eHub Interviews Pooln

Posted by Emily Chang on Thursday, February 9th, 2006. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit Pooln, originally added to eHub on Sep 19, 05.

imageThanks to Ben Engebreth, creator of Pooln for this email interview posted February 9, 2006.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

Pooln: Pooln is a social network based carpool matching tool.  The idea is to try to use social networks plus geographic information to find people for users to carpool with.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

Pooln: When I looked into existing web-based carpool services, all of them fell short in a number of ways.  Most of them take note of your home and work zip codes but few sort the list of your potential carpool partners to minimize the amount of extra driving you need to do.  None of them use social networking principles as an aid.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

Pooln: I do maintenance and feature additions when requested or when I get an idea for something that I think may make the site either easier to use or more effective—which I guess are often the same thing.  I do have a day job and other projects going on so I can’t devote myself to it full time.  I also need to eat and full time on Pooln wouldn’t really allow that.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

Pooln: The “team” is me.  My background is in science and engineering (Physics & Aerospace).  I just finished (for now at least) working as an Aerospace Engineer.  In November I will start work at Eyebeam (an art & technology think tank) in New York City where I have a 1-year R&D Fellowship.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

Pooln: Simple, intuitive, elegant.  That’s the ideal that I work towards at least.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

imagePooln: The site is has RSS feeds for watching user locales.  So, for instance, you may reside in the 90026 zipcode and work in 90036.  Maybe there’s not someone well suited for you to carpool with yet.
You can subscribe to a feed to watch that particular zipcode pair so that when someone appears with that commute path you know about it via RSS.

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

Pooln: There haven’t been tons of feature requests.  There have been a lot of suggestions for making this or that easier or clearer.  You can tell pretty quickly when you need to rework something because you hear the same thing over and over.  I think the user feedback is pretty critical to having a successful site.  I hope that as Pooln grows I get even more feedback.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

Pooln: It’s distributed by design.  In order to build a carpooling site you have to have a certain amount of density.  The social network comes in to play more and more as the number of users goes up.  I have friends all over the country and I’d like to think that they’d be more likely to carpool with a friend of a friend of mine rather than a complete stranger if given the option/information.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

Pooln: We’re on the slow growth path, so the first thing that I’d like to see is a more sizable user base.  Like a lot of sites these days, the value grows with the number of users.  In the next two years, especially if energy/gas prices stay high, I’d like to see Pooln emerge as the primary national tool for carpool arranging.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

Pooln: Probably just the adoption or acceptance of the idea that carpooling is both an economically and environmentally beneficial thing to do while also being relatively easy to arrange and incorporate into your life.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

Pooln: More users!

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

Pooln: No, not really.  I’ve put up what I think of as unobtrusive ads (adsense), but beyond that there’s nothing else.

eHub: If you’re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

Pooln: It’s in the hundreds of hits per day.  It’s not a ton.

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

Pooln: Really, just having built something that I felt serviced a niche that was either overlooked or under-served is the thing that I’m most proud of.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

Pooln: To borrow a term that I really like, I’d say there’s “mass amateurism” going on all about.  Not only on the web, but it certainly is happening there too.  It’s, in part, the realization that people with a novel idea can build or design what they imagine.  It’s incredibly
exciting.  I used to think the age of inventors was largely passed, but I now feel like we’re in the midst of a new incarnation of it.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

Pooln: del.icio.us/popular, kottke.org, metafilter.com, a.wholelottanothing.org, flickr.com, thehousingbubble2.blogspot.com, nytimes.com newwest.net brooklynvegan.com treehugger.com… this could go on and on.

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

Pooln: Ideally, 6-7.  If I get less (obviously) I feel tired, if I get more I feel tired.

Thanks to Ben Engebreth, creator of Pooln for this email interview posted February 9, 2006.

Visit Pooln
Originally added to eHub on Sep 19, 05