Say Hello to Blellow, Microblogging Web Workers

blellowAs I was leaving a bar late one night while at South by Southwest last week, someone handed me a Blellow sticker. “Pretty cool, funny name,” I thought.

It turns out that Blellow is more than just a name. In fact, it’s an ambitious microblogging platform geared toward the web working and networking set. Note that I used “networking” without the commonly tacked-on “social” in front of it. Blellow is looking to become the LinkedIn of microblogging platforms, as opposed to the more chit-chatty, freewheeling space (crammed into 140-character or less bursts) that Twitter currently occupies.

The idea is that while Twitter and Facebook are now relatively “mainstream” places to keep up with current friends and ruminate about thoughts both big and small, Blellow offers a platform for microblogging professionals and web workers to coordinate meetups, find jobs, seek out projects and engage in professional conversations through the “groups” areas of the site.

One of the first things you’ll notice after you register and login to Blellow is that it feels different than most microblogging sites. There’s a torrent of statistics and communications management tools on the left column, including detailed stats that run down the number of friends, followers, “@” replies and “kudos” you’ve received (which may seem familiar to those of you who spend time using MySpace blogs) as well as data on public and private groups. With regard to kudos, Jennifer Van Grove at Mashable points out that, “Kudos are like credibility, so each time you receive kudos for a job well done, you’ll rank higher in Blellow search results, which could expose you to new clients and more work opportunities.”

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Like Yammer, Blellow asks the simple question: “What are you working on?” In response to that question, Blellow allows you to enter up to 300 characters, which may be a more comfortable space to get a fully-formed thought in, as opposed to the 140-character limit that Twitter famously imposes.

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Blellow handles public groups in kind of a nifty way. While Twitter uses the hashtag (#) convention to allow Twitter search and other third-party services to track topics, Blellow uses the percent sign (%) for tracking group conversations. For example, Apple Love (“A group for the discussion of Mac OS X, Apple Desktop & Laptops, and of course, the iPhone”), is set up with “%apple” in the post entry field when you visit the group’s page. That means posts entered from the Apple Love group, as well as anywhere else on Blellow in which “%apple” is used, will be aggregated into the group’s stream. This is a smart way, in my view, to allow for the organic creation of mini-communities within the larger Blellow platform. The challenge with any new social site, of course, that offers many features is to get people to use them and to avoid the dreaded “ghost town effect” in which things look a bit tumble weed-y.

Private groups is an area that Blellow is looking to monetize, charging $5 per month for a private group with up to 1GB of storage, or $10 per month for 10 GBs. If Blellow can make headway in signing up groups in any numbers, look for other microblogging sites to follow this model. That said, because strong private group experiences already exist for free in other products like FriendFeed Rooms, it’s likely it will be hard to get many to cough up cash for a private group, at least initially.

The way in which the Jobs section is set up reveals much about who Blellow is targeting, namely web workers and creative professionals. With a default setting of All, there are currently filters for Design, Development, Writing and Other.bl-jobs

The Projects section, an entirely separate area found on Blellow’s top navigation menu, again focuses on web workers looking to make some extra money or to engage in a resume-building project of some sort. Examples of projects – which may be toggled between Paid and Pro Bono – include designing a business web site, building a Facebook app and writing a web site review.

Would you consider using Blellow for business networking or for finding work?

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