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!

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