A new type of internet trend is popping up: about pages. These pages list your internet persona in one simple page with snazzy graphics, relevant pictures and a handy list of links to the many pages you believe define you.
Yet Another Profile Page.
We had it comming, really. It all started with traditional web pages. Then we had blogs. Then microbloging (twitter, aka blogging for twits) Then the first social network we all actually cared about, Facebook. Add a wad of misc experimental, private, project and whatever sites and we (the tech savvy ones) all have an conservative average of 4 URLs a person.
Enter this “about page” concept.
I was introduced to the idea by About.me. I subscribed to the beta and got me about.me/gertschepens
Then later I heard about KimTag: kimtag.com/GertSchepens. Was introduced to jumpscan.com: jumpscan.com/gertschepens. And curious and already slightly annoyed at the fresh trend, I checked for alternatives with alternativeto.net and found that these will indeed be the next black. As a side note; Google has an about page too though nobody really seems to realize that.. Bert has a wonderful presentation about QR codes and touches on these about pages.
I get it.
Really, I do! Facebook can’t offer this service because of its closedness that at first sight offers privacy, but in the end only serves to protect their monetaty gains. (Monetary gains like selling their user data (yes, YOUR data) to whoever wants to pay them for it.) Whatever the reasons, the fact is its not an about page. Neither is twitter, which aims to be good at what it does without adding the bloat. Respect for that decision, specialisation is good. Sites like picasa or the one that keeps on screwing up on user data (Yes, thats you, flickr) often offer some sort of a profile, but in the end they aren’t suitable either.
Google made a throw at profile pages but they are too creepy in that they have your chat, your email, your everything and they dont realize that you dont just want anyone to have that url. (which is often readable on the profile page in some form any half smart person can figure out) You can disable the links, but its still creepy and .. Google just isnt that good at social; look at Orkut.
I had high hopes for Diaspora, an open source facebook alternative. Being open, it could offer exactly that style of data, accessible to who needs it. But I dont think its ready for prime time yet.
Blogs have about pages, but not everyone has a blog; blogs sometimes move and writing a decent about page for your blog is harder than you d think.. So we DO need a place that offers that info and that takes part of “choosing what info and making it pretty” out of our hands..
Lets take a look at what the Standard Content for these pages is..
All the pages have a default setup. They all have a Picture, First name; Last name and Location field. They all offer some sort of Headline / About text field with sometimes a separate Biography space. And a wad of options for listing or connecting with sites like.
To put it in a list:
- About & Biography
- Facebook, Flicr, MySpace
- Blog, Email, Website, other sites
- Custom ID, Custom Link
- Address, Aim, App Store, Blogger, Buzz, Delicious, Digg, Diigo, Formspring, Foursquare, Friendster, Hi5, iTunes, Last.FM, LinkedIn, Meetup, Mobile, Picasa, Reddit, RSS, Skype, Soundcloud, Steam, Stumbleupon, Tagged, Telephone, Tumblr, Typepad, Vimeo, WordPress, YahooID, Youtube
They all offer about the same listing options though some offer extra drama and flavor with the ability to aggregate content or star sites you find more important.
The Goole Profile goes an extra mile and offers an extra wad of fields in which you can define yourself and does this slightly more tongue in cheek compared to the others
- Places I’ve lived map
- Bragging Rights (Ex survived highschool, have 3 kids, ..)
- Looking For
- Other names (ex alternate spelling, maiden name, ..)
The biggest added value is undoubtedly in the extra options
- Download VCard
- QR code
- Friends (Teh social)
- Mobile version
Generating QR codes is a big service even though its not hard to do with services like ZXing. I dont think we need extra help with the sharing nor the social part. The stats might be important to some and I have heard people say that a mobile version is Very important though I personally switch to the full versions for 90% of the sites. The VCard is a nice touch (Jumpscan does this) and I think this is interesting added value but on the other hand I also wonder if anyone ever really uses vcards… except for creating and attaching them, that is.. But I realize that this is just my outlook on vcards and that I am probably wrong here. And to reitterate; being pretty is an important added value too; something about.me is very good at. Even though Kimtag has the prettiest QR codes. I like the extra block with the K; makes it look all nice 🙂
I look at these pages and I think .. is this really all they are doing? Will I have to keep up with yet another profile site just to have this? Or several of them if I cant choose what features I prefer? And do I want to print those QR-codes on everything I own, considering the service may stop in a year, maybe two because of the many reasons sites like these stop? (bought by some company, ran out of money, ..)
In short, I look at these pages and I think “I should host this myself”!
Take a Drupal site or a WordPress site. Put your name and picture on there; fill in the data (check the list earlier if you need an idea on what to put in there) and generate a QR code for your page. And you ve got your own similar page! For the sake of completeness; there are some features you might want and that are not readily available in Drupal and WordPress; so without further ado; another list!
- The Data
You know who you are and what to put there. You might need a bit of inspiration, but other than that its just summarizing your digital life onto the page and adding your picture..
- Aggregating Content
If you like to have certain data aggregated from, for example, twitter, both WP and Drupal have options to do this. I personally dont; I like an about page to be just about the data. The easiest way that will work for most of the sites is to take the rss feed and have it aggregated. WordPress has rss widgets for this and Drupal has an aggregator plugin by default and a wad of other plugins for when you need more options.
- QR Code
Both WordPress and Drupal have plugins that generate QR codes. You can use those to auto generate them and with a little configuring, you can put an automated QR code on all your pages. Or if you just need the one, you can generate it at ZXing and upload it to your site; they’re just images in the end.
Both Drupal and WP have plugins that put a slew of sharing buttons on your site. These share/save buttons are as easily added as including a plugin and honestly; I think we’re all able to plug our sites on the social networks we use without needing a button to generate the message..
This might be the one thing thats toughest to replicate. About.me has a wonderful page with twitter stats; listing who retweets you the most; who @-messages you most frequently .. I use Google Analytics for my stats and it does a Wonderful job. I have a slew of statistics about who visits me when and why; but no twitter stats. I am content with the many stats that Google Analytics offer. Both Drupal and WP have plugins that facilitate the integration of Analytics into your personal pages.
- Mobile version
Although I personally don’t use these too much; I’ll admit that they have their uses. Both site engines offer plugins for awesome automated mobile versions.
Generating one of these by hand isnt tough and uploading them to your page isn’t either. You will of course have to maintain it; but that data usually doesn’t change a lot at any rate..
This does mean that you’ll need to get a WordPress or Drupal to tinker with. Either on some personal webspace or maybe wordpress.com?
In the end I’m still a bit skeptic about it all. This just feels like another iteration of the many social pages that pop up, live for a short while and then go the way of the Geocities. But on the other hand I do recognize the itch its trying to scratch.
So expect a post about a new page at about.gertschepens.be soon. Based on Drupal with some jQuery for minor usability effects.