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Inside Spymac Leapfrog - Yet Another Blunder
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Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:51 pm Reply and quote this post
For people who have never heard of spymac, let me give you some background to it.  It was founded in 2001 as a Macintosh enthusiast website, by Kevin April and Holger Ehlis.  The main reason this community became so big was the fact that the spymac team came up with the idea of iWalk, apparently a supposed Apple PDA.

In the end the photographs and descriptions were shown to be a hoax.  However Spymac had still benefited from this and now has over a million member (half of those are inactive though).

To bolster spymac's member count they launched the internet's (yes the internet's!) first 1 GB email service, this was another reason why spymac became so popular with internet users, now though everyone offers and Spymac has ever since been trying to gain more members.

The reason Spymac became so unpopular with members was due to the fact that they released half-baked services which just wouldn't work.

They then tried to pacify members by introducing 'Club' which had good potential, but just didn't work. The club package included 'easy' to use blogs, a homepage service with large amounts of storage and much more.  It also included a suite of internet-aware applications which allowed users control of the features from their desktop, sadly this was only released for mac's.

With the new version of spymac (named Leapfrog) they hoped to gain users trust, this was done first through fixing all the bugs in the old system, however many members would have liked them to spend more time on getting Leapfrog right.

Leapfrog also tries to jump on the web 2.0 bandwagon, however it could be said that this version of spymac is neither innovative or pretty to look at (which most web 2.0 sites are).  Looking through the website I noticed that most of the ideas are copied from other websites, including myspace, flickr and many more web 2.0 sites.
The site also relies on other websites to provide services and this website could be classed in technical terms as a 'mashup' of different web services.

It seems that with this release of Spymac the community has lost it's identity.
Before it was noticeable that the site was based around Apple and mac operating system, now it looks any other myspace or bebo.  With no visual identity could this be the end of once a thriving mac community?  If you go to the about section of the website itself, it in fact does not mention it is a apple mac community, strengthening my argument.

Several sources inside the web 2.0 industry have said that the only reason site's like Spymac incorporate generic features is so that they can be bought bigger and better companies, such as the recent purchase of youtube, however with youtube they did something new and innovative.

So lets look at the new Spymac Leapfrog features.
The video section of Spymac is nothing special, on the front page is shows a random selection of videos as well as videos posted in different time categories, today, this week, this month, all time.  The visual layout of the site gives the appearance that the boxes which contain the video are movable however this is not the case.  The interface (once you click to view a video) is similar to that of youtube's and other web 2.0 video sites, again striving on the argument that sypmac has not put any thought behind the design and development of the website.  Another disturbing feature of video's sections is the ability and condoned allowance of users upload adult content, later in this review i'll talk about their 'family filter'.

The pictures page has exactly the same interface design of the videos page, I question spymac's enthusiasm when coming to designing this website.  When you click on the title of an image an box pops up with the image and users details in-front of the website, this method is widely used on a variety of websites and is a common plugin which can be download for free.

Spymac's webcam is a odd feature to add, from what I can gather I displays a static image, in a similar way to that of the deviant art feature.  This feature could come into problems if people under a certain age use it could bring up legal problems for Spymac.  Again the interface is the same as all the other sections which does not make for interesting viewing.  

The audio section is again similar to video, pictures and webcams.  When you click through to listen to the audio you arrive at the same interface as that of the video section, with the same options, a strange feature that spymac has added is a random picture added to the audio which seems to come a selection of possibly royalty free images.

When I first arrived at people section of the spymac website I hit by the similarity of that with the interface of youtube, when you click on the users image you are sent to a default profile page which shows vital stats, friends and comments.  Even the colour scheme resembles that of youtube.com.

I can not comment on both the forums and blogs sections of the website this is due to the fact that they are still running the 'classic' version of both features, however in typical spymac fashion the links back to both the blogs and forums sections are broken.

The collections part of Spymac is a feature found in many web 2.0 communities, the basic idea is collect videos, audio and pictures which are based around one subject.  Again this section has been copied from other well established web 2.0 sites.

It has to be said that the one thing that got me upset was the easy availability of adult content which could easily fall into the wrong hands.  For example it doesn't take a genius to switch off the 'family filter' infact Spymac has put this feature in a  prominent position on the page meaning that anyone could spot it.  It also begs to ask why does spymac need to include adult content on it's site? Is this just another way to get members signing up when they hear that the site includes adult content?  Spymac openly accepts membership from minors aged thirteen or over with 'adult consent' however I wonder how parent/guardians would feel if they new an online community that their child engages with includes adult content?  Spymac may have back itself up in legal regards, but what about moral regards?

Time will tell members take to this re-design/developement of a community based around Apple Mac's?

If you are a member of Spymac please register opinion

---UPDATE---

iVirtua has just learnt from sources that major boycott of the community will be put in place when Leapfrog is released publicly.  One member (who shall remain anonymous said " I don't really like it, I liked the old gallery better.

