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Webdev launches its social network. Names it SHA

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Last week, Webdev opened its social network to the public. The name Social has been discarded in favour of a shorter and simpler sha.co.zw. SHA is short for the ‘Shamwari’, the Shona word for ‘friend’. There’s already some activity on the site, and I have received a few friend requests from some familiar faces.

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The site looks pretty much what it was in closed beta; warm colors and the familiar social network design with a wall (they don’t call it that though), photos section, a friend finder, groups, events and private messages. In addition to that you also get a blogging section, a Q & A, news, downloads and a link to Webdev’s flagship web property, classifieds.co.zw.

Besides tag-lining it “Zimbabwe’s Social Network”, Webdev is not actively showing why a visitor should sign up or what they will get here that they’re not already getting on Facebook or Google Plus. Maybe the local factor alone is enough. I just expected something that says “here’s the new angle/level we’re binging to your online social interactions!” Something that makes the user feel they’re on a different social platform that’s not just a Facebook clone.

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SHA has the opportunity to define its unique identity from the onset and set itself apart with an experience users of the service can only associate with and get on the platform. I’m not feeling that identity yet. Maybe the strategy is to not box people up and just let the experience build naturally. I don’t see that working.

But Webdev is not just sitting back and hoping you’ll sign up and start posting updates. No. They’re offering cash for it.

“SHA is giving away a total of $150 every week” says the banner at the top of the site, “$20 for the most interesting/best filled in profile, $20 for the most friends added, $20 for the most amount of personal photos uploaded…” a total of 8 categories!

I think this is a bad idea. Is it even sustainable as an incentive? How much cash do you budget for such an exercise? How long do you run it? I know I definitely won’t get into active posting mode just for the cash. And even if I did, I’d probably stop when the promotion ends, and go back to Facebook where everyone is. A unique experience on the hand, will keep me coming back for more.

Cash incentives aside, the one thing that’s noticeably unlike other social networks is chat. The absence of it. It’s a cardinal sin to not have chat on a social network and for what it’s worth, we hope the team is working on it. The platform also doesn’t have something that’s fast becoming a necessary component of the social media experience; games. The addictive time wasting type that people love. Again we’ll assume it’s coming in the future.

There’s always the question of privacy and the security of data posted on social networks. By default SHA is an open network. That means your profile and all your posts on the network are visible to anyone (including people that are not signed into the network) by default. You have the option to turn this off of course in the privacy settings and have your information viewed only by the people you befriend on the SHA.

It’s only been a week and we imagine some features will be changed and more (chat, games) will be introduced. In the meantime, it’s still a warm place to be and one I’ll personally make a point to visit often in the coming weeks. Who knows, I might win me some Obamas. See you all Shaz there!


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84 thoughts on “Webdev launches its social network. Names it SHA

  1. Not_taxes you are a muppet – because muppets lack depth and have someone else pulling the strings. ICT industry since 1995 – really doing what, selling cartridges? You have credentials, really?

    Let’s go back in history – the mid to late 90’s Jim Holland (Mango), the Nuersten brothers (Iafrica), Africa Online, Cyberplex, ID, Samara, David Behr. Those were the pioneers of many things internet in Zimbabwe. Were you involved in any of those or with those people?

    There is no rule that say criticism must be constructive. My comments were by way of advice but the idiot that you are, you interpreted that as a punt for a long dead site or a criticism.

    If I really wanted to criticise sha.co.zw I would go on and comment on it’s cut an paste job on privacy and terms and conditions.

    I would ask how they will dislodge newzimbabwe.com, eatout.co.zw and zimbojam.com as the premier players in their field in the Zim webspace.

    I would ask what their business model is – any startup freely declares that.

    I would ask them whether they know how many Zimbabweans are on the net and how many they expect to sign up on their site.

    Et cetera, et cetera.

    So climb back into your little web hole and play will joomla and all things that have been made for you by others and let the adults talk.

  2. I see a trend with the comments on TechZim, people seem to skim an article and then attack the developer as a copy cat.  This was most evident with the ZOL startup challenge and this sha article.  I would like to encourage the readers to at least look into the products before giving a knee jerk reaction.  One of the most obvious differences with sha is that everyone’s activity is public (unless a private message) this in my opinion is a huge difference to facebook and other social networks, it means the content posted is meant for public consumption it is meant to address a larger audience than your friends it is even more open than twitter where, while public, you only see people you look for rather than everyone.  Is this a winning strategy? I dont know but for a country as small as Zimbabwe I like the idea so lets wait and see.

    I am not saying do not criticize I personally am not the biggest fan of the name and the look, while distinctive and fits the webdev brand can be hard to pick out details.  But i would like to see more constructive criticism rather than immediate flogging without looking into the details.

    I hope sha works out, I see a use for it, but only if people use it to its potential, if they see another facebook it will fail, so it is up to webdev to get unique, public content on the site to attract people to the site.

    How about techzim contributing links and article stubs to the blogs and groups sections?  It could be a win win for traffic to both sites.  Anyone else I would encourage to contribute your content as well, at least for a month, lets see if there is merit in their approach.  These kinds of sites live and die on their content, similar to classifieds sites, webdev’s is the most successful because they attracted the users and advertisers not because it was orginal, prettier or more user friendly than the competition.

  3. After reading all the vitriol being passed around, I had to visit sha.co.zw to see for myself. It looks a bit clumsy, too many things without a clear trump card and the feeling it gives is like you are in classifieds (they are sisters after all). But, not taking anything from them, they have put some on the table and obviously the are going to refine it according to feedback and their growing experience. Kudos Webdev.

  4. You don’t have to keep it running constantly. It’s worth keeping an eye on Google Labs,
    where Google previews its newest applications. Selecting
    the map will certainly take you to some bigger variation
    on Google Maps.

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