Boy this has been a crazy last week. This last weekend was our company retreat at a cabin up near Leavenworth, followed by my periodontal gum graft on Wednesday (where they cut living tissue from the roof of your mouth and sew it on to the front of your lower gums to stop gum recession). Even after six days, my mouth is still filling with blood now and again. Not fun. So needless to say, I have been writing a little less these last few days. But on top of the retreat and the surgery, I have been dumping a lot of my spare time into an iPhone app that I'm developing. Without further ado, here it is!
What is Shoutmap? It's a lot of things.
- It's a portal to experience new places.
- It's a tool for leaving messages behind for others to find.
- It's a way of having a conversation with a stranger halfway around the world.
- It's a blank canvas that you can fill however you please.
- It's an instrument for poetry, philosophy, and fart jokes.
- It's whatever you want to make it.
Okay, that's great and all, but what is it really? Shoutmap is an app for mobile devices that allows you to leave anonymous messages on a public map for anyone in the world to read and interact with. However, the messages (called shouts) that you initiate are pinned to your current location. This creates a new dimension to creative sharing and storytelling. You could shout along a hiking trail about little things you notice or shout a poem through a city park. But it doesn't end there. Your own shouts are geocentric, but you can still read and reply to any shout in the world. You could pan over to New York and read shouts about the insane amount of snow they recently received. Or if there's a natural disaster, you could scan over the area and get pinpointed updates on what exactly is happening. The possibilities are really endless.
An Evolving Concept
The initial concept for the app was a map-centric Craigslist. You could post everything you wanted to sell on the map and anyone nearby could easily browse the items and stop by to pick them up. This idea, while simple in concept, led to a lot of complex problems. Where do we host all the images of the products? Do we have an in-app payment system? Do we hook up to Square? The deeper the questions became, the less feasible the idea became. But I still liked the core concept of hyperlocal communication through a map-centric interface, so I kept thinking. What if I simplified the idea? What if I took the minimal amount of features from it to create something new?
This new concept started at the most bare bones level. You could post an anonymous message at your current location. Done. Easy. But...not the most interesting idea in the world. We need more depth. So I added commenting, where you could start interacting with these other shouts that you find. Then I developed a rating system when you can amplify or silence any shout that you like or find offensive. The rating system gives each shout a unique decibel. When you make a shout, it starts at 1dB. If a bunch of people amplify your shout, it gets louder! So how do we make it easier to display the popular shouts? That's where the list view comes into play. You can swipe across the bottom of the screen to slide the list views into place. There will be a local list that shows popular shouts wherever your map view is centered. Next to that will be the global shouts where you can see the most popular shouts from all across the world (within your language). And just like shouts in the real world, they will lose volume over time (much like how Reddit operates).
The design for Shoutmap has and will always focus on a minimal design. When you first open the app, it should be very clear what to do and how to do it. You will spend most of your time on this screen (pictured below). Here, you can explore the entire world's wealth of shouts. Maybe a team of researchers is working on something in Antarctica while shouting about it. You would easily notice their shouts down there, encouraging you to read and interact with them!
Every screen has been designed and redesigned to maximize features while minimizing the interface. Visual cues have been taken from Google Maps and Apple Maps for how to show information on a map. For the preferences page, simple text explains the features you can adjust or disable. Pictured below are all of the screens of the app. The top row shows the functionality of the map view while the bottom row shows the list views. You can view the loudest shouts nearby and the loudest shouts globally, as well as your own shouts.
As it stands, Shoutmap is about half done. All of the initial design has been finished and polished. The web presence has been built, with a teaser page, Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ page, and a work-in-progress Kickstarter (not yet launched). Most exciting, a prototype has been built that actually runs on an iPhone! My good buddy Garrett is manning the coding side of things for the app. He's using the Ionic Framework so that we can quickly build the app and launch it for both iPhone and Android.
How You Can Help!
The best thing you can do is go to www.theshoutmap.com and submit your email address then use the unique URL to invite your friends and earn in-app rewards! So cool! I'm super excited you guys! This is going to be something really fun. And who knows, maybe it will take off and be the next big thing!
Oh, right, how can you help. You can also click on those links above to follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. The bigger an audience we generate, the more likely this will take off!