Mobile Yelp Like Social Networking

In typical napkin fashion, this idea came to me several weeks ago on a plane while reading more stories about how the mobile web is taking off with the iPhone and expanded consumer use of smartphones with web browsers and increasingly fast Internet connections. Having not yet drafted this blog entry, I recently learned about Loopt, a mobile social networking setup that allows you to know where your friends are and likely have been (was announced during the Apple keynote and thus downloading of the software seems to have overwhelmed them and I haven’t been able to demo yet).
I think it’s great that mobile social networking will allow me to know when someone is around the corner at the other Starbucks, but what about the past? My idea was along the lines of “was here” graffiti in bathrooms. I’ve always been fascinated by why people want to leave their names in bathroom stalls. Do they really believe a friend well happen upon their tag, or are they somehow trying to find celebrity? I really don’t have any great insights into this habit, so I’ll end here. But, I do think it would be cool if I could do a virtual “was here” when I happen upon a really tasty new burrito dive or a bar that happens to serve my favorite vodka, Ciroc, that still is not distributed enough.
Having used the Google Maps application on my Blackberry for several months now having only the cellular tower triangulation location specifics, I’ve been inspired to want to leave breadcrumbs of where I have been, how it was, whether I liked it or not, etc. Especially when it comes to restaurants (still believe there is no great restaurant guide online).
Here’s how I’d setup this service. It would need to be a mobile application that ran minimally on the iPhone (Apple if you’re reading this I’ll donate my ___________ to work with you). Leveraging GPS or cellular triangulation technology now being used by other mobile applications, it would be able to keep track of where you were. You could then add your thoughts to the location and share them with friends, both real time and later online. The online site would then become a home for your adventures and opinions, like your own personal Yelp meets TravelAdvisor. could be the format of each individual users info. Add in some social networking functionality and bingo. Here are some other key features I’d like to have:

  • Snap picture in location with tag of your thoughts. When others are in the location, they’d be notified that a friend has been there and could view your picture and comment (of course there would be all kinds of permission based settings such as what I want my boss to see and what my best friend gets for a true commentary)
  • Store location data from phone and attach as meta data. This obviously allows you to link up what the place is (like Google Maps already does on the phone). If the location wasn’t “registered”, it would have a way to register it. This would include temporary venues such as a concert in a park or annual street fair
  • When visitor is at location they can access others washere photos and messages (you could also have the option to share with the world publicly either anonymously or as your handle, providing a real time Yelp type service) [maybe Yelp could provide the service into this so as not to reinvent that wheel]
  • Social network integration would allow you to see if any of your friends were there when you were (having just heard about Loopt, this is covered)
  • Track individuals and use map pins of where they were; show online to friends (think this is also covered by Loopt). Again key here is having the website where you could have a better UI for more complicated permission questions, such as do you want your paths to be forever available or dissolve as time goes on.
  • Browse where your friends have been. What a deal, no longer would you have to answer the question of, “what have you been up to?”
  • Reference company with tag sticker program that’s similar
  • As soon as you get into a place, the system would notify you that one or more friends have been there. You could then decide what to do with the information. If someone you know was there right then, or recently, you could then decide if you wanted to connect with them. Of course, I’m a big fan of invisible mode too as many times I don’t want to be bothered. Come on, you know you’ve put your head down and walked faster by someone you know at least once in your life when you didn’t want to be bothered.
  • Notifications if someone with similar tastes liked it (mobile yelp)
  • Recommendation engine for businesses. If I’m walking around and want lunch, I should just be able to ask where the closest food is that I would like. It’s great that Google Local can tell me what’s close, but if I’ve rated a bunch of burrito shops and so has a hundred other people, I should be able to make some correlation between what people like and recommend places based on others assessments that like similar places that I do.
  • Recommendation engine for events (sports, date) using the same process

Author’s Note: After researching references for comments in this entry, I found Wirrl mentioned in an article. It looks to be the closest application out there to fit my idea. It looks like when the iPhone application store comes online, they’ll have it!

