Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Renkoo: Evite Killer

Category: Dojo, Showcase

<>p>I was talking to a VC that recently said they had heard from four companies that want to do a “better evite”. That isn’t a high bar (ads in your face all over, not even showing dates in order!) but they have been slow coming.

Renkoo is a contender, and they have a very Ajax rich side to them, implemented with Dojo, and a splash of Comet.

Now that Renkoo is out there as a public beta, give it a twirl. One walk through creating a new invite will show you some very rich work, with forms filling out as you use each section, and then minimizing to get out of your way.

Renkoo

Posted by Dion Almaer at 8:03 am
26 Comments

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3.7 rating from 42 votes

26 Comments »

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Its really nicely designed but at the moment, the “My Invites” section isn’t responding. It’d be great if the site could be skinned. The colors are a bit too bright for me. :o)

Comment by Rey Bango — December 27, 2006

Hi Dion

We would very much welcome your feedback on Planypus, we’re a competitor to Renkoo that launched in early November. We’ve got a lot of Ajaxy features on our site as well (driven by prototype/scriptaculous). Thanks! :-)

Comment by Yan Pritzker — December 27, 2006

I signed up on Renkoo only to see a “real world” example of Dojo. While this app does not seem to go “all out” on Dojo widgets, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see the trademark Dojo browser freeze / not responding behavior. I’ve used Dojo quite a bit and liked its features but lately I’ve been trying to steer clear of using Dojo due to its seemingly inherent freezing / browser slowing behavior. I’ve used all the optimization recommendations in my Dojo app but the bottom line is (please correct me if i’m wrong) that despite interning builds, some Dojo templates / css needs to be synchronously fetched which causes the browser freezes.

Comment by Sanjiv Jivan — December 27, 2006

Does not support Safari yet, which is kind of annoying. Also the interface needs a bit more help…

Comment by Adam Farnsworth — December 27, 2006

Sanjiv: browser freezes with dojo (and anything else synchronous or asynchronous for that matter) are usually caused by 100% CPU spikes, which can be due to a number of things, not just the item you mentioned. I find this to actually be an issue when you attempt too many asynchronous operations. We’re working on dealing with this, but it’s a hard problem to lick.

Comment by Dylan Schiemann — December 27, 2006

I haven’t experienced too many freezes with POPAS (plain ol’ prototype and scriptaculous) :-)

Comment by Yan Pritzker — December 27, 2006

This has already been done. Facebook is the essential evite package for young adults, and it’s very well done.

Comment by Kif — December 27, 2006

Rich Ajax, Dojo, and Comet splash aside, what problem does this solve that Evite does not? No offense, but how often do most of us actually spend in Evite or its ilk?

Comment by Bill Smith — December 27, 2006

Hey, isn’t Renkoo where Troutgirl landed? That alone convinces me that it is worth a look.

Comment by Drewsky — December 27, 2006

Dojo browser freezes are typically due to an option that causes Dojo to scan the dom for Dojo enabled elements. This can be turned off with one line of code and is not typically needed. With that said, we have stopped using Dojo in favor of the lighter-weight prototype and scriptaculous libraries.

Comment by Kris — December 27, 2006

“Dojo browser freezes are typically due to an option that causes Dojo to scan the dom for Dojo enabled elements. This can be turned off with one line of code and is not typically needed.”

Kris, I’ve heard this before but I think the Dojo problem is deeper than that. I believe some of the key Dojo contributors are behind Renkoo and if getting rid of the Dojo browser freezes is as simple as explicitly specifying Dojo nodes as opposed to the default page scan, why would this (an other interning, selective build) optimization not be done to the site?

I’m not trying to bitch about Dojo As I’ve said, I’ve used it quite a bit and it has served me well for which I’m very thankful, but there seems to be certain gremlins (like the freezes, dialog / tabs slowing down browser) that I feel are showstoppers as far as taking web sites from development to production. I’m less interested in the cool new features anymore, just hoping for production level stability. Dojo has pushed the envelope and wowed the community, but it think sorting out that 20% should now be the priority.

Comment by Sanjiv Jivan — December 27, 2006

Facebook is not appropriate for trying to plan a night out with your friends..where and when to go. It might be ok for a predetermined party or something. It does ‘look’ better than evite but it actually requires you to fill in a ton of fields in the event planner just to get something basic going. Evite requires you to go through at least one extra screen to figure out your invitation style and type and also requires a large number of fields to be prefilled.

