My three problems with Jaiku

Been using Jaiku for some time. However, I still feel pretty uncomfortable with it.

  • The mobile client is a nice idea, but... There simply is not enough memory to run Jaiku and e.g. Navicore at the same time. So I need to quit Jaiku every time I'm on the move - which sort of kills a lot of the use cases.
  • The mobile client is very limited, because you can't read or add comments on it. So all this community creation shit is completely out of reach when you're on the move. In fact, the mobile client is so limited that if it wasn't for the nifty cell location thingy, it would be better that there was no mobile client.
  • Worse yet, there's no history on the mobile client. So what you see on the web site is really the history, the time dimension of what your friends have been doing - and on the mobile, you just see what is happening *now*. If you look at the mobile the wrong moment, it's all off. Just a snapshot of the richness, and therefore you feel that you're missing out.
  • The web site has some usability problems (with respect to comments), but my main gripe with it that it's so... Web 2.0. There's a certain part in me which is tired of seeing mashed-together sites that look nice, but have no proper documentation nor usability design.
  • I never know whether I should Jaiku in English or Finnish. I have no idea who's listening to my Jaikus, so I don't really know what I should say. And frankly, Jaikus are pretty intimate, so I'd be more comfortable in sending them in Finnish. But the problem is that I don't know if anyone cares - much like in blogs, when you lose your readers, you don't really know.

Minor problems, those above. The big, big, big problem is that I don't really care. I know I'm supposed to be the connected übergeek, but frankly, all of the people who I actually care about enough to know where they are, don't use Jaiku. Or could care less about such things. So the only people I can connect to on Jaiku are, well, pretty much the same people I connect through my blog, or through work, and - no offense guys - but I really don't care about you enough to constantly know where you are and what you are thinking and whether or not you are drinking a latte or a macchiato. I'm happy with the occasional processed thought on your blog, or a random picture of something on your Flickr every couple of days. That's fine, and great, and that's the kind of level I am comfortable with. But to get constant thought streams of people I normally see only a few times a year - well, that's just way too much useless information.

Maybe I'm a psychopath or something, but somehow I just don't feel the need to be constantly connected with everyone. I'm spending way too little time being connected with the people who actually matter to me, so why should I try to forge artificial connections to people that I barely know, who just happen to be using the same kind of technology than me? Doesn't quite compute.

There must be a better use for these tools than what they are currently being used for. Blogs became popular when enough people learned how to write a good blog. Maybe Twitters and Jaikus will achieve the same kind of status in the future, but at the moment they feel more like toys. I'm reminded of a fridge door with a notice board: at first people write things like "buy milk" and "went to the dentist". They end up decorating it with flowers and post cards and erotic poetry formed with a 70 word dictionary.

Gah. It probably shows that I'm pretty disillusioned with Web 2.0 and all this mobility stuff. IMO, the only value of Jaiku and Twitter is that they provide a new cradle for human creativity, which is really all that matters in the end. That's the reason why wikis and blogs and flickr and myspace and empty canvases and HB pencils and summer breaks and styrofoam and hammers and long, meaningless walks are important and interesting: they allow thoughts to grow. "Web 2.0" is becoming now a constraint, a convenient catchphrase, the box in which people think.

And I'm not interested in boxes.


Janne, both commenting and history (or stream) is coming soonish to mobile client. Currently I'm running a development version of client in my main mobile phone that does both, so we are not very far away. Although, it works against development server only, so I can't yet comment to with it.

Agreed, without stream and commenting mobile experience is crippled. Fact is that we just can't develop mobile software with same development speed that it's possible to develop web site, so feature set of mobile will be somewhat behind the web site as long as we are actively doing new stuff for site. Memory usage of Jaiku shouldn't be extraordinary, although there is definetly room for improvement. We could investigate Jaiku + Navicore setup more closely to see if we can do something about it. What version of Jaiku you are running and on which phone?

I can see that for active bloggers like you, this new trend of microblogging doesn't seem to be a big deal. But think about it: there is something strong in a form of communication, where a person can publish stuff actively without feeling stupid (which you do feel when you send "Beer, anyone?" SMS to 30 of your friends. Or "discussing" in a newsgroup about something that currently interests you, but not the others) and where audience can stay passive and jump in to communication when its suitable for them.

Blogs have this nature of communication, but are heavyweight for more mundane stuff.

--Teemu Kurppa, 14-Apr-2007

...aaand you completely missed my point. Let me rephrase: The people who are on Jaiku are not the same people I go to beer with. The people on Jaiku are the same fucking people who read my blog, or happen to know me through my work. Geddit?