Computer Keyboard Drum Pad

Waiting for Windows to boot provides plenty of time for random contemplation. During a recent reboot, while stuck in small airplane seat, my hands began tapping away at the keyboard to mimic drum beats I’ve tapped out on many inanimate objects over the years (played the drums in high school). Lightly tapping the keys and hitting them hard produced different sounds that entertained me just enough for the boot. But while tapping away it dawned on me that the current Garage Band type keyboard setups for musical instruments are too limited when it comes to actually “playing” music on a QWERTY. Why can’t it use all the keys and associate groupings to one single drum head or key of an instrument? Why should I have to hit a single key to produce a single note?
A few years ago Palm released the updated Treo. The biggest part of its early fanfare was the keyboard. Their engineering led them to develop a smart keyboard that would know what key you meant to hit, even though you likely fat fingered a few keys because one key ultimately would be selected first in the I/O burst and thus could be assumed to be the intended key, allowing the smartphone to ignore the rest until the next major keystroke. Well, why not use the same approach to musical instruments on QWERTY’s? I’d like it if the bass drum was the combination of the space key, N, M, “,”, “.”, alt and some other funny windows menu key (HP Compaq 6910p). The snare drum could then be the lower left section containing keys such as the Z,X,C,S,D lot.
This could make for some fun jam sessions in the home office. You could also write the software to assume if you did hit more than one key, you were hitting harder.
I’m not sure what the computer gets for info from a keyboard, but if the I/O data is there, this would be a great enhancement to Garage Band. I also look forward to the iPhone application that allows you to tap out your music.

TV Set-top Guides

TV guides are painful. It seems I spend more time going through the menu than watching quality programming. The sheer number of channels is overwhelming. But, what really rubs me wrong is when I finally see something of interest and I get the message, “Channel not purchased.”
I propose a few minor changes that I think will dramatically improve the experience.

  • Expand the favorites option to allow for multiple users in the household
  • Provide the option to filter out those channels that are “not purchased” (tried “Channels I Get” on DirecTV and still had channels come up that I couldn’t watch)
  • Allow picture in picture box to display the channel you are flipping though on the guide
  • Have a recommendation engine (by user)

Behavioral and Environment Targeting for Mobile Advertising

As GPS chips become embedded in more and more phones, location based services will begin to explode. We have seen many different applications come out of the smaller more niche mobile carriers and some basic applications such as child finders deployed to the big national carriers, but the mobile advertising promise of promoting a hot cup of coffee as you walk by Starbucks has yet to materialize. One area I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is around environment targeting along with behavioral targeting. Obviously, Google and others will have a tremendous amount of insight about their users and could use this in a mobile setting, most likely their primary driver for their 700 MHz bid in the US and metro wi-fi attempts. But, I think another key opportunity is around environment targeting.
Let me explain this idea briefly. If I’m in Phoenix, Arizona and its 103 degrees, I’m not going to likely be interested in a hot latte no matter what the mobile coupon offer is. But, if I’m walking down the street and I get a note about a cold, chilled Frappuccino, I may just take the bait. Now, there are a couple of key pieces of information in this scenario that I just shared that the technology could determine and use to target the advertisement to this particular situation. The first was the fact that I’m walking. The slow pace of my movement could be understood by an application as “walking” and could trigger a business rule that says I’m likely more inclined to take the bait. Whereas if I’m driving 45 MPH past the same Starbucks, it’s probably not as effective to send me that same ad. Additionally, with my location information, an application could determine that it’s remarkably hot and decide to send me the ad for the ice cold Frappuccino rather than the hot latte. This environment targeting could be a key addition to mobile marketing or push advertising.

Meet Me Mobile

The technology is finally catching up to the idea. A friend of mine recently forwarded me a link to a new application for the iPhone and iTouch that allows people to connect randomly while remotely wandering this planet. It doesn’t use a centralized server to connect the profiles, but instead uses data on each device to connect individuals that are near each other and may want to be connected for one reason or another. I think it’s brilliant! Although, I think having the online profile and ability to keep track of the experience will be a much more exciting offering (an old idea of mine – mobile dating and SMS flirting), it’s a great start at using technology as an icebreaker.
The application: iFob
Features (from their site):
iFob is ultra simple to use, and has no required fields.
With iFob you enter only what you want people to know about you, plain and simple. You can modify whatever you enter whenever you want without having to login to any site.
iFob has lots of cool features, including:

  • Public Taglines that any iFob user can see.
  • Add more detailed public information about yourself.
  • Add additional private information that you can chose which iFob users may see.
  • Chat with other iFob users who are in the same hotspot.
  • Is not a web site: iFob is software that is installed on your iPhone, iPod or laptop.
  • Mark other iFob users as “interesting” if you would like to pay attention to in the future.
  • Visual and sound indicators when other iFob users come into the room.
  • Block iFob users based on whether or not they are boring so you will never be bored by them again.
  • Versions for iPod touch, iPhone, Windows PCs and Mac Intel laptops.
  • Works with any wireless network which your iPod, iPhone or laptop can connect with.
  • iPod and iPhone version are 100% free.
  • No subscription fees.
  • No advertising or any other kind of hassleware.
  • Ultra simple to use.
  • Ultra simple “profiles” with no required fields.
  • No having to define categories for yourself.

