If you remember several months back, Ello came onto our radars with a vengeance. It seemed like within a 2 week period, it went from no one every hearing of it, to everyone clamoring to try to secure a coveted invite code.
The ad-free, anti-Facebook, social network.
Then, seemingly, it died off - not surprising in our Idiocracy-esque culture of impatience for the latest insightful Kanye meme or cop-clobber-video. Through that whole thing, I was still curious and became a regular user of Ello despite so many thinking that it was just another passing fad.
Well, it turned out to be much more than I ever expected it to be. Yes, many people disappeared, but what disappeared with them was the meaningless snack-size bites of empty-calorie consumption. All that stuff already had a home. Facebook. What was left in Ello was a community of artists using the platform in ever-inventive ways to be as creative and expressive as possible. It started to cultivate a niche of artists and creatives and intellectuals actually sharing stuff that had more than a hint of cerebral quality to it. While Facebook remained where the jocks and ‘cool kids’ hung out, Ello was becoming the online home for the artists and the nerds. I like artists and nerds. So I stayed.
About a month ago, all of a sudden, I started getting more and more chatter on my Ello page, more likes, more adds, more comments, more engagement, and I was wondering what was going on. Then, about a week after that, I was being engaged by some of the developers of Ello and some of the community groups, which I didn’t even know existed at this point. And the closer I looked, the more I started to realize that they had subtly and quietly added a SLEW of new features and functionality, remaining true to form to their overall vibe of elegant minimalism.
Now we could directly reply to comments, we can like posts, it was easier to discover new people and subjects, and there was even a way to keep track of your ‘likes.’ The search function was overhauled, and, ‘HALLELUIAH!, there was a separate intuitive tab for notifications, making it ever easier to reply to comments and posts, as well as streamline who and what was adding you and/or engaging with you on your posts. Not to mention, their FAQ page is literally called WTF. I mean, c'mon...
As if this wasn’t enough, just as I was getting more and more excited about posting more on Ello (my god did I mention how beautiful photos look!???), I got an email asking if I wanted to test out the one thing that was glaringly missing from the Ello experience - a dedicated mobile app.
Within 24 hours, the beta version of the app was on my phone, and now that I’ve had almost two weeks to play with it, I’ve got to say, it’s nice.
Very VERY nice.
The Ello app retains the clean intuitive and minimal interface of the desktop version of Ello, yet, the functionality runs surprisingly deep. Not an easy feat to overcome, but it’s very evident that they’ve put in maximum effort to make it happen. And it’s worked very well. So well in fact, that about a week in, I actually started finding myself opening it more than the Facebook app, checking in on my Ello stream, liking and sharing posts, and, eventually, taking its place on my phone’s home screen. The caliber of content was just blowing me away.
The thing is this…rather than people cliquing and grouping themselves together based on how similar they are and what similar pages they’ve liked and all that fuckery, Ello is much more focused on just giving its users the space to be as unique and expressive as they choose, without having to be voluntary guinea pigs for marketers the world over. And because of that, I’ve managed to discover a ridiculously thoughtful and insanely creative populace on this thing, one that I’m sure I would have never been exposed to before. Hitting the ‘Discover’ tab and seeing the variety of artistic madness is not only beautiful, but inspiring.
Poets. Artists. Photographers. Writers. Musicians. Designers. Architects. Scientists.
The simple Friends/Noise categorization of who you add to your network is brilliant in its simplicity. No more sponsored posts, no more ads. At all. No more man-nipple-mirror selfies if you don’t want ‘em. No more posts of ‘friends’ complaining about what a crappy day they had. You can still be friends with them, but throw them into the ‘Noise’ category and rather than be forced to see it scroll past your stream, you can check in on all that self-serving non-contributing narcissism on your own schedule. And its the small simple things that make the experience so enjoyable - for example, if you’re checking your ‘Friends’ stream, it’s one column, edge to edge, so you can see that trusted material in large and glorious fashion, but if you choose to scroll through your ‘Noise’ stream, it’s broken into two columns, so you can scroll through it much more quickly and efficiently to find the stuff you want to stop at. Completely non-intrusive and buzz-kill proof.
In an age where people are quick to write off anything that doesn’t catch fire within seconds of its launch, Ello might just prove the vitality and value of patience. That whole slow and steady wins the race thing? They’re taking advantage of that quite methodically. They’ve managed to make a splash several months back, got themselves a loyal user base, have responded to the suggestions and comments from that base, have tweaked and updated the desktop experience to reflect that, and now, finally, the mobile app, which, so far, has proven to be a slam dunk as far as I’m concerned.
And I also started an outside community for anything that has to do with the outdoors - pictures, tips, trips, tricks, adventures - if it's outside, it belongs at www.ello.co/ellooutside
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