Where are you?
For the last 4 years, Twitter and Facebook have been asking the question, “What are you doing?” But in 2010, location is King, curation is Queen, and context is the bratty kid. I’ve made my share of jokes about how often the word “location” was used at SXSW this year, but the rise of location-aware apps and services is truly remarkable, and is maturing to the point where I think we can really begin to visualize a world of persistent, relevant, and contextual information.
The real gem for me from SXSW was Whrrl. A relatively small player, and one that gets no respect from the major sites like Mashable, it seems to be the service that “gets it.” There’s some room for improvement, but so is there in Foursquare and Gowalla. But the things it does right . . . it does them so, so right. On my first day at SXSW, I was approached by a Whrrl street team member in front of Downtown Burgers, the only place I could find to eat that day. If I checked in with Whrrl, then I would get 50 cents off my order. . . and a T-Shirt. Which I never got. I’m still upset about that.
Anyway, I downloaded the Whrrl app on my iPhone and checked in. It immediately looked quite a bit different than Foursquare, but I didn’t spend much time wondering at it. I forgot about it until day 3 . . . or 4? Who can remember… it all just bleeds together into one giant location-techy buzzword festival of colossal proportion. I had the pleasure of meeting some bloggers that work with Collective Bias, and were Whrrl afficionados. When I checked in and discovered that each of us check in together could upload pictures to create a joint story … a shared photographic and commenting experience, I began to see just what Whrrl offered that was so unique.
I kept playing with the app, and the website, and after getting a friend to try it out on a recent geocaching expedition, and embed it in his blog, I have to say – Whrrl is on to a winning formula here. They want to help stop Facebook Rut, and I have to say, the gameplay is fun, the collaborative story-telling and sharing experience is so compelling, I’ve found myself interacting with people in new ways on a daily basis, and getting them to sign in to my Whrrl check in also.
With our society seemingly more and more pulled into accepting the relational placebo of online social sites, these kinds of apps are a breath of fresh air that actually help spark conversations and shared real world experience with other live human beings again. The uses are impressive, and I’ve found myself, more than once, trying a new restaurant, or ordering something I wouldn’t normally get because of recommendations from other Whrrlers. I’m excited in general, about where these kinds of services are taking us in the future, and the ability to find new things based on my location, preferences, and social graph . . . and out of all the services I’ve tried, Whrrl definitely was the one that stood out the most at SXSW. Now if only it can get the users that Foursquare has, to build up the community to match.