Time to waffle?

Wafflebox is a free service that enables you to receive voice messages on your website, Facebook profile, MySpace, Friendster, Tagged or your blog.

When you join you will be given a unique telephone number, an 0845 number charged at a national rate, your friends can leave a voice message in your Wafflebox which you and your page visitors can listen to on your site.

Sign up is fairly easy, though the form is not particularly user friendly. If you pick a username that is already in use (I got the username Christopher) you do not discover this until you have submitted the form and when the form reloads the two password fields are empty and require re-entering. This is the same as the CAPTCHA code, which is not particularly clear and took a couple of attempts to get right.

More annoying form problems when you come to edit your profile, I could not fit Christopher Wellbelove in the name box – so C Wellbelove had to suffice. You can manually add phone numbers to an on-line phone book (linking a name with the number that phoned you) though would be better if this could simply take these straight from an outlook address book or mobile sim.

Adding to your Facebook profile seemed extremely easy, from the Wafflebox site you click a link which takes you to the application within Facebook which asks for presmission to access your account, however so far I cannot find where it is within my profile for my friends to see.

I am not sure why someone would want to ring a national rate number to leave a message when they could type it instead for free. A nice idea though, adding a demension to your page which could be used as a feedback system for a product and service or just for your friends to leave a silly message, sing a song or maybe to wish you a happy birthday.

An annoying ‘feature’ I spotted in the help page is that if you do not receive a waffle for 90 days they will take back your number and you will lose any of the messages left. For a new services this seems a relatively short period and not a good idea to annoy your users by making them sign up again for a new Wafflebox which is unlikely to happen.

You can leave me a waffle on 0845 126 4957.

Call charges from the Wafflebox site ‘Calls to Waffleboxes are charged at standard local rates (UK). On the 26th October 2007, calls from a BT landline are are charged at: 2p per minute day time, 0.5p per minute evenings, and 0.5p per minute at weekends. (Call charges stated above are subject to change.)’

Has Friends Reunited left it too late to let you unite?

I joined Friends Reunited long before the term ‘Social Network’ was being used to describe a wave of sites that now connect millions around the world. In the early days you could not add photos (even a profile picture) without paying a subscription. Email addresses and website addresses were banned, leading me to resort to describing my site as wellbelove dot com. The ban was due to the fact that if you wanted to message an old school friend you had to part with the cash for a yearly subscription. Friends Reunited wanted to stop you getting in touch with your old school friends by any other means.

With the birth of services sits such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, where users are free to find and message to their hearts content. Friends Reunited stuck to it’s business model and with it suffered a decline in usage. This all happened as It’s new owners ITV (2005) was having lots of problems elsewhere and what Friends Reunited had really needed at that time was a fresh company with the energy and the guts to react fast and change before it was too late.

Only now, years after Friends Reunited have watched new comers come and grow, have they finally made it free for you to message and receive messages from friends.

Friends Reunited has a big issue with thousands of dormant accounts, many who signed up originally will have changed their email address several times losing contact with the site. How annoying to finally be able to message your friends only to find out that they are no longer there to pick up your message. Careful management of dormant accounts is needed so that we do not have to sift through lots of dead wood to reach the occasional active one.

Friends Reunited are planning a multi-million marketing campaign to help them regain the ground loss to fresher rivals. This will hopefully tempt those who have been away holidaying on the Facebook beach to come back and see if there is anyone else out there who isn’t also on Facebook.

Friends Reunited now needs to go the next step. Enable people to make their profile public – you currently have to be logged in to see any content – what better tool for driving traffic to the site than a million names on a search engine. Integration with other social networking sites would also drive usage. A Friends Reunited Facebook application is needed (if not already planned), a step to far for the owners at ITV maybe?