iPhone Apps We Won’t Make, Pt. 1: The Good Vibe

The Good Vibes iPhone App Concept

Today I was skimming through a bunch of iPhone mockups on my desktop and rediscovered some old app concepts. They’re mostly minimal in nature, and if we had the time and resources we would just code them up and try to release them on the App Store for free.

Well, we have neither, so I decided to share some of these ideas on this blog rather than trying to catch a new coder and convince him to create non-profit two-minute distractions. ;)

So here I go, first up: The Good Vibe.

The main idea is an app that you launch when in a hotel room or before going to bed or during an expo in a strange town in the middle of nowhere. You launch the app and can sort of “see” the current vibe of the city you’re in, or check the current vibe of your hometown.
You can also leave a message right where you are, such as “feeling lonely” or “love you all”, effectively tuning the vibe of your location.
It’s a bit like walking the streets at night. Cars passing by, people rushing to get home. A small nod or a smile from a passer-by can make all the difference; about the way you feel — about the city, about your current situation, any situation.
That’s what the app is meant to do: Make you feel good, sort of. Connected. Not alone. At least put a smile on your face. If only for a second.

The app collects your geo location and presents you with a view of anonymous short text messages written by users in your vicinity. At a timed interval, one of the messages gets highlighted and enlarged, then another one, and another one and so on.
There’s not much interaction here — you just see a bunch of messages and a single one highlighted. You just watch as messages fly by.
You won’t be able to swipe over the view and activate other messages or such. But you will be able to send your own messages. These will be added to the stream of your current loc, so other users can read them.

There’s a “negative” rating option when sending messages.
There’s also a “negative” rating option somehow attached to each highlighted message. This might be a simple “-” button or a top-to-bottom swipe gesture (especially if we want to fine grain the rating).
The ratings have no effect on the messages’ display or such, but rather on the city the rated messages were sent from.

Effects of Rating (1):
Ratings are sent to the server and collected in order to define the “vibe” a city is in. Unrated messages are counted as “positive”, while negative ratings are counted as such. The +/- ratio defines the city’s current vibe.

Effects of Rating (2):
The background color of the messages view changes depending on the city’s vibe. A positive city might be vibrantly colored and even have a slightly pulsating background, while a more negative city displays a darker message view.
A double-tap or such will open a world map which somehow shows the current vibe of select cities. You’ll be able to check out the vibe of all cities, but you can only activate the message view in two core locations: Your current loc, and your hometown.
The idea is to create a somewhat strong connection between you, your current location, and other users in that location. Every message you send has an effect on the vibe of your location. So even more than just checking out the “vibe”, it’s about creating a vibe. You’re part of the city, so to say.

Send short messages to a server.
Receive short messages based on geo location.
Option to rate single messages as “negative”.
Map of world with select cities showing “vibe” (based on negative ratings).

How to:
When the user connects to the server, we check the geo loc. We then simply use a very fuzzy method of finding messages in the vacinity. If he’s the only user within reach, we simply use a wider radius or the first larger user base.
We then push a fixed amount of messages to the device, let’s say 30 to 50. These messages contain the amount of positive/negative messages based on the loc’s computed vibe.
The messages get displayed in a very minimal style to create some sort of zen-effect.

Message selection:
Depending on how active the user’s area is, we might have trouble finding enough messages to display. So we’ll need methods to compensate for inactive areas. These methods may include a smaller selection of messages (only show 10 if the area is very inactive) and/or a wide scan radius in both geo loc and timeline. E.g., we could simply check if it’s the user’s first time around and then push the first 20 messages instead of the latest, then simply include 10 arbitrary NEW messages from all over the world.
So even if the user checks the app in a location where nobody has ever left a message, he will get 30 messages, most likely in the correct language, and in the current vibe, which will always be “good” since there’s no negative input from there and so we only push good (or rather: neutral) ones.

I don’t know nothing about server load, latency, geo location troubles and the like. I don’t even know how to get the data into a database, let alone how to structure it in order to efficiently push 30 short messages to what might be 10.000 simultaneous connection attempts.
I simply don’t know how to pull this off. :)

Closing comment:
I think this might be fun, if only for a few months or so. I think that the social aspect might take off, especially with cities being labeld as having a good/bad vibe. Just imagine having Rome displayed in devilish red while London gets the love…
However, this might be a complete failure, with only 10 users active and all of them posting links to illegal downloads.
Given our current size an structure, we can’t even give this thing a shot, so we’ll leave it as is and probably just bury it.

And that’s it. :)

I’d still love to see this materialized somehow, so if anybody is reading this and wants to pick it up — feel free to do so.

One Response to “iPhone Apps We Won’t Make, Pt. 1: The Good Vibe”

  1. Ian K says:

    You could probably run this on the back of a slightly modified StatusNet, the software that runs identi.ca. Make some client software, hash the location into the message in a way that makes it easy to strip out and to slowly expand the search radius, and you’re away.

    Or at least that’s how I’d look at doing it.