January 09, 2008 |
Uber is a site billing itself as your hub for all things creative. Their site look combines Web 2.0 colors and a fluid drag and drop interface with rounded buttons, bars and corners for a widgetized theme. They advertise that they are your place for “drag and drop editing, multi-media blogs, big slideshows, unlimited storage, privacy controls and creative community, all for free”.
Sign up is simple, but comes with an immediate initial turn off. After you submit your information, the next screen is a chance to spam your friends and contacts with invites to Uber in a fashion similar to FaceBook's annoying “Invite Your Friends!” applications. Frankly, I dislike receiving a million generic invites for services from friends, and personally tend to gravitate to sites that don't immediately suggest this as an option. Also, I'd much rather get a chance to actually try the site you want me to invite people to before I send out invites willy-nilly.
On the plus side, once you sign up and slog through the “Spam Invite Your Friends!” nonsense, you are taken directly to your dashboard. No waiting around for confirmation emails or clickable activation links. Uber wins points for allowing users to start playing with their creative tools right away.
Uber is in competition with other similar sites like Instructables, Tabblo, ZeFrank's year long project TheORG (2007 only) and MyDesignIn for the attention of creative social networkers. does it do social networking for the creative set better than most? Who knows. It certainly satisfies the current trend of drag and drop interfaces, which has even leached into the offline world with items like the BugLabs BugBase.
One thing is certain, however you feel about the trend toward social networking, with a new site popping up every day it seems, this isn't anything like the originals. Unlike Friendster, MySpace and even FaceBook, the new collaborative creativity encouraged by sites like Uber take social networking to a new, more fun level.
By making collaboration and creative content easy to post, these sites are making it more accessible to the masses. Sure MySpace encourages musicians and film makers to join and lets its users change their layout using limited CSS, and FaceBook allows third party applications that get users playing together (in a sometimes annoyingly invasive fashion), but neither of them make it as easy as these sites do. It is the ease of use that could keep this new trend of sites on top.
As for Uber, with the click of a mouse you are able to set up your site's theme and start streaming slideshows or other content. It offers you several choices of creative content right away upon sign up, which means it grabs your attention and gets you playing with the site with no waiting. Instead of forcing you to know CSS or use a clunky “free layout” site, Uber offers a clickable interface for finding and using themes that is amazingly straightforward.
In fact, the learning curve on Uber was so fast it made me think they took some lessons from the Apple OS, choosing intuitive interaction over complicated coding. If you don't like the themes they provide, you can design images on your computer and use their simple upload tool to add them to your site. Uber's interface then gives you ways to make them into your background, buttons or layout without having to know CSS. I found that quite refreshing – I do know CSS, and often I just want to log in and play with a site, not slog around coding and “getting things to work”.
Uber also makes it easy to invite and find friends, and to get new friends based on content. You can also start discussions and comments on people's pages, videos, photos and other content, as well as join groups and message boards. Each step of the way Uber works to make it simple and fun. People used to the clunkier interfaces of the original social networks or people who prefer to handle their own coding may say the site is “dumbed down”. To that I say “good”. Everyone needs a place to play online, even people who aren't super geeks. All in all, Uber's use of modules and its drag and drop interface made this site a pleasure to play with. I'm not sure yet how often I'll be back, but I will be back – I enjoyed the site.