--JanneJalkanen, 14-Apr-2007

I thought I'd blog about this same thing but you got there first. I signed up for Jaiku soon after it was announced, but have been really using it now for a couple of days.

My problems:

First, technical:

Jaiku mobile client takes too much memory. Just like janne said, I'd like to use a navigation SW at the same time as well, or at least be capable of surfing the web.

Second, conceptual:

Most people who I have beers with do not own smartphones (most own <100 euro Samsungs or S40 phones). And they are Web-2.0-averse too, because, I tend to hang out with people that aren't in this line of work. (I like to hang out with them partially for exactly that reason.)

I would expect that many people do not want to broadcast their whereabouts to everyone. Jaiku's privacy options are severely limited. All-or-nothing, no way to restrict, e.g., location on different levels to different user groups, and you need to sign up on Jaiku in order to be my "friend" - I do not want to force people to sign up on some web service in order to be my friends. (Also Jaiku reserves the right to give the users' personal info to anyone that happens to buy Jaiku the Company in the future - a carte blanche for private information dissemination if there ever was one).

And about this microblogging thing: I have different things to say to different groups of friends. To some friends (if they would be using Jaiku on their sub-100 Samsungs) I would tell exactly that I am having beers with Alice and Bob at HOK-Elanto Watering Hole #53, for my colleagues I would perhaps just say I am now trying to relax and unwind, and for a random guy that reads the Jaiku feed I would probably not want to say anything.

Actually, now that I come to think of it, we do this microblogging thing already in a way which is superior to Jaiku: IRC.

IRC has this all (except for automagic location info) and my friends run IRC clients on these low-cost midlet-only phones too.

--Antti Vähä-Sipilä, 14-Apr-2007

Antti: I agree with the IRC part. If only someone could create an IRC client for the mobile phone, which would hide some of the complexity of IRC by creating layers of complexity. Many of IRC's regular users appreciate the nerdcore console appearance of the thing.

Janne: Jaiku-ppl are to my understanding working towards adding a group or channel-feature to the system. Tha maybe takes away the ambiguity a bit and also gives users ways to organize their conversations better and thus deal with the complexity that results from broadcast messaging.

--Ville, 14-Apr-2007

Interesting discussion: let me explain a few choices we have made at Jaiku.

First, the S60 client is still in beta and there are a lot of big improvements on our roadmap ranging from memory and data comsumption to usability enhancements. In addition, we are working hard to bring the different feeds to both the S60 and the near-future Java client. As Teemu said, we are internally using such a client already, and the release date is close. The J2ME version will have this functionality from day one. My experience is that feeds and commenting considerable change the mobile use case and align it better with the other channels. However, quite a few users are getting kicks out of the current client.

A very exciting thing is that we have quite a few 3rd-parties writing Jaiku-compatible clients against our APIs, a number of them targeted for mobile handsets. This is quite strategic for us, since we don't have either resources or will to port the client to a number of platforms and handsets. I think this is quite a new thing in the mobile world, and will certainly be good for the users. I believe that pretty soon there are few handsets that wouldn't have a Jaiku-compatible client. BTW, take a look at what is happening at the moment:

Our approach has been to release early, discuss and get feedback from the users, and improve the service continuously. We launched the first serious version of the service on November, three weeks after the Web developers started working with us, although the alpha client and a "quick-and-dirty" Web site was up already in July. Considering that the team is small and that we had to do quite a lot of porting to release the S60 3rd Ed. client, I think the approach has been quite successful: based on the recent user study (we got 500 answers with absolutely invaluable improvement ideas, feature suggestions, complaints, etc), the users like this quite a lot and want to participate in improving the service. Now that we have quite a solid base for service development, we can move faster: in the next 1-8 weeks we'll introduce loads of new features and improvements.

