All posts tagged ‘brightkite’

File Under: Software & Tools

Side Project to Startup: Shizzow Q&A

Shizzow is a new location-based social service, most similar to BrightKite. The bootstrapped startup is also a side project. The four team members have full-time jobs outside of Shizzow.

Ryan SnyderWebmonkey got together with Shizzow CEO-by-night Ryan Snyder. Read on to find out why he won’t make an iPhone app, Shizzow’s relation to Google Calendar, and that the original name rhymed with “kazoo.”

Webmonkey: How does Shizzow compare to other location-based social networking sites like BrightKite, or a platform like FireEagle?

Ryan Snyder: We think of Shizzow as much more of a social service than a location-based service.  The primary action on Shizzow is to “shout out” your location, but to us declaring your location means nothing unless doing so enables you to get together with people for a face-to-face conversation.  While other services have added photo sharing or restaurant reviews to their service, we’re maintaining a philosophy of simplicity – if a certain feature doesn’t help you meet new people or get together with friends, we won’t implement that feature.

 

Webmonkey: Many successful web applications start with developers scratching their own itch. How was Shizzow born?

Snyder: Shizzow is definitely one of those projects that came out of us developers scratching our own itch.  In September 2007, a number of developers here in Portland were using a shared Google calendar to coordinate meetups for coding sessions, and we found it too cumbersome to notify each of the group members when we’d arrived at that place.  Mark Wallaert approached me and said, “So… Ryan, I’ve got this idea…”, then sketched out the Shizzow concept on my markerboard.  When he told me how it would solve our communication problems, I was sold.

Webmonkey: Why are you opening in only a few cities?

Snyder: One of the difficulties of unveiling a new site or service is that of building community.  Rather than inviting random people from all over the world, we felt it would be better to invite people to use Shizzow city-by-city so that when we roll out to your city, all of your friends will hopefully be Shizzow users within the first day or two instead of straggling in over the coming weeks or months.

Webmonkey: How have the four of you balanced this large side project with day jobs?

Snyder: Whew, this has not been easy!  I’d probably call it “burnout prevention” before I’d call it anything resembling balance!  Each of us has our own methods of meeting Shizzow’s needs on top of our day jobs.  I personally dedicate the first 2-3 hours of my day to Shizzow before heading into cubicleville for my 9 to 5′er, as well as dedicating one or both weekend days to whatever tasks may be at hand.  But the real reason we’ve been able to persevere over the last year has been the patience and understanding of our friends and loved ones.  We simply could not have done this without their support.

 

Webmonkey: BrightKite got a lot of attention for its iPhone app. When can I expect to see a beta version of Shizzow’s?

Snyder: Since we’re a small team, we’re trying to remain as focused as possible on Shizzow’s core functionality.  We feel that developing  platform-specific applications will actually scatter our attention by having to support multiple UIs and platforms.  We’re currently working on an API to allow other developers to build applications for Shizzow.  Besides, there are some rockstar mobile developers that will probably build something cooler than we’d imagined possible using our API. 

 

Webmonkey: My projects always have a list of alternate names. Can you share anything Shizzow was almost called?

Snyder: All of our original names for the project were either taken or they were just lame!  Our first interface for Shizzow actually had a spelling variation, where we ended Shizzow with “ou” instead of “ow”.  People kept calling it “Shizzoo” so we quickly realized that we needed to grab the “ow” domain name before that name stuck!

[Photo by Aaron Hockley]

File Under: Software & Tools

Shout Out Your Whereabouts With Shizzow

Shouting from ShizzowAfter months of private beta testing in Portland, location-based social network Shizzow has launched in the tech-friendly Bay Area. Now the coffee-shop working laptoperati can easily let their friends know whose WiFi they’re soaking up today. Like the location granddaddy Dodgeball, Shizzow is focused on connecting people in real life.

To “shout” from a place, you first search for it by name. Shizzow does not let users broadcast an address or city as a location, in contrast to other services, like BrightKite. Your dashboard shows recent shouts from your friends — the users you’ve chosen to “listen” to, a feature similar to following on Twitter.

Shizzow Dashboard

Privacy on Shizzow is an on/off setting. If in private mode, you must manually accept any listeners. There is only a single level of granularity. BrightKite has trusted friends who get your exact location. Normal friends may only have access to your city, which makes for some useless messages. Shizzow suggests that you only shout when you want someone to know where you are.

One cool feature unique to Shizzow is the ability to edit a listing, or add a new one to the database. While much of the site is built off of local APIs, Shizzow stores a local copy that can be edited Wiki-style by the community. It also means users can creatively name their homes, offices and other locations.

In addition to BrightKite, other Shizzow competitors include Plazes, Loopt and Whrrl. Each service lets you declare your location and see where your friends are. Yahoo’s Fire Eagle, a central platform for storing and sharing location, is also similar. Fire Eagle does not have any social features. Instead, it is more likely to be built upon by Shizzow and similar services. Shizzow does not yet support Fire Eagle, while BrightKite does.

Some will no doubt see Shizzow’s limited feature set as a liability. For example, BrightKite has a beautiful iPhone app, while Shizzow has no plans to create one. The Shizzow team, made up of four Portlanders with full-time jobs, see their focus on core features as a strength. They’re hard at work on an API now, and apparently counting on you to create their iPhone app and additional features.

That’s not to say Shizzow isn’t adding new stuff. It recently incorporated Geode to guess at a user’s location, unleashed SMS shouting and pays close attention to its Get Satisfaction community, implementing many ideas suggested by its users.

If you live in Portland or the Bay Area, let Shizzow know on its invite request form. Then let Webmonkey know how it works for you. All other cities will have to be patient: A public beta is scheduled for March 2009.

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File Under: Uncategorized

Brightkite API Could Usurp Yahoo’s FireEagle

BrightkiteCoordinate-sharing site Brightkite announced a beta API that could put them way ahead of Yahoo and FireEagle … if only enough developers get access to it.

Brightkite calls itself a location-based social network. Friends “check in” as they move about town, post messages and upload photos. The details of its API are minimal. At least one site, Socialthing, has integrated with Brightkite.

As developers clamor to create location-based services, Brightkite has the opportunity to become a platform as well as a service. The site already has significant adoption among the techies, so their API could be really big. The same people who are users of their service will be early adopters of their API.

Yahoo’s FireEagle is a similar platform, but in extremely-limited beta. Brightkite, also in beta, has an opportunity to leapfrog as the place people store their location. The first API to be generally available will have a huge advantage amongst developers eager to code websites, Facebook applications, and iPhone apps to take advantage of reading and writing location data.

We hope we see more details about — and more access to — the Brightkite API soon, before they become a sad footnote of innovation, like Dodgeball. The similar place-sharing site was the talk of geekfest SXSW before being acquired by Google in 2005. A lack of engineering resources left the site to languish amid a geocoded gold rush. The founders left The Goog, frustrated, in 2007.

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