Twitter clones are starting to come out the woodwork. The latest candidate is StatusHQ, which surfaced last Friday and which my pal Luis Suarez describes as: "What Twitter could have been." Maybe, maybe not.
The central premise behind StatusHQ is that individuals can create up to 10 private groups on their own account but can be invited to any number of groups. As the blurb goes:
You don't need to email your entire company to tell them you are staring work on the Widget Inc. proposal, but that doesn't mean that information isn't important.
Jim might be thinking about a new idea for that proposal right now. He takes a look at Status, sees that you are working on the same thing and gives you a ring to connect. Susan sees that Drew is about to head to Starbucks and shoots him a text to pick up a Skinny Latte for her. Pete is wondering where the heck Karen is, quickly checks Status, and sees that she is working out of the Boston office today.
The business focus is clear. However, some aspects caused me to scratch my head while others made me shudder. StatusHQ asks two questions: What are you doing? and Where are you? I'm not sure I see the point of the second question. Why is that piece of information important to the point of requiring a separate field? When you enter an update the only thing you see is that update until you click on your name in the top right hand corner. Again, I'd prefer to see a river of information into which I can dip as a default. The UI is drop dead easy but there is a lot of wasted screen real-estate (see above image)
You can update via SMS - allegedly. I tried it but it didn't want to work. I know the message was delivered because I have an SMS 'receipt' but it never showed up in the statuses. That's probably because StatusHQ only accepts the US telephone number format. Given StatusHQ is happy to accept I am on Central European Time that's a straight fail.
The service allows you to delete messages. From a business perspective, that's an absolute no-no. Auditability and traceability are key requirements for any business application, largely because of the wide reaching impact of Sarbanes-Oxley so deleting should not be possible.
I like that StatusHQ removes the 140 character limit, instead it imposes a limit of 255 characters. The '140' issue has been a debating point among some of my peers over the last few months. Most of us agree that while 140 enforces brevity, it is restrictive in the context of business communications. Similarly, I generally like the way it shortens links to only show the www.sitename.com rather than enforcing TinyURL style shortening. In a business context this alternative approach is more intuitive. Authenticated RSS is there as well - again a plus point for those that want to follow what's going on in a reader rather than having the app open.
Overall StatusHQ is what I would call a 'good start in the right direction.' As a business oriented service, it is good to see them trying a 'freemium' model from the get go at taxi fare pricing. That makes so much more sense than trying to support this style of service on a fully free basis because there is no ambiguity about how the service is being supported.
But for enterprise, there is so much more that needs to be done. Tying into business process is a must in my book but that requires partnerships and a level of engineering that can make life complicated very quickly. One to watch.