Regarding privacy levels, groups, etc, we made a decision to start with something simple to understand and implement and to introduce more fine-grained (or just different) mechanisms as our knowledge improves, based on user feedback and also our own experience in using the service. Ofcourse, Jaiku is not targeted to all the people in the World, so we cannot make everyone happy. Our Privacy and Terms of Use statements are very standard, but our team is very strict when it comes to these matters, quite a few of them having open source background and mindset (corporate transparency is good, user privacy must be protected, openess is the way to go, ...) By the way, I personnally believe that in the long-run bulk of the users use Jaiku to share more personal information with a few groups of close friends, colleagues, or family members, but time will tell :)

--Petteri Koponen, 14-Apr-2007

Amen to a great piece of writing and a very poignant analysis of the stream of 2.0s. Not having a phone-based (let me rephrase that, a lovely old Nokia 3310 that does everything i need it to do for the 3 calls a week i might receive) relationship with anyone other than my boyfriend and most of my communications with my loved ones being via email, the people i often find myself communicating to via Jaiku or Twitter are new to me so I don't often go into specifics. I also have found myself to be less and less interested in them as I get busier. Are they a new form of time-wasting in a way? Like playing online Sudoku...

--Alex, 15-Apr-2007

Time-wasting = Time-investment gone bad, time-well-spent = Time-investment gone well. Allowing asynchronous, non-real-time interaction between you and your friends/contacts/whatever makes it possible the scaling of your presence in space AND time so much that you inevitably will spend more time if you want to maintain that.

--Ville, 15-Apr-2007

Janne wrote: ".. There simply is not enough memory to run Jaiku and e.g. Navicore at the same time ..."

Have you upgraded to the latest version of Nokia E70? AFAIK the first shipping firmware versions had serious memory leak issues which caused applications to run out of memory all the time.

--Tero Lehto, 15-Apr-2007

I strongly agree with Janne on most points. As long as my girlfriend won't use Jaiku, I ain't gonna use it either.

But I do think Jaiku has potential when it comes to communicating within the groups whose members already read each others blogs.

For instance, this weekend at the Mediapäivät-conference I used Jaiku to follow the commentary on key notes and to track people within the area for face to face contact and further discussion. But I think that this kind of microblogging / readership is "healthy" only when it happens in bursts - as the conference is over it is natural to shut up / unsubscribe the feed until next event.

--erkka, 16-Apr-2007

Janne, my bad of getting excited to debate about the vision of Jaiku and not the reality. Yes, you clearly talked about Jaiku's usefulness to you at the moment.

I don't have many of my real life friends using Jaiku either - my public Jaiku profile prevents me communicating with them naturally. I'm keeping my thumbs up (and others fingers on a keyboard) that we can implement some mechanism (private groups) to allow that as soon as possible.

But will it catch on, shall people beyond web 2.0 crowd start to share their mundane lives with their friends this way with any of these new services? Making a bold assumption that they want to, I believe that a key question is how easily they can integrate it with their current style of communication. Laptop/desktop-only won't do, it has to work from mobile to serve it's purpose. From this perspective, SMS is pretty good for a textual input, but it's horribly interruptive for receiving Jaiku-like messages. And at this very moment, there is no realistic alternative - data plans aren't yet on people's radar, people don't surf web from mobile and it's unthinkable to them that they would fetch a new application to their phone. Two first will change, but it's an interesting question that will third ever happen.

--Teemu Kurppa, 16-Apr-2007

> "Web 2.0" is becoming now a constraint, a convenient catchphrase, the box in which people think. > And I'm not interested in boxes.

Ah, this is by far the best thought I have heard today (while catching up the backlog of hundreds of unread RSS reader items).

Note to self: quote this at some convenient occasion someday.

--Tommi Vilkamo, 16-Apr-2007

Tero, yup, I'm running the latest and the greatest (did I mention I work for Nokia ;-)? To be truthful, it's Navicore which is the memory hog. But still, it's a problem, and I don't really care whose fault it is. The amount of RAM in these devices is not really designed to run a lot of background apps at the same time.

Teemu: no worries; you understood now exactly what I was after. I like the idea of "background" presence a lot, and I think our phones could be doing quite a lot more stuff in the background than they currently are doing (e-butlers anyone?). But I still believe that this is not the killer use case, as there are obvious deployment issues, scalability issues (especially with Twitter), etc. So I don't really see microblogging as a general tool, but more of a surgical precision tool. Erkka's point on using it as a small-group communication tool during an event is excellent, and an example of the things I'm thinking of.

Antti: "I like to hang out with them partially for exactly that reason." Amen, brother ;-). It reminds me of one thing which I've been trying to bring up a lot: these new tools take away your ability to lie. You can no longer give out white lies, which people normally use to get out of awkward social situations (like giving an excuse not to go out for a beer with a friend who's otherwise really nice except that he becomes really loud after two beers). It's not that people really lie that consciously, but it's always nice to have the ability to control what you are saying.

I'll write a longer post on that someday - this is something which really interests me.

--JanneJalkanen, 16-Apr-2007

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