GDGT, a new gadget-centric Web site, has just gone live–joining the throng of gizmo sites that already vie for your online attention span. It’s not a traditional blog, though: Think of it as a gadget discussion room, museum, ownership tracking system, and social network. Being its target audience, I took it for a spin.
GDGT’s been developed by Ryan Block and Peter Rojas, which gives it a pretty amazing provenance: Block was formerly chief editor at Engadget, while Rojas co-founded Gizmodo before moving on to co-found Engadget. Both chaps have been immersed in covering breaking high-technology news for years, so it’s interesting to see that their new offspring is a different beast altogether. The tagline on the site’s landing page explains GDGT nicely: it’s a “place for you, me, and all the gadgets we know.” And before I get into talking about the site a bit, you should probably know that I used to write for Gizmodo, along with Noah Robischon.
As befits a site invented by two gadgets fans, the look and feel of GDGT is clean and logical. Each GDGT user gets a homepage that’s a bit like a gadget-centric Facebook profile–you get some space to explain who you are, upload a picture and link to your website. But the main bit is your “have”, “had” and “want” lists–these are a dynamic filing system where you can keep track of favorite gadgety items. They’re selected from a database that contains full specs on the devices concerned, and the database is user-editable–you can even use this database to compare specs of similar products, handy when planning a purchase.
The personal lists aren’t necessarily massively useful, I’ll admit. But as a full-on gadget fiend, I’ll be populating my lists pretty soon. There is also the ability to submit new gear to the database, with each category having multiple levels of granularity. But it’s also a little inflexible and horridly U.S.-centric. Why does everything have to be in dollars, guys? And the U.S. launch date should only be important if a gadget was launched in the U.S. before anywhere else.
To talk about favorite (or perhaps reviled?) gadgets, there’s a full-featured discussion forum, broken down into general discussion, support and tips’n’tricks, and organized by gadget. That’s my favorite bit of the site, and I think the most-powerful asset here–while the front page feed does include news feeds from “favored” gadget sites, it’s in the social networking and discussion forums that GDGT will most likely find its true calling. That’s because we all know what a detail-obsessed, partisan and geeky place the gadget world is. The heated Macs v PCs and iPhone v Palm Pre debates give just a teeny flavor of this. The ability to create friends and attract followers adds to this feature, and brings a vaguely Twitter-esque feeling to the site.
The weakest site section is the Community page. You might expect this to be a dynamic meeting place, or at least a fast-moving feed of the most recent comments made in the forum. But it’s not–it’s just a timeline feed of who’s joined the site, started a discussion or submitted a review, presented in a pretty static way. There’s also a list of “top members”, though what qualities gets you into that list are unclear. This could be the hub of GDGT, if it were a little more dynamic–my imagination has it filled with real-time updating tag word clouds, or user-selectable graphs a bit like USSpending.gov.
But, after all that, what’s GDGT for? It’s hard to say. The site is not so much for any one thing, instead it’s more of a place that technology fans can meet. A kind of online gadget club that mixes news with discussion and a dab of history. It probably won’t steal much traffic from the newshound gadget sites, because it’s not very much like them–hard news is more likely to hit Gizmodo, Engadget, CNET or one of their competitors first. The average consumer will probably check out reviews on Amazon first, or stick to Which?. This is an interesting question because the site is aimed directly at me and people like me, but I’m not sure it’s going to be the first site I check out in the morning: My real friends people a community much bigger than gadgets, and I meet them online in Facebook. Still, it’s brand new and GDGT will probably evolve over time–hopefully becoming a little less U.S.-centric as it does. The best way to see what it’s all about is to head there and have a bit of a geek-out.