Making use of Blellow is just a matter of typing a few words and posting them. Those words are meant to be a response to the question, “What are you working on?” but can easily become much more. When you post to Blellow, you have two possible choices categorizing your post: “I feel like sharing this” or “I’m looking for help.” The general idea is that you can easily get help, answers to questions or share resources with other Blellow users — and so far it seems to be working. At a glance, people are posting documents (and getting replies about how to improve them), sharing usability tips and even offering up advice about patent law.
In practice, there are a few minor differences between Blellow’s interface and other microblogging sites. For one thing, you get a little more room than the standard 140 characters to share thoughts and ask questions. In fact, you get 300 characters — and the ability to attach files. You can also switch easily between viewing posts as a list or as threaded messages, as well as switch between reading the posts of everyone on Blellow, specific groups and your own network.
But microblogging isn’t the only allure of Blellow.
In addition to providing a community where anyone can talk about what they’re working on and get some feedback, Blellow also offers opportunities to find more work. You won’t just find full-time jobs listed on Blellow, either. The site’s ‘Jobs’ page is broken down into full-time and freelance listings — and there’s also a ‘Projects’ list which offers both paid and pro bono work. While the pro bono work may not get a lot of attention, there are a few interesting projects listed — which may provide an opportunity for someone wanting to break into a new field or get a couple of portfolio pieces.
There is an emphasis on work that can be handled remotely (design, development and writing), although Blellow does offer an ‘other’ category. You’ll find individuals working in those areas (whether freelancing, full-time or some combination of the two) are also more prevalent in posting to Blellow, as well as in creating groups. From the way some project and freelance listings are written, I think Blellow may be a venue for finding clients for a small business or a consultant in the future as well as for freelancers.
On top of the ability to share short posts, Blellow offers many opportunities to connect with the other folks using the site. At the most basic level, you can respond to posts or privately message back and forth — not unlike a simple microblogging service. However, you can also find and join a wide variety of groups on Blellow: these groups are especially useful if you’re looking for help with a specific problem but they also are a chance to connect with others in your field, check out who is headed to a particular event or find resources on a given topic. You can also create new groups of your own if you don’t see a particular group you’d be interested in.
There’s also a real-world element to Blellow. Meetups — as in events that you actually leave your house to attend — can be listed on Blellow and shared. You have the option of browsing through those in your immediate area (as indicated by the location in your profile), those in your state or all of the meetups listed on Blellow. At the moment, pickings are a little sparse — but I’m pretty sure they’ll grow after everyone gets past SXSW. The Blellow team has an official launch planned for the site during SXSW and considering how well it’s done during the limited beta, it seems likely that the official launch will be big.
Trying to decide just what social networking sites you’re willing to spend some time on can be difficult. Personally, I tend not to mess with more than three or so at a time. However, I’m adding Blellow into the mix because it’s shaping up as a solid resource — especially for individuals whose work is done primarily online. There’s a good mix, so far, of freelancers as well as full-time employees, which makes for a useful network to be involved in. The fact that it’s got a narrow niche — especially compared to other microblogging sites — makes it an especially useful choice in my mind.
Blellow brings a lot of elements into its mix, incorporating the best of microblogging, meetups and more. It isn’t trying to be the only social networking site you every spend time on. Instead, it’s creating a very targeted network involving people that who can help one another in their work. The only drawback I see at this point is that users are limited to email and actually visiting the site to get updates. I’m hoping for RSS in the future, personally.
If you try out Blellow, please let us know what you think about it in the comments.
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