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Pinwheel

Category: local social Friday, February 17th, 2012, 11:45 am

It’s been a while since I posted here — I seem to end up sending more stuff to FB or Twitter than writing posts. Microblogging FTW I guess.

I just read about Pinwheel and I love the idea. If you read some of the initial reactions on Techcrunch, they seem overwhelmingly negative. Basically they question why a new well-funded start-up should focus on anything as old-hat as making the real world of locations findable online, since that’s clearly been covered by Foursquare or Facebook Places and a number of other start-ups which are closer to Pinwheel, like Repudo (pick up or drop ‘digital objects’ in the street). I think it’s fairer to say that Foursquare, Places or Repudo are the first entrants in a field that will become almost incomprehensibly dense. Lots of people don’t see that right now, but it’s clear that real locations offer a (real) world of possibilities. Please excuse the puns, but there is a lot of space here for new ideas. The real-world location aspect of Shadowcities makes it a lot more fun. I love finding out what MMORPG spirits are around the different neighbourhoods I inhabit. There are suddenly lots of other dimensions to familiar places.

Repudo seems a kind of geocaching play for brands, a kind of SCVNGR with virtual geocaches instead of challenges. Pinwheel looks to be more whimsical, more content-focused and to give more space to the user to make of it what they will. One of the fabled important lessons that I remembered from Amy Jo Kim was to give the community the space they needed to make their choices; witness Ms Fake’s previous start-up Flickr, which pivoted into its current form partially due to the community taking the functionality into their own hands and shaping the conventions of the site-to-be. Perhaps a better analogy (if we have to use these ‘new start-up is just a combination of old start-up’ similes) is a Tumblr for the real world.

I think there is a lot to like in Pinwheel. A few simple things make a big difference. I like the use of the word ‘note’ rather than ‘digital object’. I like the intimacy of some of the conversations and the simple clean design. And I think there’s a feeling of space. There’s a lot more space here for a small business to add real grassroots content on some of what they know the most about: their local area. It’s going to be fun to see how it develops.

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