I've been playing a bit with Vox, TypePad's new LiveJournal for grownups; or blog platform and social networking service; or half a blogging platform for newbies (albeit with rich and deep functionality) and half social network.
I've seen some huffiness somewhere (I forget where) about insulting folks with references to newbies and grandmas, but I suspect that beginners and grandparents would not find such references insulting. There is no shame in either -- and I think Vox just might be on the right track for them, but also for those of us who have struggled through the newbie phase to produce nice-looking, professional (if not money-making) blogs -- but would still like a place for easy, personal blogging with a range of privacy options.
I had thought that Yahoo360! might serve that purpose, but it just never felt comfortable for me. The only feature I really liked was the Blast, which might be fun to see as a feature here at Vox. Yahoo was very slow to get some of its more important features off the ground, and Vox, while still in development, at least has what most folks would see as the essentials.
The posting interface is supremely simple, and allows you to easily insert photos, audio, videos, book refereces, and "collections". The service is currently smoothly integrated with Flickr, PhotoBucket, iStockPhoto, Amazon, YouTube, and iFilm; and I've no doubt many others are waiting in line -- hopefully including Barnes & Noble, Powells, and Picasa Web Albums.
Not only is it not necessary to know HTML to use Vox, as far as I can tell, you can't use it; everything is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) with cute little iconized buttons. There are several designs available, but if you want total control over how your blog looks, Vox is not for you. This is clearly set up for folks who just want something presentable, quickly, to hold their content. You can switch the design of your site with two or three clicks. Also, there are ads (this is a free, ad-supported service) but they are, so far, inconspicuous.
Each post can be set to one of five levels of privacy: you only; public; friends only; family only; or family and friends, but not public. I haven't checked, but I assume that any media content in such posts would carry the same privacy level as the post. It is this feature that might be useful for folks like me. I have public blogs, but would occassionally like to write a personal, even boring to non-friends, post for those very few who might be interested -- and invisible to those whom I would not want to find it interesting.
Vox facilitates crossposting from Vox to TypePad blogs (which I am about to test with this post) but what I really want is vice-versa. I want to be able to easily include my public content on my personal blog; not so much the other way around. I could see integrating nearly all my material into the Vox site, with some posts more private than others, so that friends could choose to read what they liked, but know they aren't missing anything as it's all in one place.
[You can see how the cross-posting worked -- or didn't -- here.]
There is, of course, the usual obstacle: one must be a member of Vox to post comments -- or to be included on family and friends lists. This is a perhaps necessary strategy to limit spam comments and other obnoxious behaviors, but means one more username and password for folks you want to view and comment on your blog.
In my introvert style, I've left the social networking features to the end. Vox has Neighborhoods, and Explore and Connect functions. All you need to do is get someone you know on there -- or chat up a few strangers -- and there you are -- a Neighborhood. Answering the Question of the Day (QOTD) and checking out what others have to say is another way to make connections.
Today's QOTD is: How well do you know your next-door neighbors?
And when I just checked, there were about 140 posts with that tag. I think they mean real life neighbors, though; not virtual, social-network-services neighbors.
Vox is still Beta; a few bugs now and then. I have three invites -- who wants one?