Evite: effectiveness, semiotics, and etiquette

Techdirt writes about Evite, citing a Chicago Tribune article. The issue at hand is the efficacy of Evite. I think Techdirt is one of the smartest sites out there, although a frequent “we told you so” and “this problem isn’t really a problem” tone can wear thin.

The timing is ironic, since a group of us were discussing Evite and effectiveness-across-cultures at an Evite-organized event yesterday.

For reasons I don’t understand, many people don’t respond to Evite in the way I would expect them to. If I organize an event, the Evite communications are my proxy, and I assume people will interact with them the way they would interact with me. I.e., read the messages, visit the site to see the details of the event, let me know if they are coming, etc. Many many people do not even read the email, let alone indicate their response. As an organizer, if I’m interested in that information in order to plan for a certain number of guests, then it’s the wrong tool. The last time I did this I was astounded. We got one email two weeks after the party with an “oh sorry I didn’t even look at the message.” Many other reminders ended up in spam filters.

But worse than that is something more subtle – the anonymity of the Evite I suspect makes people less inclined to treat it like a real invitation, the e-formalization (HTML graphics in an email, logos, hot links to maps) doesn’t add weight to the invitation, it subtracts from the impact. It doesn’t feel like it comes from STEVE, it comes from Evite.com, your invitation and socialization e-partner. Meh.

Now obviously this depends on who you are dealing with. For a technically literate group who adopt new services easily and will IM each other (or who know what IM is, let’s put it that way), sure. But not everyone is like that. Evite is available to anyone with an email address (and it expects you to have a browser available, but even without that you could still receive the Evite). Chances are that most people’s social circles exceeds just individuals who know what RSS and podcasting are about; who have their own blog, who installed the latest version of MT, and who have IM accounts on Y! and AIM. In my case, that’s absolutely true.

For these normal folks, it’s just not a standard way to interact around an event.

I think it’s great for blast-announcing large events where you don’t care who comes. If you get an Evite and you don’t read it, then hey, your loss, you miss out on the event. If I am having a dinner party and want guests to come to my house, I pretty much need people to read it and respond. In that case, I’m not bothering with Evite.

Techdirt minimizes any technical or interaction problems as described in the article, but the Evite event I’ve been invited to later in the week is overwhelmed with them. The body of the invite and the header of the invite refer to different dates. That was corrected (with a reported problem of the Evite system not accepting the organizer’s input), and then the same thing occurred with the time of the event. Meanwhile, even though I’m registered with Evite and they have my name and email address, the organizer somehow managed to spell our names wrong; sure we got invited but we can’t get the correct info listed. I do not enjoy being listed as Portigul – it’s oversensitivity from a lifetime of having my name mangled, but I can’t correct it.


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