned) is in a tiny font below the item title.
  • There’s no indicator of read or unread. Or if there is one, it isn’t nearly
    obvious enough.
  • They only permit about 20 characters for a feed name, truncating longer
    ones with ellipses. 20 characters isn’t nearly enough. Dispense with the nearly-unused
    right hand column and expand the left. Alternately, let me set the width of
    each column. Bloglines may look kind of hokey, but I can drag the frame edge
    to wherever I want it.
  • When I imported my OPML file, I got a message that 236 feeds were imported
    successfully, and 20 failed. Check out this
    screenshot
    . There was no indication of which 20 failed, or why. 90% isn’t
    good enough, but how can I fix the problem when they don’t articulate the
    issue? Incidentally, I checked, and my OPML file is valid.
  • Their user documentation is awful. The "comprehensive
    guide
    for what’s in Rojo" is a mere 3500 words, and makes the classic
    engineers-wrote-the-docs mistake. Instead of articulating how to use the product,
    they explain what the product does by itemizing each menu, tab and button.
    They do have a FAQ, but it’s hard to read, unsearchable and could use a good edit (and some illustrations). By the way, questions like “Is it free?” and “What are those “+” & “-” icons and the arrows in the left navigation bar?” don’t belong on the same page. One’s a sales question, and the other is a tech doc issue. Use the FAQ for the basic user and sales stuff, and then make proper documentation for the app. Rojo, hire us
    to fix this problem. Better yet, check out Flickr. They basically have no
    documentation. Why? They don’t need it–a shaved, amnesiac baboon could use
    their software.

Maybe I’ll come around on Rojo too, but for now, I’m not seeing the killer
app. I’m not even seeing the bludgeoning app.

5 Responses to “Rojo Lacks Mojo”

  1. jo

    I’m encouraged (and amused) by your baboon/Flickr comment.

    Since comming to BC I feel as if I’ve landed in a pool of Luddites with respect to my social circle. I’ve had an inquiry about photo sharing but have been hesitant to recommend anything because of the technical limitations of the person who inquired. I will now wholeheartedly push Flickr!

    That’s one reason I enjoy your blog so much, as I’ve said previously, there’s a nice mix of social and techie stuff.

  2. Darren

    Jo: Glad you like the blog. Make sure you set up the luddites with the Flickr Uploader. It’s a little desktop program that lets you drag-and-drop photos into, and they get automagically added to your Flickr account. Very handy, and baboon proof.

  3. Brad Neuberg

    Hi Darren. Thanks for the feedback on Rojo, even if it is tough medicine. I’m a software engineer here at Rojo so I will do what I can to address the concerns you have raised.

    Hope all is well,
    Brad Neuberg

Comments are closed.