Planypus doesn’t require anything but a title so it takes about 10 seconds to spark some new plans with your friends. Fast n simple…

Comment by Yan Pritzker — December 27, 2006

I don’t consider scriptaculous and prototype to be lightweight. I stick to mootools with a custom drag-and-drop library, which works great and is faster to load.

The problem with most libraries is that they occasionally scan the DOM for elements, which slows down Safari to a crawl. This is resolved in the WebKit nightlies, but they are unstable. Viewing a digg comments page with more than 100 comments can cause Safari to hang for 10 seconds or more before I can resume browsing.

Comment by Jeff — December 27, 2006

No application like this is a “contender” if they leave Safari users out of the party. Considering that over 75% of Mac users browse with Safari, you’re effectively leaving out Mac users, which is kind of silly when you realize that Mac users are the early adopters of the online world. Heck, both Dojo and Prototype/Scriptaculous were created by Mac users… on Mac OS X.

By the way, I’ve been using the WebKit nightlies for the last 2 months with hardly a hiccup. I hardly ever use Safari itself anymore, except when I really need my browser to remember that damn password I’m too lazy to lookup in Keychain. Oh, and when I have to drag out Firefox to give me access to the one or two sites who have content I need but whose developers are too lazy to get a Mac for testing with Safari.

Comment by Leland Scott — December 27, 2006

Prototype and script.aculo.us are fine to use, as is pretty much any solid toolkit (YUI, MochiKit, jQuery, etc.)… much better than rolling your own. I say this as the co-creator of Dojo, because while I would like everyone in the world that needs Dojo to use it, I don’t really see a point in convincing people to use Dojo if they don’t like it, have problems with it, or more importantly have found and use something that makes them productive.

Obviously, if spiking the CPU to 100% and locking the browser was an easy issue to fix for more complex async use cases like Renkoo, it would have been resolved a year ago. There are many sites that use Dojo that do not have this issue, because they aren’t pushing as hard as others when it comes to the number of async requests, that don’t exhibit this initial page load slowdown.

Dojo is certainly not without problems and issues and limitations, which is really no different than every other toolkit and product out there, and we are doing everything we can to address those issues and to assist our users. As you probably know, Dojo, Prototype, jQuery, MochiKit, and many other toolkits are open source, community sponsored projects, created by people that work hard and don’t like repeating their efforts. It’s pretty disturbing sometimes that we spend so much time and effort defending ourselves when we basically give the stuff away for free, rather than just investing the time in building better products.

And when I read comments like Yan’s, I can’t help but wonder why he’s here in public bickering about Renkoo vs. Planyp.us and Dojo vs. Prototype. I used to work for Renkoo before I started doing my own thing, and I have to say that the single most frustrating and humbling thing about working on Renkoo and on Dojo is that everyone online seems to take great pride in being the first to slam your hard work and put you down. Whether it is Digg or Ajaxian or TechCrunch, 90% of the comments are negative about the things that “the little guy” are pouring their hearts and souls into. Can’t we all just get along once in a while, instead of bitching about how much everyone’s stuff that they are giving away for free sucks? What’s the point if everyone hates everything except their own thing they’re trying to pimp out?

Comment by Dylan Schiemann — December 27, 2006

Bill Smith is on the mark. Evite works, Renkoo doesn’t offer any compelling reason to switch. Good luck guys.

Comment by Xia Gao — December 27, 2006

Leland: actually, until the very most recent minor rev of Safari, the comet protocol implementation that Renkoo relies on did not work on Safari. Apple fixed this recently, and I expect that Renkoo will very soon work on Safari (though I’m not sure what, if any, issues remain, as I’m not a Renkoo employee at this time).

We were far from lazy in trying to get it to work… we lost many painful days of our lives suffering with Safari before we cried uncle and waited for Apple to come to the rescue and add support with their browser. I’m a mac user, and it pained me that we could only support Firefox at the time.

