Digg for the Real World

GraffitiGeo: Mobile Review App is like "Digg for the Real World"

A new Y Combinator funded startup called GraffitiGeo has just launched with a fresh spin on user-generated reviews. The mobile application is somewhat like a mashup of review site Yelp, mobile social network Foursquare, and social news site Digg. The Digg-like element of the application is the easiest piece to use: like that restaurant? Vote it up. You can also leave more detailed comments to go along with your vote, if you so choose. To encourage people to participate in the "game" aspect to the app, GraffitiGeo also introduces a point system whose concept is borrowed from mobile app Foursquare...but is a bit more confusing.


What's more interesting than the mobile application launching now is the second GraffitiGeo app which is right around the corner. The next app will be an augmented reality application for the iPhone which takes the above elements and layers them over your iPhone's viewfinder.

Yelp + Digg + Foursquare = GraffitiGeo

GraffitiGeo's first mobile application will initially suffer from all the usual problems of sites and services that rely on user-generated reviews. Until enough people start using the service, there won't be much value to it. While the concept behind the mobile review app is solid, its focus primarily on restaurants at the moment means it's not likely to attract a large user base right off the bat. There are already a large number of mobile restaurant applications out there, not to mention there's Yelp, which does restaurant reviews and a lot more.

The GraffitiGeo team acknowledges they have competition in this area, but are quick to point out the others' shortcomings. For example, Yelp reviews are too long - especially in "the day and age of Twitter," they write on their blog. They also incorporate the Digg-like voting element for fast rankings (which Yelp does not), offer Facebook Connect integration for easy sign in, introduce nifty heatmaps to highlight the hotspots, and let you leave a comment with only 2 taps (Yelp takes 5-6). In short, they feel they've designed an application specifically for the mobile platform where Yelp just ported their successful website to mobile instead.

The Digg-like voting aspect is probably the app's killer feature. Instead of star ratings or lengthy reviews, you can simply vote "thumbs up" in order to rate a restaurant positively or a "thumbs down" if you're not so pleased. This ease-of-use makes the barrier to entry that much lower and could encourage more participation from casual users.

Another element to GraffitiGeo is the game aspect. This may or may not be a plus, in our opinion. With inspiration obviously borrowed from mobile social network/gameFoursquare, GraffitiGeo awards points for any activity, whether that's a vote, a comment, or anything else. After reaching 100 points (aka "street cred"), you can start or join a "mob." Not a violent mob, of course, just a "mob." Mobs can claim territories which, in turn, unlocks more features in the application. There are also badges which can be earned. The entire setup is explained here. It's a bit complex and frankly, we're not sure if this is the sort of app that needs a gameplay element. If you're trying to find out if a restaurant is worth trying out, you're probably more interested in reading reviews and checking ratings than you are in playing with a bunch of online friends.

Even Better: An Augmented Reality Version

The real trick up GraffitiGeo's sleeve, however, is the app that's yet to come. Basically, the next app fromGraffitiGeo is an augmented reality version of what's described above. That sounds much more appealing, to be honest. With the iPhone's viewfinder, you scan the restaurant in question and GraffitiGeo comments will float across your screen. What's really cool about the AR app, though, is that you don't necessarily have to have a restaurant in the viewfinder to see these ratings. Because the app is location-based, it knows what's nearby. In the demo, they aim the app down the street from where they're standing and GraffitiGeo displays the ratings for all the restaurants on that block. If you're ever just wandering around looking for a place to eat, this could be a real timesaver. We imagine you'll then be able to interact with the app in other ways, too, but that's hard to tell from the YouTube video demo.

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GraffitiGeo's first effort may or may not be worth your time, especially considering its already robust competition, but the AR app definitely looks worth the wait.

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