Well.. first I want to say how pleased I am that some heads have bothered to focus the rather disparate on-line energy in South Africa by creating these two aggregators. However I find that Amatomu is definitely in the lead.
Amtomu looks much better. I doubt many could argue with this. It provides much more options and information; but yet still makes it easier to navigate than the less feature full Afrigator. The Amatomu badge is also better looking; and there are more to choose from than the Afrigator badges. I could not (shockingly enough) for example find an Afrigator badge that matches the colours of my blog (which is the default Kubrick WordPress Template). The Amatomu cloud is also much prettier and more informative that the Afrigator one. (And Amatomu offers the cloud as a configurable widget on your own blog, nogal!). The information on the home page for Amatomu is also much more interesting than the “unread” list from Afrigator. In fact Afrigator is rather sparse on the home page. Amatomu presents a whole myriad of ways of viewing the blogosphere; whilst Afrigator only offers top sites and top searches.
Amatomu is not perfect here. For example if I go into “my blogs/stats” and click on statistics – I get kicked out of the “my blogs/stats” menu. But this is a trivial kind of navigability and could be remedied probably in a few minutes. But the design behind the navigability of Amatomu is spot on. There are just a few gremlins which is understandable considering its Alpha status. Afrigator on the other hand is difficult to navigate. (Despite the fact that there are only a few options to choose from anyways!) One keeps being thrown into this strange pop-up window environment which is non-intuitive; feels rather clumsy and make me feel claustrophobic and cornered.
- Usability and User-centric:
Again Amatomu is on the mark. Its offering of widgets (both the cloud and the right top corner ranking tag) are wonderful – and I hope to see many more such things in the future. Amatomu’s designers clearly want its users to have a form of “ownership” in Amatomu and are succeeding in providing ways of bringing this goal into reality. In fact they are only to excited to advertise Amatomu plug-ins like the firefox search Amatomu plug-in written not by Amatomu but by Craig at eQuirk. This gives the feeling that Amatomu is an organic community project rather than just another product being sold to consumers. As I mentioned earlier, Afrigator does not even have badges that match the colour of the default theme of wordpress. Furthermore Afrigator does not appear to allow one to have more than one blog! Ridiculous! Another feature, which I love, with Amatomu is the “ping” option which causes Amatomu to update its information from your feed immediately. Wow! Putting the user in control. I love pressing the Ping button and seeing my latest post appear at the top of the Latest Post list. I feel powerful and in control. I feel like I have been given a certain amount of ownership in the blogosphere. Very 2.0! In fact I can’t wait to press that button when I finish writing this post. Its addictive. Another feature is the “Blogs that have Blogrolled Me” list. Its innovative and shows a desire to bring the community together. This is done by telling the blogosphere stuff about itself, that it does not already know.
- Dealing with the Unusual (but to be expected):
I have migrated my blog from blogger to wordpress during the last week. (I am sure its not unusual for people to migrate to wordpress. Although not a everyday thing). I thus had to update my address and my feed in my profile in both aggregators. Afrigator seems to have not coped with this. I have logged a complaint – and that took me a while to find in Afrigator. Amatomu has a simple “report a bug” link. There is no such thing in Afrigator! I guess they must be optimistic. I had to really search for a way to log a bug. Eventually I found that if click on their “blog” tab; and then on their “contact afrigator” tab you could log a bug. But certainly not easy to find or use. Geez. Anyways… none of my new posts have appeared and none of my posts if they come up in a search work. Terrible Hey! Amatomu, on the other hand, immediately picked up my new posts, no problem at all. The only gremlin is old posts – they now come up in searches “twice” once with a broken link and once with the correct link. But hey! At least I exist there. [Addition 1 May 2007] I have since changed the redirection method I was using so links to the old address will now work.
[Addition 1 May 2007]. I did not comment on this very important aspect when I originally wrote down my thoughts as the Amatomu graphs were not displaying on my computer. This problem had nothing to do with Amatomu but with me. I had the Flash 7 plug-in installed; and Amatomu requires Flash 9 for the graphs to work. Well ten minutes ago I updated my Flash Plug-in (I use Fedora Core 5) and went to compare the two offerings. Well… Afrigator offers a couple of stats (nothing that I don’t already know through the use of sitemeter already..) Basically total page views versus unique visitors. Nothing actually new to me (and not even put into an interesting format) … and then I turned to Amatomu with my fancy new Flash plug-in. I was literally amazed by the information presented to me about my own site. Especially the breakdown of the popularity of my posts. And the use of Flash well worth it – the graphs look beautiful and attractive and nice – simply to look at – never mind to analyse. And of course the other graphs that abound in the site are all interesting and innovatively provide a frame to the blogosphere. This is actually something which, as far as I know has not been done before. Afrigator has a couple of staid two dimensional graphs, whilst Amatomu has funky attractive graphs and stats that actually are teaching us all not only new things about our own sites – but are for the first time, to my knowledge, actually teaching us about ourselves – about the very blogosphere we inhabit. Self-awareness. Amatomu is innovating with its statistics and graphs and thereby providing a vantage point within the blogosphere from where we can look down upon ourselves. Afrigator seems to have just stuck together a couple of graphs that do not provide anything new nor advance creating a more self-aware and self-critical blogosphere – something which Amatomu indeed is doing admirably. I am particularly excited about how much we are all going to learn about ourselves once Amatomu has collected a significant amount of statistics and presented them to us to understand over the next few months and years.
- Suggested Improvement.
[Addition 3 May 2007] (continually updated from 3 May)
[Addition 2 May 2007] There is also another aggregator that could be introducing itself into the blogosphere in the coming months. Eric Edelstein is the man behind this plan; and on his blog he has described some of his intentions. He has stated that he has finance and equity and a desire to create something of community value. He is also suggesting that he may open-source the aggregator. Specifically he has said on his blog:
“Iâ€™m also toying with the idea of making this project open source / non profit – or any profits go to a charity etc.”
Now if he can get together some quality developers, quality user-interface designers and an innovative and visionary project manager and GPL all the code… that would be a delicious. He also has the trail-blazing Amatomu to compare his project with; to ensure that he does not accept poor design; and Amatomu then, if this aggregator explodes with a simlar style to Amatomu – will have energy against which to bounce and compare itself. Afrigator, at the moment, as I have discovered by this comparison – is a poor competitor and therefore not useful in challenging Amamtomu to further innovation and creativity. But all this remains to be seen in the coming months.
In short – in my brief experience with the two new aggregators Amatomu has left me excited for its future. There seems to be some smoothing out to be done with the navigability; but its underlying ethos and design is just what the South African wired community needs to create synergy and focus its energy. It clearly knows that in web 2.0 the user is who you want to bring into the game itself and give a form of shared ownership and control. The designers are also clearly motivated to be innovative and to provide a service that is interesting, informative, useful and addictive. Afrigator, although workable, is not in the same league at all. In fact, its rather clunky and needs a lot of work. Buts its in Alpha state, maybe if they stop focusing on giving away ipods and t-shirts and instead focus on improving its usability and navigatibility [addition 1 May 2007 – and on their graphs] they can fix up these “teething” problems. I humbly suggest that they offer an i-pod to the person who can create the best Afrigator widgit or somewhat…. but who am I to tell them what to do anways? I am just another navel-gazing South African blogger.
What’s really important is… well… what do you think?