Comment by Dylan Schiemann — December 27, 2006

Dylan

No need to cry while grinding your own ax. Just stop whining and. We all have a right to complain irregardless of the cost. If the developers don’t like it, then they should shut up and get out of web development. If that doesn’ stop your blubbering, then go visit kleenex.com

Comment by ajaxianfading — December 29, 2006

Dylan,
Renkoo is going to be an interesting test for comet protocol, which at this point remains far from a proven technology. I think it’s highly questionable to rely on comet, which may prove to be a total bust in scalability (suppose every Ajax site were rewritten using comet, and every site you visited wanted to maintain an open connection with your browser… how long will it take, multiplying this by millions of visitors, before either your browser, server, or the web itself chokes?), when it was known to be problematic on WebKit. Ever heard of “degrading gracefully”? Why not provide plain old Ajax connections as a fallback for browsers that can’t handle comet? I’ve seen ajax implementations of collaborative whiteboarding that were plenty “real time” for most people. That would probably be smart from a scalability perspective as well, though it certainly would require more lines of code.

I know you’re not with Renkoo any longer, but I wonder if there were any discussions along these lines during its development?

Leland

Comment by Leland Scott — December 29, 2006

Comet seems to me in many cases a solution looking for a problem. It may have its use for intranet applications that require true realtime data streaming. I don’t think it has a place in mass market software, especially where real-time conversation is not the primary focus.

In creating Planypus we found that a short delay using ajax pull techniques is just as effective for realtime conversation since people need time to write their replies anyway. With a ten second ajax poll, conversation flows fluidly and appears just as ‘real time’ as a comet conversation to the end user, without the drawbacks of poor browser support or scalability issues.

Besides, in most cases when you’re making plans with your friends you won’t all be online at the same time so the real-time aspect should not be a primary feature of a social planning service, or one on which browser support decisions are made…

Comment by Yan Pritzker — December 29, 2006

Hi Leland, thanks for your comment. I’m the CTO of Renkoo and the tech lead of Mod-pubsub, and I’m always interested in talking about Comet :-).

So at the object level… I’m interested to know why you assume pubsub isn’t scalable. We use the asynchronous Twisted framework, which should soon support a better epoll reactor (there will very shortly be a post about it on the Twisted blog if you’re interested). We’re certainly not experiencing any problems at all with scalability, and from our experience at KnowNow we don’t expect to have any issues we can’t deal with in future. Just to hint at the direction of our thinking: the pubsub server was built by a team with a lot of experience with Spread.

Also, I think it’s a mistake to think of pubsub as being a cute but unnecessary JavaScript thing. In my mind, it’s a full-on messaging engine and queue that happens to be delivered over HTTP. It just happens to enable this fun real-time stuff in the browser… but that’s almost a side effect of the internal architecture.

At a meta level… I agree that full-on no-polling Comet is an untested and not unproblematic technology. But someone has to be the first to try new things, and the whole community benefits from our experiments IMHO. I’m more than happy if you want to track us over time, even in a skeptical way. :-)

Feel free to contact me directly if you want to discuss Comet further Leland, I think you can figure out my email address :-).

Comment by Troutgirl — December 29, 2006

Can you tell me if Renkoo and Planypus requires all of the invitees to be registered on the website, or will it simply generate a unique URL like Evite?

Upcoming.org and Skobee didn’t (when I tried them), and it’s just a huge turn-off. I don’t want to force my non-techy friends to register in yet another web site.
This really should be the number 1 feature, prioritized way ahead of any social-oriented feature.

Comment by Alpha — January 4, 2007

Planypus will generate a unique url, except it won’t be ugly like evite’s. Your friends can rsvp directly from the email they get from planypus. If you invite them via planypus they will not have to register at all.

If you send the url to them by hand or even just post it on your website, people who come to the plans page can then register quickly (only 4 fields: user,email,password,confirm).

Unlike evite, on Planypus your friends can also control when they get emailed, text messaged, and so on so they can actually turn off emails if they don’t want to be bothered!

Comment by Yan — January 4, 2007

Check out invite for good. it is simple, nice invitation website and allows users to support good cause. http://www.inviteforgood.com

Comment by PG — January 15, 2007

If you’re looking for semi-ajax that doesn’t kill your browser, is web 2.0 integrated, and works sweet as an invitation or eCard then drop by http://www.iminvited.com — it keeps that evite feel with a bit more organization and options that differ in flavor.

Comment by Brian — May 2, 2007

Love the refreshing colors Renkoo offers… but One of the things i would love to see the Renkoo team add soon is more personalization. Allow me to set my own theme, choose images, background, music, videos. checkout my review @
http://anujk.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/renkoo-for-your-everyday-plans/

Comment by Anujk — August 17, 2007

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