Magazine Article Bookmarks from SMS

I often find myself referencing an article in discussion and want to be able to share it with those I’m in discussion with or use it to prove a point. And other times, there’s just an interesting story I want to show someone because I can’t remember the details. Recently, I read an article in Wired magazine about the amount of caffeine in soft drinks. They published the findings from a test that identified the milligrams of caffeine included in the popular beverages. In the article, it made reference to a URL that had the full list. But, when I went to show my friend, and explore the rest of the list, I no longer had the magazine, nor could I find the article searching through their site.
Maybe it’s just me, who carries magazines around with me wherever I go and drops them into trash bins wherever I finish, but I’d like to have a way to keep track of those really good articles or even share them with friends on the spot. I think the easiest way to track and organize this process would be through a combination of SMS and the web. If each article had a unique ID, I could then send that ID to the magazine publishers short code. The system would then keep track of the article for me in as online bookmarks. The system could ask me if I’d like “more info”, if there was more to the article. It could then send my phone a URL where I could pull up the additional info (like the total list of sodas in the caffeine test). I could then forward it to a friend via my phone, or later share my bookmark with them.
The publishers would obviously love this. It would give them a way to track who’s reading what and when, which would be great for getting the advertisers excited about the print world in the way they like online ad tracking. And given many magazines are owned by the same publisher, they could use one system for all their magazines which would make it more valuable to the reader as well because then all their bookmarks would be together. They could even have features that allow the reader to comment directly on the article from their phone, and further connect the authors with the readers.

Mobile Work Phone That Switches to Personal Phone

The real need is to be able to go from work to personal and back. This includes not only the messaging, but the look itself. The pearl is a great step, but the software has a long way to go. Have a switch on the outside to go from work to personal. This would allow the person to really feel like they were “switching work off”. The settings could be such that email is no longer pushed, but is queued for later. Maybe the ringer changes and even the home page of the start screen. For example the camera link could become front and center verses the task list. Email needs to be clearly separated. I don’t want to have the temptation of getting caught up on a work item when I’m trying to check in on the weekend plans with some friends. Instant messaging could also help send the message. I’m not working, ping me later. Hit the switch and the presence info changes back to working. Integration with work phone “follow me” systems could also be tied in. I’m always annoyed by having to remember to call into the system to let it know I’m at my desk or working. Calendar integration should go beyond the corporate server. Using Google calendar to share my travel schedule with friends is fun, but requires me to keep my calendar updated in two places.

Remove Attachments from Microsoft Outlook

Many enterprise IT shops these days are significantly limiting mailbox sizes for their employees. It seems rather odd given the cost of storage, but none the less something many of us deal with. It means we’re constantly killing time each day cleaning up attachments and archiving mail. I shared my displeasure with a colleague of mine, James K. and he quickly created a Microsoft Outlook macro to automatically remove attachments. This feature should be a part of Outlook, but in the mean time, it saves me from opening each email individually to remove attachments (Outlook has no bulk processing feature for this).
Below is the macro that you can add to your own Outlook application:
Sub RemoveAttachments()
Dim selectedMailItem As Outlook.MailItem
Dim currentAttachment As Outlook.Attachment
Dim i As Integer
For Each selectedMailItem In ThisOutlookSession.ActiveExplorer.Selection
‘Remove attachments until there are none left
While selectedMailItem.Attachments.Count > 0
selectedMailItem.Attachments.Remove (1)
End Sub
Updated 9/24/07: Remove Attachments from Appointments
Sub RemoveAppointmentAttachments()
Dim selectedAppointmentItem As Outlook.AppointmentItem
Dim currentAttachment As Outlook.Attachment
Dim i As Integer
For Each selectedAppointmentItem In ThisOutlookSession.ActiveExplorer.Selection
‘Remove attachments until there are none left
While selectedAppointmentItem.Attachments.Count > 0
selectedAppointmentItem.Attachments.Remove (1)
End Sub

