Jumo: Cause Curation or Engagement Engine?
Jumo, a new cause-driven social networking site launched in beta on Tuesday by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, shows some promise on first glance as a cause curator, wrapping a lot of information into a nice simple package. However, it is not immediately clear how the site will go beyond making introductions and providing information (worthy ends in their own right) to facilitate people’s engagement with the causes they care about.
The site has a simple “getting started” process, authenticating through Facebook, then offering a quick easy set of menus to select issues and projects. By default it posted that I’d joined to my FB Wall, but that’s okay, and under settings there’s an option to disable subsequent updates to FB. It also had me automatically follow any of my FB friends who were already in Jumo.
As is expected for a beta launch, there are definitely still some kinks in the site’s operation. Information Week reported outages today, and indeed I received quite a few internal server errors this morning and some strange page renderings on refreshes, and I expect the interface will undergo some redesign to more cleanly group and manage projects, people and issues as users’ lists of these grow beyond the sidebar real-estate they currently possess. Overall though, the site is very straightforward, with just three pages; homepage, profile and settings.
The homepage is pretty crowded, but this is okay because it puts everything about the site right there at first glance. The center of the page is a news aggregator that seems to be picking up coverage from the names of the organizations I’d selected to follow. There is some Spanish language content on my page, so I’m interested to see how broadly coverage is collected. I haven’t been able to find a language filter in preferences anywhere (or the FAQ), so this could get interesting if content is aggregated in multiple languages. There’s a ‘talk’ column with updates from the people and projects a user is following. Then there are suggested projects and issues to follow.
This is not at all a social networking site like Facebook, it’s really more of a news aggregator. There is the capability to “like” items, but anything about interacting with friends is actually driven back to Facebook. I can write on my own Jumo “wall”, or the “wall” of people or projects in Jumo, but it seems that I can’t post updates containing URLs or share external content on this site. Beyond updates, content curation seems to be confined to the projects, so for the most part the site appears to be configured around introducing people to issues and projects they are interested, and keeping them informed about these, but then driving folks into a different forum for interaction.
There doesn’t seem to be a geographical component to the site yet. I would be really excited if the site would allow users to connect with global and national projects, but also to connect with local people (around any kind of project) and local projects – which is the forum in which people are most likely to consistently engage. Being able to orient people and projects around geography seems to be a requirement to make this site like the Yelp of causes, as Chris Hughes suggested he’d like it to be.
Meeting that goal would also seem to require a rating system, allowing participants to rate their experience with the project or charity. This could be a very valuable addition for helping to orient people to the most effective organizations, but there is obviously potential for abuse of such a ranking system, so getting it right will take some thought.
Finally, sub-projects would be an excellent addition, so if I connected with others around an existing project or organization, the work of Jumo members around that projects could be discussed in a break-out forum tied to the parent organization.
What Jumo can definitely do is provide a central place to connect people with causes that might otherwise have been hard to find – raising visibility for worthy organizations and projects, and this is a great start. But if Jumo can figure out how to convert awareness to engagement, then it will be doing something great. I look forward to seeing what comes next.