A couple weeks back I attended the NYC GameHackDay. The event is a 24-hour hackfest geared around creating games. Even though I was busy with other projects at the time, I love games and love meeting other game designers so I decided to go. The project I ended up building was an idea I had the day before. It was a simple concept: build a choose your own adventure engine for phones.
I felt it was the right amount of work to accomplish in the time given and I had promised myself that no matter whatever I ended up building, I would only work on it for that day (a promise I ended up breaking). As I put the project together, I had a prototype fairly quickly but I soon realized that if I was going to present it in front of an audience, I would need to create some content for it. So I took the subway home and wrote out a quick story, recorded the audio and rushed back to the hack day. The demo came together just in time and the project was selected by twilio as their favorite game demo, which included a $250 prize. So that was nice. I am a big fan of twilio, they make it really easy to build and launch applications that use Voice and SMS and they recently launched a slew of new features.
I called the project uchoos. You can visit the site here: http://uchoos.com.
The original demo story (Evil Mountain) is still live. Just call 917.338.3991 to hear the story.
As of now, I have no future plans for uChoos but I might work on it a little more once I take some other projects off my plate.
On April 7th, Robyn Sklaren and I spoke at the SHARE Conference on behalf of Improv Everywhere. It was a terrific experience and as part of the conference they asked that we also offer a 'workshop.' Typically this would be a freeze (a la Frozen Grand Central), but after a discussion with the festival organizers, we learned that there had recently been a similar event a week or two earlier.
After giving it some thought I remembered an idea I had while attending SXSW earlier in the year. SXSW is one giant party and it made me think about a roaming party that you could just jump into. But it needed to be 'cool and exclusive,' so it should have walls and bouncers. I pitched it to Robyn, she liked it and we decided to call it Club Mobíle, Belgrade's hottest moving dance club.
As you can see in the video above, it went really well and we had a terrific turnout. It was an adventure running around the city gathering the materials we needed to produce the piece. It was also surprisingly difficult to find a boom-box. Belgrade was a thrilling experience. It's evident that this generation of Serbians are shaping the world into something amazing and positive. I'm glad we got to be a small part of it.
My friend Mike and I were talking about Foursquare a couple nights ago and we decided that Foursquare needs to have a "starter" friend that you can choose to follow when you sign up. This person, we'll call her Lady K., is not some token-friend to make you feel better that you don't know anyone on foursquare. Rather, she's hooked-in and always knows where the party is at. She knows what you are into and she's always on the look out for what you like.
Here's a few example messages:
Lady K. @ Bueno "This place just opened in your neighborhood. Might be worth checking out. I'm told the brunch is awesome!"
Lady K. @ ACE Bar "I noticed you were at ACE Bar a week a go. They are giving away free Heineken till 9 tonight. Should be fun."
Lady K. @ Drop #15 "I heard someone left something valuable around here in a blue box. Noticed you were in the neighborhood and thought you might be able to find it. Good Luck. I give up."
Lady K. just shouted "Looks like you're in LA. If you're looking for something to do, add my buddy Scotty G. He knows what's what. I already miss you."
As long as it's opt in and the messages aren't too frequent, I think a lot of people would love to have a friend like Lady K. There are lot's of directions you can take it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
I've recently discovered Foursquare and have really taken a shine to it, so I decided to write down a few thoughts about why I think they have a distinct advantage in the geo-social app space. This first post focuses on user engagement, an area where foursquare packs a one-two punch.
It's Just a Game
Many people opt out of twitter and status updates because they have convinced themselves or have been told that no one cares what they are doing. Unless you have no facebook friends (I'm looking at you Mussolini), there's a pretty good chance somebody out there wants to know what you are up to. Foursquare is a beautifully designed Trojan horse for getting otherwise uninterested parties to engage their friends.
Generally speaking, it is difficult to find a group of people willing to knock down random objects using only an orange shoved down a pair of pantyhose tied around the waist. But if one were to couch this activity under the auspices of a game and add the element of competition in the mix then - whoa boy! - go get those oranges. That is the sweet seduction of Foursquare. It doesn't seem egotistical to broadcast your activities because it's simply part of the game.
The Friendly Nudge
Perhaps it's just a matter of being one of the first to bring this feature to market, but one distinct advantage that Foursquare has over other social apps is that it takes advantage of the iPhone's notification system introduced in Apple's 3.0 software. When one of your friends checks in, your phone immediately alerts you to their location and current status.
Apps like loopt suffer from these chicken/egg problems where no one uses it because no one uses it. But this is mitigated by the notification system. With foursquare if any of your friends check in, you get the alert, and it's a soft reminder that you should check in as well. This causes a ripple effect as your other friends (and their friends) start updating and before you know it Kevin Bacon is updating his status.
Also, the nudge is essential for new users who have not quite made it a habit to check-in when they arrive at a location. Implementing alerts is a feature available to all developers, of course, but foursquare is using it beautifully.
One of the initial promises of twitter was that it was going to crank our social lives to eleven by keeping us über-connected to our friends and potential hook-ups. In that theoretical twitter-infused world your pals would tweet:
and you would tweet back:
And all of those previously-missed moments of friendship would finally be captured and fill in those tiny bits of emptiness in your heart.
But somehow that world hasn't seem to have materialized for me. It's not that my friends don't use twitter to let me know when they are grabbing some food in my neighborhood. Many of my friends are prolific tweeters and that's the problem. I can't forward their tweets to my phone because there are just way too many but by the time I get around to checking their updates I've already missed the window on their open invite.
So I am suggesting a new nomenclature for time-sensitive tweets: the exclamation point!
And now a demonstration:
If it is widely used and adopted by twitter or at least implemented by a few smartphone apps, these urgent updates can be automatically sent to your phone via sms or send you an alert using your smart phone's alert system. This could also be implemented by facebook as well as myspace (if any of your friends are still on myspace).
Everyone's status-stream is only going to get more cluttered as adoption rates of micro-blogging increase. The exclamation point is a simple solution to have the urgent information you want sent to you in a timely manner.
! Spread the word.
I recently discovered politicalbase.com and highly recommend it to any one interested in learning more about their politicians. They lay out information in an easy to navigate manner and list the total contributions each politician has received. You can browse by 'issues' to find out which politicians are doing what on the topics that you care about. Also their sign up process is fast and beautifully executed.
Each candidate has a wiki style entry where users can upload and manage information. It's light on some specific types of content (e.g. proposed legislation, bill tracking) but it shows tons of promise and will no doubt help usher in a new era of transparency.