Sandbox – My New Playground

A few months ago, a group of bloggers (including myself) were involved in a closed beta project to test Sandbox. Media practitioners and some internet celebrities also joined in during this test phase.

Now, Sandbox is launching into open beta and I would like to invite you to check it out. Most of my blogger friends were in the closed beta with me so it was not difficult to start off as I already had a community of friends in it.

A few things about what Sandbox is:

1. Sandbox is an online platform that connects people together through microblog posts, photos and videos. More than just being a social networking site, Sandbox also has an online content store where you can purchase games and music. The developers precisely chose the word “sandbox” because it is meant to be the place where one can play around.

2. The user content is locally developed, meaning it is Filipino through and through. And because it is Pinoy, those of us in the Philippines have access to ongoing raffles, giveaways and chances to win prizes.

My friend Jayvee cites 5 good reasons to join Sandbox.

1. Your friends are most probably already there
When Sandbox launched in April it had a few hundred beta testers who were members of mainstream and online publications. Communities have been growing at a steady rate across all spectra — video gaming, anime, tech, love, blogging advice, photography, food and dining .. the list goes on. And, if you can’t find a group that fits you, why not create your own?

2. It is built as a one stop shop
There are two components to Sandbox – the user generated features that’s composed of the social network aspect, blogging platform, and photo / video uploads and an online content store where you can download games and music (P30.00 per song, cheaper than iTunes). Sandbox integrates what’s on your web browser with your mobile in your account creation page thus when you order items from your desktop or laptop, the information is pushed to your phone.

3. It has tangible benefits
Not that I have anything against other social networks, but this is the first locally developed one that actively gives out rewards and benefits to its members. So apart from the fulfillment you get with connecting with your friends, there are true offline benefits for participating in promotions and campaigns.

4. You can make money
Because Sandbox is locally developed, there are more interesting opportunities for you to make money through the system. Apart from an advertising platform within Sandbox that is currently being developed, there are going to be other engagements that will allow Sandbox netizens to build their online real estate such as the mobile site development. During the beta brief, Anton discussed the feasibility of growing your community. Just like with blogs, your real estate inside Sandbox values over time, especially when you grab potentially high ranking keywords.

5. It is continuously being improved
So really, the most exciting thing about Sandbox is that it is continuously being improved based on the feedback from the community. I’ll be the first to say that what you’re currently seeing is still the tip of the iceberg and the team led by Rezza Custodio has been actively looking into feedback. Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight but the plans for the future of Sandbox will take a stronger stance on Web 2.0. So yeah, tell your friends!

Personally though, I have been using Sandbox primarily for microblogging and the phone I am using specifically fits this purpose. Of course, this competes with the likes of Twitter, Plurk and Facebook where I am on so it behooves the developers to find features and niches which will appeal to the local folks.

Smart is at the helm of this project so I am sure that with the proper feedback during this open beta phase, they will be able to tweak it.

To start off, I have a few things lined up as feedback for the people behind Sandbox:

1. Improve internet connection uptime.

The trick to get people to mobile blog is excellent internet connection (meaning, no dropped connections) and easy access to the blog site itself. The thing going for Smart is that it is using a new technology called HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access). But I have had several experiences while traveling when the internet is interrupted (sometimes as it changes from HSPA to 3G mode or vice versa). I am just imagining that if people had to pay P10 every time they connect to the internet, unstable internet connection can be a deterrent.

2. Make mobile blogging easier.

Mobile blogging must be so easy that you need not to have to log in and out before you can do so. I have an ipod touch and I find mobile plurking quick on the fly. As soon as I activate the app in a wifi zone, I am ready to plurk because my username and password are saved on the device. Sandbox is currently easier to view on a computer rather on a mobile phone. I have tried navigating via my mobile phone and it gets frustrating because I need to scroll left/right, up/down constantly just to go through the content and find my way. While I have done some posts via mobile, I find it easier at the moment to do so via the web. A mobile Sandbox interface would be great.

3. Create easier access to historical blog posts and activities by my other friends.

Yes, the concept is microblogging and we were told that anything posted is just for that moment. But as we are normally not online via a mobile phone all the time, friends’ activities remain unknown to me. I cannot see beyond the most recent 5 Happenings. If friends created a group, posted a microblog post, added a video, added friends, etc. these would all be lost if I do not catch them within the top 5 Happenings.

4. Make photo/video uploads painless.

Blog posts look better with a photo or two. Mobile bloggers would also love to send videos on the fly as news/events occur. So why is it so difficult now? First you have to go through the entire log-in process. Then the photo/video has to be uploaded first into Sandbox before it can be used in a blog post. All these take up so much time to do and if the internet connection breaks down through all that process, one has to start all over again. Sandbox has to be able to allow uploads via MMS (because isn’t that what mobile phones are great for after all?).

Don’t get me wrong. Sandbox has a future as a mobile blogging platform.

This is actually an exciting venture because just about anyone with a mobile phone (and in the Philippines that is the great majority of the population) is a potential mobile blogger. It just has to be tweaked fairly fast by the developers so it becomes a truly handy medium to get the news out into the online world as things happen.

In order to help them out, why not join Sandbox’s open beta now and give them your share of feedback. After all, once this is up and running effectively and efficiently, we will be the ultimate beneficiaries in terms of blogging mobility! To register, go to the Sandbox registration page.

This is my Sandbox profile.

My Sandbox Profile

Hope to see you there. And do join the groups I created:

1. Anything Yoga

2. Pinoy Humor

3. Raising Teens and Tweens

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