I posted a version of my “Lucky Zombies” presentation (on YouTube and at ThingsThere) for crowd-building our ThingsThere Local Discovery app. I think it illustrates why Local Discovery sucks and how we can do better. In this UrbanTag post, Three Reasons local discovery is broken, the author believes that local discovery is broken due to pay-for-checkins, users can’t control their data, and apps ignore social graces. All potentially valid points but that’s not why local discovery is broken. It’s broken because the data model is broken.
Everyone starts from basically the same data model and that data model is based on the century-old model of business categories, derived from the printed yellow pages. The only way to linearly present a huge number of data points is to chunk them into categories and then present the results alphabetically (hence, the plethora of AAA Plumbers around the world). Since this is the data model carried forward to the online world, that’s what all of the local apps use. Businesses are either a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a bookstore (heaven help the business that serves lunch from the coffee bar that you can enjoy over in the book stacks). Of course, business can have multiple categories but simply making sure you’re business hasn’t been marked “closed” by someone from an opposing social network is enough of a challenge.
We believe that your social cohort can play an effective role in Local Discovery but there seems to be this sort of “Facebookotology” at play, a cross between Facebook and Scientology that takes the mantra that only people in you social network can help you find a bagel around the corner. Sure, I’m OK with some of my friends’ food interests, but I’d rather take advice from folks that fit my general demographic (25, fit, and tan) to discover new things. But they’re not really going to help with the core use case for local discovery - I’m at a particular location at a particular time of day and have a particular need to fill.
So, this is what we’re trying to solve with ThingsThere, our Local Discovery app (and website) described in the video. We know the real problem is the data model (and the collection of data relevant to that model). We also know the ultimate challenge is gaining enough users to garner attention for the app. But, we’re small and we need to keep focused on our core business - building on our Trajectory Knowledge Platform that’s key to modeling and gathering the content necessary for applications like ThingsThere. What we’ve decided to do is just throw it out there - describe exactly what it is we’re trying to do and see if we can “crowd it” - from design to funding. Kind of like Stone Soup. We’ll see where it goes.
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