Expatriates in Hyderabad Interview

A brief interview with Biligiri Ranga from Primetime PRISM magazine.
What are the things at your place of work that impresses you here? Could u pinpoint the differences between working conditions here and the place you come from?
The working conditions in Hyderabad are very different and yet the same as those of most US offices. If you’re working in a multi-national company, the offices run at an international level of quality standards. On the other hand, you do sometimes deal with Internet outages and other problems with the infrastructure that typically are not experienced in US offices. Separate from the infrastructure though is the quality of the people and the sense of community in most offices there. I had the feeling that people work together more closely and collaboratively to ensure the team is successful, whereas in the west, commonly people work more independently.
What is about Hyderabad that impresses you? How do u see the city compared to other Indian metros like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chandigarh, Chennai, Pune, etc?
What stood out most to me was the vision of Chandrababu Naidu. The High Tech City design was well thought through. Pushing the business parks outside of the city helped to not overwhelm the city such as what has happened in Bangalore. Additionally, I noticed a different sense of pride in how the city is maintained. For example, there is more energy put in to finishing sidewalks and landscaping for the main roads. These small things make a difference on how a city is perceived by an outsider. Culturally though, I believe Hyderabad is quite different than the other major metros. It’s a more conservative culture than that of Mumbai and Delhi, which I think has benefits and negatives. The benefits are it will slow the pace of change and probably keep the culture from widely detracting from the local history. However, it can also make it more challenging to inspire the young talent of today to live there. Many of these folks want to be in the places that allow them to think and behave more freely.
What’s your take about lifestyle conditions here? Is it reasonable? And how do u find the people here?
The first thing I head about that was immediately validated was “Hyderbady Hospitality”. In Hyderabad there is a sense of community that is much stronger than the other metros. I think people there are genuinely more interested in their neighbor succeeding. This helps the business community continue to grow and succeed. As for lifestyle conditions, I think it depends on what you compare it to. Obviously, the conditions in Hyderabad are not of the same standards of those of Singapore. But, I think things are more comfortable than the other major metros of India. For example, the air pollution is much less in Hyderabad than Bangalore. Then again, it can get quite hot in Hyderabad!
How do u find the social and entertainment scene in the city? Any changes u suggest to make it more lively?
I think Hyderabad is doing quite well in this category. On my most recent visit last fall I was really excited about how many new exciting restaurants there are. People in Hyderabad are huge foodies and the energy of that inspires great Chefs to setup shop in very creative and diverse ways. I would like to see the pub closing times extended though as most of us in the business community work too much and can’t make it out until later for dinner and drinks. Overall though, I had an incredible time when living there. Most of my time was spent in 10D’s, Touch and Cinnabar Red, but others like Liquids and Bottles and Chimney’s kept me well entertained. There was always a great energy within the small community that took full advantage of the “night life” of Hyderabad. People are much friendlier in the pubs of Hyderabad than Mumbai or Delhi, which makes it fun to grab a pint.
How do you see India of today compared to past? Also, do u feel it has the potential to catch up with the West?
I think India has the potential to surpass the West. The trick will be for it to keep its artistic energy, sense of community and passion for life. If it falls into the grind of US and Japanese business culture too much, it will stagnate. I think the other keys are continuing to open up the market to foreign investment and ownership to allow more competition and opportunity. In 1991, as Finance Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh championed many reforms that led to the latest boom in India. India was finally free of its chains to show the world what it is capable of. However, there are still many legacy laws that constrain the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Continuing where he left off would allow India to not only keep pace with China, but potentially surpass it. There is still an incredible amount of talent in India that is not being tapped due to infrastructure issues and legal constraints. Solving some of these will be the catalyst for India to run pace with everyone else on the international front. That said, I think there are some great projects underway such as those being implemented by the National Highways Authority of India. Connecting the countries main metros will allow better exchange of goods and services that will increase commerce and allow more people to be rewarded better for the fruits of their labor. With this in mind, I think the next major focus should be on land titles and ownership such as to create a better system to release the capital locked in the real estate.
Any suggestions u have to make the city a better place?
Focus less on subsidization and more on finding more creative ways for everyone to be successful. Hyderabad will need to continue to keep focused on inspiring and attracting the talent. In order to do that, it will need to continue to provide the support needed to grow business. This includes investing in education and infrastructure.
Do u think India should team up more with the Western World in these days of terrorism, and global warming?
Yes, I think India has a responsibility to help combat the issues facing our world. However, the biggest way it can support these efforts are helping its people have more opportunity. Again, investments in education, reforms in the legal system and more legal support for land ownership will help people get out of poverty and not feel lost. When people are struggling and lost in life, they can be caught up in some of these negative activities, but when they can stand on their own, they find their own way.
Do u think India will reach its true potential by allying with the Western world?
India will reach its true potential by letting itself follow its own dreams.