The Meteor platform is based on open Web standards that make sharing media items across sites a breeze. For example, Vox users who have accounts at the photo-sharing sites Flickr or Photobucket can pull their photos directly into Vox blog entries. If another Vox user has blogged about a YouTube video or an Amazon product that you also like, you can “re-blog” it in one click.
Vox provides a couple of tricks for navigating all the assets piling up in users’ blogs. The programmers have done away with categories, a common but little-used feature of first-generation blogging platforms that allowed authors to break a stream of entries into manageable chunks. Instead, they’ve introduced collections–bins where users can group anything from music clips to their posts about movies–as well as a tagging function like those that let millions of other users of media-sharing sites label and retrieve their creations.
The privacy controls on Vox–which are identical to those on LiveJournal–let users build these creations at their leisure, then decide who, if anyone, should have the privilege of seeing them. The first choice, “you only,” is my favorite. It means that you can use your Vox blog as both a private and a public journal. When you log in, you’ll see all your posts, but when others visit your blog, they’ll see only the ones they’re permitted to view, depending on whether you’ve marked the items “family,” “friends,” “family and friends,” or “the world.” (To be designated as family or friends, visitors must sign up for their own Vox accounts. The world at large can view your blog at a custom URL along the lines of “myblog.vox.com.”) The “you only” setting is also useful for saving draft posts; since these drafts, too, appear in your personal view, you can track all your entries without the need for a separate administrative interface like the one at TypePad.
Six Apart clearly wants Vox to be a community rather than just a collection of blogs. Each user’s blog includes a page called VoxWatch, a personal news aggregator showing recent posts from people the user has designated as family, friends, or “neighbors.” It’s a way to follow what the people in your social network are doing without having to visit to each individual’s blog.
Vox’s community push is also evident from the corny but fun ways Vox’s editors prompt users to blog daily and interact with other users. A “Question of the Day” feature asks users to muse on subjects such as “What character in a book can you connect with or relate to the most?” (A member called artgeek provides one thoughtful answer.) Blog entries that many people have marked as favorites often earn a mention in the aptly named “This Is Good” section of Vox’s home page.
Vox blogs are so attractive and easy to operate that I’ve decided to relocate my personal blog from TypePad to Vox. (Unfortunately, Vox doesn’t yet provide an import function that would let me copy all my old posts to the new platform. But that’s okay–I doubt anyone is really interested in my musings from 2004 about spring cleaning or Spalding Gray’s suicide.) As a self-styled creative dude, I used to think I needed the extra control over layout, fonts, type size, and item placement that medium-difficulty blog platforms like TypePad allow. But in fact, fiddling with my TypePad blog’s appearance took time away from actually communicating. I’ve found it’s that back-to-basics philosophy that makes Vox refreshing.