EDIT: Note the dating ads on Spymac, and also some of the revenue sharing methods copied from flixya.com

Screenshots:

You've read the review now see for youself.


















Contributed by William Tildesley, iVirtua Ultimate Contributor
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Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:55 pm Reply and quote this post
My response: I miss Spymac 3


Contributed by Mario_guy, iVirtua Regular Member
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Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:59 pm Reply and quote this post
My Response: " Pwned."
Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:02 pm Reply and quote this post
Here is an Access password for www.spymac.com

Removed.
Quote:
We were just informed that you are giving out the press account information on your website.  Please remove this information from your site as we sent it to you as the Press Officer for review and not for you to post.  Thank You.


Last edited by Editorial Team on Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:42 pm; edited 3 times in total

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:40 pm Reply and quote this post
doesn't work
Contributed by Mario_guy, iVirtua Regular Member
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Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:56 pm Reply and quote this post
That login seems to be bad I tryed it several time.
Contributed by BoxcarJim, iVirtua Recognised Member
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Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:58 pm Reply and quote this post
We have been asked by Spymac to remove the username details.
If you are a reporter yourself you can email spymac and ask for a user account.

Contributed by William Tildesley, iVirtua Ultimate Contributor
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Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:00 am Reply and quote this post
Yes, we realise that.

Can you offer any explanation why the login credentials do not work?

Contributed by Mario_guy, iVirtua Regular Member
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Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:07 am Reply and quote this post
From the pictures I've seen, I'm underwhelmed. Spymac offers a lot. Email services that are decent, forums like others, only worse. Galleries like others, only worse. Chat like others, only worse. And a few other things... only worse. It's a mish-mash, a concoction of things half-done. Some stuff has potential. There are some good ideas. But instead of working towards excellence, they start working on a new house when the other's still without roof. That's when ppl start to complain about getting rained on - if you'll allow the metaphor. Sure, on a construction site, you can build a number of buildings simultaneously. When, however, you want ppl to move in... you'd better put a roof on top of it. That's what Spymac is to me... no topping, no finish. Skeletal services with mouldy walls... except the email service which is the only one I still use.
To be fair... the galleries might be unique in their scope, I'm not sure. However, they're cumbersome to search and browse, IMHO.


Last edited by Macorian on Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:16 am; edited 2 times in total

Contributed by Macorian, iVirtua Active Member
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Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:14 am Reply and quote this post
Quote:

Yes, we realise that.

Can you offer any explanation why the login credentials do not work?

It did work, thats how we got hold of the screen shots, although someone has tipped off spymac as to this post.
The account appears to be disabled.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:14 am Reply and quote this post
Spymac 3 celebrates its 3rd anniversary in just a week. I feel, and I believe that many others would agree, that Spymac 3 was and still remains their best web site to date.

Spymac 3 was the golden age of the site, I think. It's hard to top perfection, I give them that.

Still, all things must pass.


Contributed by Mario_guy, iVirtua Regular Member
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Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:16 am Reply and quote this post
I have asked CTO of Spymac (Kevin April) for an interview, this is the email I sent him:

Quote:
Dear Mr April,

Would it be possible for you to answer three short questions, for our on going article about Spymac Leapfrog, we'd like to get all sides of the argument concerning Leapfrog.

Thank You,

William Tildesley

--Questions--
Please feel free to write as much or as little as you wish.

1). Do you feel the community is behind leapfrog?

2). What do you say when people criticise Spymac saying nothing innovating has been shown in Leapfrog? And it's all been done before?

3).  Why does Spymac need adult content on it's site?

Quote:

Contributed by William Tildesley, iVirtua Ultimate Contributor
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Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:18 am Reply and quote this post
Sam England wrote:
Quote:

Yes, we realise that.

Can you offer any explanation why the login credentials do not work?

It did work, thats how we got hold of the screen shots, although someone has tipped off spymac as to this post.
The account appears to be disabled.


OK, that makes sense.

Contributed by Mario_guy, iVirtua Regular Member
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Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:23 am Reply and quote this post
William Tildesley wrote:
I have asked CTO of Spymac (Kevin April) for an interview, this is the email I sent him:

Quote:
Dear Mr April,

Would it be possible for you to answer three short questions, for our on going article about Spymac Leapfrog, we'd like to get all sides of the argument concerning Leapfrog.

Thank You,

William Tildesley

--Questions--
Please feel free to write as much or as little as you wish.

1). Do you feel the community is behind leapfrog?

2). What do you say when people criticise Spymac saying nothing innovating has been shown in Leapfrog? And it's all been done before?

3).  Why does Spymac need adult content on it's site?

Quote:


Sorry, but I must say those questions were rather blunt. You may not receive the response you are expecting.

Contributed by Mario_guy, iVirtua Regular Member
1472 iVirtua Loyalty Points • View ProfileSend Private MessageBack to Top

Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:27 am Reply and quote this post
The point of journalism is to be blunt - anyway at least we tried
Contributed by William Tildesley, iVirtua Ultimate Contributor
23597 iVirtua Loyalty Points • View ProfileSend Private MessageBack to Top

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