Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Evly.com first look: Will this new crowdsourcing social network work?

By Martin Carstens

Sometimes it just so happens that a new technology service really speaks to you. The first time I saw Groupon, I thought that it was one of the most compelling services seen in quite some time. Clearly I was not the only one. Google is rumoured to have made an offer to acquire Groupon for US$3-billion. My first look at Evly however did not elicit quite the same initial reaction.The crowdsourcing social network had a soft launch this month. Its founder, Eran Eyal, of Springleap fame, touted their efforts as cutting-edge and having the potential to revolutionise the internet. Based on mathematical models for businesses with viral loops, he ambitiously described a scenario that could see Evly amass “over 36-million users in its first 18 months”. If this came true, it would easily make it the fastest growing website on the African continent. Some have rightly pointed out that Eyal and his business partner Eric Edelstein have had local success over the last three years via their T-Shirt crowdsourcing startup, Springleap. Based on the popular Threadless, Springleap’s local focus sees the company using 3 500 artists who form a part of a community of about 25 000 subscribers. That’s great, but its a rather long way off from 36-million users. It may not be wise to take the success of Springleap to predict Evly’s fate. There is no doubt that Eyal and Edelstein are savvy entrepreneurs, but can taking the Springleap crowdsourcing model and handing the keys to the public really produce similar success stories? With Evly, the idea is to give anyone the ability to create initiatives based on crowdsourcing. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone attempted to create another version of Springleap using Evly, but success depends largely on the people driving the initiatives and not necessarily the tools they use to build them.
Hands-on with Evly’s site building tool Evly’s site-building tool is at the heart of the service, allowing businesses and individuals to source input from the members that become part of their social network. Very simply put, you can think of the tool as a Ning social network, with a Q&A element added to it. You start by choosing from a list of pre-defined themes. Next is the most critical part: You are presented with a list of templates. Depending on the template you choose, your Evly social network will have a certain design to facilitate the particular crowdsourcing input you are looking for. The templates currently available are “Ideas”, “Answers”, “Solutions”, “Designs”, “Advice”, and “People”, with “Money” shortly to follow.
If none of these templates are useful, you are also free to create your own using the “Custom” option — for example, if you’d like to source friends for a party you’re having.
Each of the templates have more fine-grained setup options. If you choose the “People” template you can select to source people for business, projects or research. If you choose the “Designs” template, you can select to source designs for business, projects or products.
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