Hands-on with Vox
In October, Six Apart should open up to the public its new blogging platform, Vox. From what I can see from inside the now-closed beta, it will be a good blogging platform for people who want to keep up with their friends and family, but don't want to publish a generally-accessible blog or put up a page on a social network largely inhabited by either kids (MySpace) or geezers (Eons).
Bloggers on Vox can define each post as open to family only, friends, family and friends, or the public. Visitors to a blog will see only what they have access to; for example, if my blog has a bunch of public entries about neighborhood events, but I mark pictures of a family event as "family only," then the general public simply won't see any hint of the family pictures. They'll be behind a velvet rope of a sort, just not aware of it.
The blog writing tools are better in Vox than in Six Apart's other blogging platforms, TypePad and LiveJournal. The editor is more visual. It's much easier to upload photos or videos and to "crossload" content from other repositories, like Flickr. Once you select photos and videos, it's also easy to control how they'll appear on the page. Pieces of this improved blog post editor should migrate to TypePad and LiveJournal soon, Six Apart president Mena Trott told me.
On the other hand, the Vox blogs are pretty locked-down in design. Although there are several templates to chose from, from bloggers don't have the flexibility that's available to them on a more general-purpose blogging platform or on a free-for-all community page site like MySpace.
Vox also incorporates some social engineering designed to make posting easier for people. The site's homepage has a "question of the day," designed to get people blogging even if they don't know what to say. It's cheesy, but it works. There are at least 1,400 blog posts on Vox right now answering various QOTDs.
Vox users will also see blogs from people in their circle on the Vox home page, which makes Vox a community site, of a sort, and not just a blogging platform.
Vox is not revolutionary, but it shows how blog tools are evolving and how communities online are becoming even more specialized. It looks like Vox might be an attractive platform for a lot of people who aren't currently participating in online communities.