Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Alas, poor Smartgroups, I knew it well....

It's not without a tinge of sadness and wistful sigh that I noticed that, in possibly the least-surprising announcement I've seen for a long time, Orange is to finally pull the plug on Smartgroups

Smartgroups was, in its day, the Daddy of first-generation community applications, and I worked on it for just over two years just after it got bought out by Freeserve, who became wholly-owned by Wanadoo, then France Telecom, then finally Orange UK.

(Remember those "Ten signs you are in a dotcom company" emails that went round about the turn of the millenium? One of them particularly stuck in my mind - "You've sat at the same desk for two years, and worked for four different companies")

I learnt a lot about managing large-scale systems from that job - SG handled more than 50 million emails per month - and a good percentage of the stories I'll come out with after several late-night-beers-with-other-techies hail from that time. I also learned a lot about human nature, and the myriad ways in which people will never fail to suprise you, even when you think you've seen it all. And I'm not just talking about the users there...

But ultimately, it was a failure to evolve and keep up with the competition (e.g. MySpace) that gradually put the nails in its coffin, and after about four years of knowing full well that its days were numbered, SG has finally been taken out the back and given a nice sunny wall to stand against, and a roll-up to smoke. And a blindfold.

Farewell Smutgropes - you will live on in the memories of all those who worked on you. (Despite some quite determined scrubbing with Mind Bleach in some cases) And if anyone manages to track down the new homes of the Stereo Stimming group, the Brent Spiner Data Lovers group, or my own personal favourite - Hairy Bearded Scotsmen In Kilts ("ONLY pictures of hairy bearded scotsmen in kilts will be accepted - any pictures of hairy bearded men in kilts who are NOT Scottish will be deleted...") then be sure to let me know. Such gems of the longest of long tails are surely too fine to be lost forever :)


Guy Barry said...

I really like your use of language?

WonkeyDonkey said...

Just found your blog post and brings back some sad but true memories.

I was one of the original architects and developers of the SmartGroups system, and its such a shame to look back and see such massive potential just wither away and die.

Looking at how online communities evolved into the current social networking frenzy on the scale of myspace and facebook - Orange, who were at the forefront of leading this charge throughout Europe, really lost out by not looking forward and seizing that potential.

Such a shame.

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