Swivel this, Swivel that

About a year and ago I left a company called Grand Central to go on a long delayed honeymoon, and to eventually join Six Apart. I will be perfectly honest, when I left Grand Central, much of the hope I once had for their product had vanished. All that was exciting about the concept of Grand Central had been sapped away by an inability to find a real problem to solve.


So when I was invited to come see a demo of their new product called Swivel, I will be honest: I did not expect much at all. Why? Partially because I think their current website is very reminiscent of Grand Central's with the same smoke and mirror marketing. They have that classic infographic that looks great, but communicates nothing.

I was expecting a classic "Grand Central-don't-look-at-the-man-behind-the-curtain-Demo" that over the years I had become all too familiar with. What I got surprised me. Instead of turning on Powerpoint, they gave me the keys to my own Swivel account and watched me go.

Bold move counselor.

So, here are my first impressions, and if you are out there guys, my feedback for you as well. And if I am blunt, it is because I care.

First, the good.

  1. Your product has an air of impressiveness and coolness to it that completely took me by surprise. That is an elusive quality, and if you cultivate that properly then could convert "cool" into "compelling." And that would be... cool.
  2. There is real utility (and value) in Swivel. The utility became apparent when I first started entering in my credentials for AdSense, Amazon Associates, my weblog URL, etc. The value slapped me in the face when I saw the reports for the first time. It was nothing short of a "wow" moment. I had never thought of looking at my revenue before... I mean really look at it. Usually I just glance at the numbers in AdSense, give myself a pat on the back that someone even visits my site at all, and then move on. But Swivel shows me all the possibility and promise latent into the blogs I put so much effort into. And it shows it to me all in one place. The convenience alone of seeing all my stats in one place is why I will use your product!
  3. Swivel has a really nice aesthetic. It is fun to work with. I sincerely enjoyed clicking around and seeing all the knobs and dias. It also doesn't overload me with too much information, despite the huge potential for it to do so. Finally, there is a very latent intuitiveness in your product that will make it easy to grasp.

Which takes me to the bad.

  1. The intuitive part of your UI is still just right under the surface. It is technically usable, no doubt, but it can, with a just a little effort, feel so much more natural. You need to draw that "latent intuitiveness" to the surface. Here is what I recommend.
    1. See what you can learn from Feedburner's user interface. They blend the configuration of a feed, with all the stats about a feed very well. The interface is quick to learn, and all the tasks I can do care about doing are at my fingertips.
    2. I want a dashboard! I want to see my stats immediately. As soon as I log in. Instant gratification. Just take me to a page that summarizes my data for me for that day, week, month, or quarter and let me drill into it.
    3. Swivel is just complex enough that a nice overview, or tutorial could go a long way. But you could also simply streamline the process, by boiling it down to a wizard.

  2. Don't just let people claim a blog, let them log into it. Then you can use Atom and XMLRPC to get a list of their blogs, posts, comments, trackbacks, etc. You would have a lot of data at your fingertips.
  3. I want more, more, more! You have proven that you can integrate with a number of different data providers, and that you can do it in a compelling way. Now I want more. Specifically:

    1. I want to see an overlap of my Feedburner stats.
    2. I want to see page hits from my blog.
    3. I want to see my Technorati stats; specifically I want to see who is sending me traffic. I want to know that readers being referred to me by person X, whoever they are, are more likely to create revenue for me.
    4. I want Swivel to not only map revenue to my post volume, but also to specific posts. I want to analyze my revenue by "tag" or in other words, I want to correlate what topics I write about to revenue. <ThinkingOutLoud>Perhaps you could somehow combine your data with that from Technorati and then even recommend items for me to post about...</ThinkingOutLoud>

In summary

I had a great time with everyone at Swivel (um, "Grand Central?"). They have assembled an awesome team, focused on delivering real value to bloggers, and companies looking to build a business online.

If you are any of the following people, I strongly urge you to get a "Swivel Golden Ticket:"

  • A blogger who has AdSense installed on their blog
  • A business that generates revenue from associates programs
  • An entrepenuer selling products through eBay or other auction sites
  • A web site stats-junkie

By the way, where the hell is your blog!? Where do I go to learn about updates? Speaking of which, when is the next release?!

More, more, more. I want more.

2 TrackBacks

Six Apart is hosting the San Francisco Perl Users Group tonight at 8 p.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at Movable Type. Byrne Reese will discuss the underpinning of Movable Type's architecture and design decisions. The meeting is free and open to all a... Read More

It is interesting, ZDNet has released two articles in the past day about Swivel. One of them showed up on my Technorati Radar. The other article made its way to me via a friend. It is good to see Swivel... Read More

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