Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Notely, and the lure of a one-stop-shop

This is a story about Notely, a site that tries a little bit too hard.

In theory, a one-stop-shop for student organization is a great idea. Notely offers a calendar, to-do lists, a way to organize notes from classes, a "notebook" feature much like Google Notebook, and, perhaps most interestingly, Facebook integration. How exactly it is integrated with Facebook, I have no idea, because the mini-Facebook application seems to be broken right now, and I couldn't take a peek. However, since Facebook largely serves college and high school students, I imagine that there's some sort of feature by which students can compare classes and share notes from those classes. Or something like that.

You may sense a "but" coming, and sure enough, it is. Notely is a great idea, fairly well executed, but I just don't have faith in it. And here's why. Any sort of one-stop-shop web service requires a lot of commitment. To get the most out of Notely, I would really have to dedicate myself to using it for every aspect of my academic life, to gain maximum integration and benefits from the reams of information I'd be feeding into it. The problem is, Notely aspires to not only organize your life, but, I'm guessing, "connect you with others" as well, via Facebook.

Okay, nice marketing maneuver, and maybe even useful. But Notely simply isn't powerful enough to become prevalent; it requires piggybacking on other services, like Facebook, in order to reach its potential. The point is, it's great to have all those services lined up at Notely like that, but I'm already committed to more powerful versions elsewhere--that, coincidentally, all seem to integrate with each other pretty well, too. Maybe this is because I threw my hat in with Google services—gcal, gnotebooks, blogger, etc., but I trust that these services are going to be around for a long time, are going to keep improving, and are going to give me powerful tools without asking me to sign my life away. I respect the goals of Notely, but with only 166 Facebook users so far, I have a feeling that it's going to miss the boat on a viral surge that could make its format more useful.

It's really interesting to see how young developers are playing with the platform of Facebook to give them a leg up on the Internet establishment, and I think they're getting a lot of things right. Unfortunately, "interesting" doesn't always translate into "useful," and I have to say, I've got an awful lot of beta sign-in names for services I'll never use again.

(Found via Lifehacker.)

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