excited about schemer

he lost an antenna in an unfortunate fall

Schemer is my absolute favorite new product, not for what it is but for what it could be. It was created by a team at Google who were “united by a passion to help people discover and share stuff to do in the offline world” (more here). It looks at first blush a lot like a text version of Pinterest for “doing stuff.” You can add things like “Visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris” and you can also look through other schemes and “Find stuff to do” which then you can add to your schemes as well.

Aside about Pinterest: For those who aren’t excited about Pinterest this is going to be a harder sell, but if you’re part of the curation craze, Schemer seems to handle one user case. A while back people started creating Pinterest boards titled  “bucket list,” “Hawaii vacation,” and the like where they would plan trips, adventures, and life goals. Websites cropped up with libraries of images with text on them saying things like “Lose 10 pounds” and “Visit the Eiffel Tower” but that was a user created workaround and not the standard use case for Pinterest. There is room for a dedicated service. Further, there are innumerable features that make sense for offline items that aren’t necessary or useful for online bookmarking.

But what does it do? What is it for?

Schemer says that it is to help you “Find stuff to do. Big or Small.” “Keep track of what you want to do, pick something, and go!” and “Get ideas from celebrities, experts, and friends.” All of that is true but I it is a lot more powerful than that, and those statements truly capture what the power of social media is. Most importantly, they don’t make it clear how to actually use Schemer.

Schemer has some real potential to replace services I use to make decisions about what I do offline (TripAdvisor, Yelp, CitySearch). I use them mostly for reviews. However, not that many people write online reviews. I am a person who writes reviews (it’s a guilt thing), and I have to admit it’s a lot of work. It’s easy to identify two problems here: not that many people writing reviews, and are they the people whose opinions I care about?

Here’s why I’d rather use Schemer (keeping in mind Schemer is pretty much useless in its current state so I took some liberties):

A few friends and I want to grab dinner in Austin tonight. I grab my phone and go to Schemer and pull up the Austin restaurants my friends have schemed. I look through the comments and see things like “mmmmm fried pickles,” “super expensive, but super worth it,” and “best margarita in Austin” – we have a winner. I click on it to see where it is, and that another friend, George, has “schemed” the restaurant as well. I shoot off a quick text to let them know we’re heading there if he wants to join. One more click and Maps gives me directions.

Terrible picture, great friends and great margaritas

Even just thinking about that makes me feel pretty awesome. It’s not radically different from the behavior I currently engage in, but at the same time the process and results are totally different.

It’s truly social – with my friends/family/people I trust

It is helpful to know what my friends think about a place. One of my favorite restaurants is an El Salvadorian place that Yelp doesn’t even know about and yet now all of my friends do because I told them about it. Not to mention nearly every restaurant in Austin has something like a 4 star Yelp rating, it’s not particularly helpful.

The comments I mentioned aren’t heavy “reviews,” they are the same “check-ins” we were seeing with Foursquare and Facebook (I think I’ve seen those exact examples on my feed), but now I am actually using the check-ins. That is exciting.

Giving me an opportunity me to connect with that friend, George, and leveraging the information that he wants to go to that restaurant is really awesome.*** Sometimes I’ll remember, “oh a friend of mine wanted to Six Flags, who was that…” but this is so much more powerful. Also, it gives me a reason to reconnect with someone I haven’t seen in a while.

*** This reminds me of the “soft social cues” which were a motivation behind G+’s hangouts. This idea was that it’s a lot easier to join a conversation that’s going on than it is to invite people to chat. It’s a lot easier to let people know you want to go somewhere than it is to invite yourself along.

Schemer gives me my money’s worth by using every part of this animal. Schemer can leverage what I’ve done, where I am, my device, what I want to do, what my friends want to do, and so much more. This helps me enjoy my friends even more.

A seamless experience

I always have my phone, even while walking through tidepools in Hawaii. My phone met the ocean just moments later, they did not agree.

It seems pretty clear that social media needs to be mobile. Users love mobile and it makes sense. The holy grail of user experience is to create tools that fade into the background to allow users to forget about the tool entirely as they become completely absorbed in the experience. It just fits in daily life. I am incredibly excited to see a product, like Schemer, that has the potential to advance social media and allow the online social experience to integrate seamlessly with our offline adventures.

Please Note: I’m imagining up about a bazillion features to make this vision even possible, right now Schemer is very barebones, check it out for yourself.

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