I first became aware of Jaiku when one of the founders left a comment on my original post about Lifestreaming.
“If you want to see one possibility of implementing the Lifestream, take a look at Jaiku. Our approach is to to focus on mobility, commenting, and, especially in the future, sharing oneâ€™s life with a number of typically distinct small groups (ie, to emphasize private sharing as opposed to public self-expression).”
I have since seen Petteri show up in many of the same places I have frequented researching Lifestreams on the web. So before I even decided to finally try out Jaiku I had already seen evidence of a very passionate and evangelistic approach in him trying to get the word out about his site. Judging by Petteri’s Jaiku page he also seems to communicate quite a bit with users on the site with regards to both ideas for functionality as well as bugs. I find his behavior has become more common in startups as of late and I find it refreshing in the new era of radical transparency.
So I finally got around to creating an account to see what Jaiku was all about and why Petteri felt it was a great Lifestreaming platform. Upon visiting the homepage your interest is immediately captured by the avatars popping up with speech-bubbles (Jaikus as they call them) loosely placed by the user’s geographical location on a map of the world. Furthermore the avatars link to the user’s profile page and the Jaikus lead to a page where you can comment on them. Ok, with my attention piqued and I decide to take their tour. They really emphasize 3 main points. Create a stream of Jaikus as well as mixing in other feeds (this is the Lifestreaming portion), as well as providing geo information which I really like as an additional component. Then you can add friends as well as add comments to each of their Jaikus or other posts based on their web feed data. This is a great breakthrough that takes us to what appears to be the first Social Lifestreaming platform. Lastly they wrap the functionality to be used on a cell phone which is a pre-requisite from a site based in Finland.
So off to creating my account I went. After filling out the standard information I quickly made my way to the area where I was to add my web feeds. The first thing I notice is that they have segregated out the import based on several feed types. These include blog, photos, bookmarks, music, places, event, and video. They also the ability to add a feed that doesn’t fall into one of those classifications as well. So I went through the process of adding all of my Lifestream feeds one by one to the appropriate categories. It would be nice if they added the ability to import an OPML file and then categorize each feed from the import to make it a little less painful. I also did not like the fact that I could not edit the description of my feeds.
After completing the addition of my feeds I navigated to my profile homepage to view the results. I liked the very clean look of the page. They even added custom mini icons to identify posts for some of the more poplular feeds I added. Unfortunately the resulting posts returned by the feeds can be pretty unpredictable and some didn’t display at all. Returning to the page over time also demonstrates that the feeds can become stale and may not be updated on a very frequent basis. Even stranger is the fact that they offer an RSS feed for my Jaiku page, which after subscribing to it and looking at it in a reader, can see it provides some of the missing posts that are not appearing on my profile page. These problems aren’t unique to Jaiku as I have experienced them at other sites I’ve used as well as the script used at my site. It appears that there can be many inconsistent issues with feeds and the methods used to parse them. Of all the sites I’ve tried my Pageflakes Lifestream page appears to handle feeds the best. Since both sites are using the same feeds you can compare the discrepancy in the results yourself.
Looking past the feed issues I start exploring further. I really like how they create the distinction of content created using their site with colored speech bubbles (blue for Jaikus, yellow for comments) to distinguish them from the dynamic content added from the web feeds. I also like the touch of prefixing a Jaiku with a custom icon when posting. Having the ability to filter selected feeds, perhaps by prefixing them with a checkbox would be a nice feature. I would also like to see the ability to sort items by feed type first then chronologically as an option. Both of these features can add to the usablility for people interested in specific content. Linking feed titles in the sidebar to either the homepage or profile page for would be nice to allow people opportunities to further explore users as well.
So after playing a bit with my profile it was time to click on the “Explore” tab to look at other profiles. This brings up a page listing all the latest Jaikus (and feeds) that have been recently added by users and acts as a good launching pad to find other users. So I surfed around from profile to profile exploring. I like how the Flickr feeds display small thumbnails and how I can click on feeds to discover interesting content provided by other users. One issue I found when visiting pages where users are active commenters is the noise of words scattered without reference is distracting. Sorting and filtering can help here, but comments posted on profiles need a little more thought put into them. These posts would provide a good use for using ajax to allow users to expand out the full conversation below the comment by clicking on it. Or maybe providing a seperate tab on a users profile to display all comment threads they have participated in. Besides this issue it was fun looking at how other users are using the service to display their streams.
A couple more features that would add value to the user discovery process and further pushing the social aspects of Lifestraming would be to add the ability to tag feeds. Then users could discover each other based on similar tags. I would also like to see the ability for searching based on these tags as well as any keywords that are within a Jaiku. Finally a better method for archiving Jaikus on profile pages would be nice as well.
When focusing on Jaiku’s primary functionality you quickly realize that it’s similar to Twitter and has drawn comparisons and even cries of copycatting. I personally like what they are trying to do and feel that Twittering or creating Jaikus are just one element in the creation of a Lifestream which is the primary focus for my review. You can choose either service to create Twits or Jaikus, but you can only use Jaiku as a platform to combine it with the remaining elements to host your presence stream. I don’t think Twitter has any intentions on allowing the merging of feeds and if Jaiku continues to expand on the features and functionality in this area, I think they will continually distance themselves from such a narrow comparison. If they continue to engage their users for feedback and model their feature set accordingly I think they can gain momentum. Heck they even kill two birds with one stone by provide functionality for allowing comments on Jaikus and imported feeds which has drawn the most criticism as lacking from several people of Twitter and Tumblr.
Overall I like Jaiku quite a bit and feel that if they can correct the issues with the feeds, that they have a promising site that will only get better over time. I will continue to follow them to see how things progress.