Knowing When To Change Is Half The Battle - InformationWeek

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12/12/2007
03:28 PM
Michael Singer
Michael Singer
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Knowing When To Change Is Half The Battle

The world of Web 2.0 can turn on a dime. And the horse you rode into this business may not always be the one you finish the race with. Just ask the pioneers behind Journalspace and Reezle, who had to adapt to the fast and fickle world of social networks or face extinction.

The world of Web 2.0 can turn on a dime. And the horse you rode into this business may not always be the one you finish the race with. Just ask the pioneers behind Journalspace and Reezle, who had to adapt to the fast and fickle world of social networks or face extinction.Dylan Rhodes and his business partner/half brother Holland Rhodes named their LLC "Lagomorphics," after the scientific order of rabbits and hares. It's a well-suited name because they were able to quickly change the direction of the company's two properties with little effort.

"Virtually everything you see on Journalspace was coded by me in my spare time over the past four years. It's been my hobby," Rhodes told me over the phone.

The site started out as a standard blog site but has evolved into a "social blogging" space. The HTML/CSS coding allows for standard blogging tools combined with friend management, timelines (a la Twitter and Facebook), content tagging, and other tools. The site's better-known inhabitants include best-selling author John Birmingham, author and editor of The New Individualist, Robert Bidinotto, and Ellen Simonetti -- also known as the "Queen of Sky" -- the Delta flight attendant who was fired for her blog. Rhodes said his revenue model is split 90-10, with the majority of subscribers very satisfied with the free version, but the pro version is a nice upgrade as it includes post-by-mail -- e-mail entries with the photos attached and Journalspace does the rest.

And although it didn't start out that way, Journalspace added media integration to keep it competitive with MySpace, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, AOL, and Yahoo.

"For instance, you can go to the Music page and if you click on, say, Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" from the "top now listening" area, you'll see all the members who are also fans," Rhodes said. "And, from that page, you can add it to your list of favorite media, or hit the "write about this" link and you'll be taken to a blog entry with the album art automatically included. This makes it easy to blog about new books, films, and music."

Rhodes said he also is planning on adding support for applications conforming to Google's OpenSocial initiative in the weeks ahead.

Lagomorphics' other social network, Reezle, also needed to make changes on the fly. Originally conceived as an alternative to, "Am I Hot Or Not," the site launched early on as a more direct question: SWYDM.com. After failing to find a strong audience, the pair decided to push forward with YASN (yet another social network) in the form of Reezle.

"Reezle has a particular focus on singles, but anybody is welcome as long as they're interested in expanding their social circle," Rhodes said. The site re-launched in beta form and opened to the general public in 2005. The site currently boasts an "ad-free" environment on its member pages, easier URL's (www.reezle.com/profiles/membername), and video support.

Overall, shifting from one format to the other wasn't the hardest part since much of the site already was coded to accept Web 2.0 elements, according to Rhodes; it was managing the server load.

"The reason for the delay in offering the open signup page was because of concerns about our servers handling the load," he said. "We've done enough testing that we think that we'll be able to handle the additional traffic without causing a Friendster-like meltdown."

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