Our take on Web 2.0
With Google announcing their new attempt at social networking (Google+) yesterday, I feel that I need to write this post. I could go in to detail about the differences, benefits, pros and cons, but I won’t. I want to shift focus to a bigger problem that still exists. It seems that everyone is missing the point here. All these failed attempts at creating something unique and useful is driving me crazy!
I would like to share an invention that I came up with 3 months ago. I decided to create Helpstr. It is a local/social search engine that answers the big question:
“Where do I go?”
We have sites like Yelp which give reviews of locations and local businesses, but people don’t have time to read through extensive and never-ending lists of biased reviews. Personally, I feel uncomfortable trusting what is written on Yelp. Now if you could only combine the reviews from Yelp, the accuracy of Google Maps, and the trust from Facebook. That would really be something. THIS is precisely what I have envisioned.
Helpstr is a local search engine that tells you where to go based on popularity. If you were visiting Philadelphia, PA and wanted the best cheesesteak in town, where would you turn? Yelp? A guy on the street? Your friends? Helpstr allows for all of the above.
When signing up for Helpstr, you create a username, password, and enter your zip code. If you searched for cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, not only would you get the best places voted by all users (global), but you also have the option to break it down even further to votes by the people who live in Philadelphia. This is called the regional vote. I live in 22209, which is one of 5 zip codes that makes up Arlington, VA. Therefore, if I voted for a location in Philadelphia, my vote would be counted under the “global” section. I personally have more faith in places voted by the locals. For this reason, I would be clicking the “regional” tab most of the time. Now if you wanted to break it down even further, click the “friends” tab. This shows you the best places voted by the users in your social network.
What’s interesting about this concept is that you can visit a city you’ve never been to, Seattle for example; you can find a doctor, dentist or restaurant with the help of your social network. If none of your friends have been to Seattle, the next best thing would be to ask the people of Seattle. This is where Yelp falls short. Both Yelp and Google don’t have the social networking abilities that Facebook has. Now Facebook could build upon Facebook Places and integrate this in somehow.
What is so intriguing about Facebook?
I conducted a survey and asked about 60 people between the ages of 20 and 40 of why they like Facebook. An overwhelming response was to stay in touch with friends and family. I followed up with another question… How often do you use Facebook? 80% of the test takers responded with… I am on it all day or At least once a day.
We are driven to Facebook, because there is an allure to monitoring individuals in your social circle. Now that we are more tech savvy than ever, this has become much easier than in the past. My personal opinion is that not only do we “spy” on individuals, but we also want to compare their lives to ours.
How does Helpstr help?
I want to know where to go in New York City when I go for a visit. I also want to keep tabs of my friends and where they like to go. Their recommendations are valuable to me. I have about 10 close friends who live in New York City. If only I could see what places they recommend without having to call and ask them. Yes I have some friends who live there, but I haven’t spoken to them in over 3 years. Wouldn’t it be better to get a recommendation without having to interact with them? It’s a scary idea, but a very interesting concept. Helpstr allows users to build out profiles similar to Facebook, but integrates lists of places recommended in different cities. In my example, I have “Scdempsey” recommending a Mexican restaurant, salon, dentist, a web development company, a pizza joint and a burger spot. These recommendations build out his personal list that he is broadcasting to the users of Helpstr. He also has an “ultimate” tab. This is his list of absolute favorite places for specific categories. You only get to choose one location per category. For example, Serendipity III in New York City would be my all-time favorite desert recommendation.
By creating a binary voting system (0-1), users will be able to decide whether they like a place or not with the click of a button. I took this idea from a music site I love, Hypem.com. This also fixes the flawed star rating system. I could really damage a business’ reputation by putting 1 out of 5 stars in a review. I made voting similar to the “like button” on Facebook and Google’s +1. If you would like to write review about a business or location, you could do so on the business’ informational page. This page would be similar to a Google Places page, which includes address, phone number, website link, email, services & products, hours, payments accepted and more. You would be able to share your review.
My point is that when searching for a place to go eat while standing on a street corner, you don’t have time or patience to read all the biased and untrustworthy reviews. You just want to know where to go and to be able to make an instant decision. I like the way “Rotten Tomatoes” voting system works. 70% of all people who voted liked this movie. This percentage allows for quicker decision making.
After doing patent research… I found out that Google owns the rights to this idea, or so I think. (Patent number: 7827176 – Methods and systems for endorsing local search results – Thomas Christopher Korte). This is why I have not pursued starting this website. I discovered the patent after 3 months of fleshing out Helpstr. The ideas sound too similar for me to take a gamble. So why doesn’t Google create this monster?! My opinion is that with their current Pay-Per-Click strategy in place, they are making way to much money with Google Adwords and would not want to jeopardize their ad revenue stream. Helpstr puts a democratic spin on ranking search results. Google doesn’t want users to decide the order of search results. They want to maintain full control in adjusting search engine ranking order by forcing businesses to use AdWords. I feel that this patent was a defensive move on their part. They have built the Google castle, and this patent is just a part of their strategic moat.
I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts.
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