A community based approach to geosocial networking

by Atakan Seckin

Submitted to the department of Visual Communication Design in Istanbul Bilgi University on January 8, 2017, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication Design.

Abstract

Yode is a location based social network that groups of people use. It is centered around the user’s “location footprint”, a visualization of user’s recent location history on a map. Within their location footprint, users can create and consume content created by others.

This mechanism of content creation can be made useful in various situations and communities - therefore, certain methods must be introduced to narrow down the options and validate real-life use cases. This system demonstrates ways of approaching this problem, as well as outlining the product design process.

Keywords

location footprint, communities, content aggregation, groups, urban, news, social media, communities, streets, districts, radius, nature, map, interactive

Personal Motivation

As someone who deeply believes in the value of local communities, I see a huge gap for social networks that cater to communicating with people who are physically closer to each other. Platforms like Facebook Groups are already being utilized by local communities, which validates the need of communication and presents many opportunities in terms of new communication methods.

Introduction

Yode means went; walked; proceeded.

The idea is to utilize location history as a canvas for communication. This gives us a starting point, but the potential use cases are too broad - the project needs a clear vision regarding what problems it aims to solve.

A community based approach

Location based social networks tend to assume that just because you are (or were) in the same location, you and someone else have common goals and interests. However, if the communication between two parties is to be functional and meaningful, there needs to be more things in common than simply shopping at the same grocery store. Arbitrary things like age and location don't fully define who we are, or what we enjoy. Who we are and what we enjoy is a big part of which communities we choose to be a part of.

Posts created in a grocery store by the local vegan community would be more relevant to vegans, compared to a post created by a random person who shopped there the same day.

This community-based approach lets us identify and tackle more specific problems that can be solved via geosocial networking.

Scenarios

Communities with leisure-based activities

ITUDAK

is a university mountaineering club based in Istanbul. They are a medium-sized community with more than a hundred total members. They frequently go on camping trips in groups of 10-14 people, and those camping trips are repeated each year with new students. They already use Whatsapp and Facebook Groups to communicate with each other, but those platforms provide a linear feed of content. While that type of communication works for some of their needs, it doesn't resonate well with the main activity they do together - going places. Members of ITUDAK can use Yode to create their own content on a map, in order to transfer relevant information about places they go - such as routes, suitable camping spots, possibly dangerous areas or other content that only ITUDAK members would find useful. When members go on trips, they'd receive notifications about the new content available nearby.

Other communities in various sizes that perform leisure-based activities: Motorcyclists, food enthusiasts, friends who play golf together, Yoga lovers, etc.

Scenarios for local communities

HELPING STRAY ANIMALS

A Facebook Group called "Caferaga Street Animals" with thirty members, founded with the goal to collectively make life better for street animals. They can benefit from Yode by creating notes on a map, keeping track of locations that stray animals mostly live.

Public gatherings, activism, natural disasters

During the Gezi Park protests in 2013 in Turkey, people realized just how powerful social networks can be; “Twitter” and “Facebook” was immensely used for distributing crucial information during the protests, to get across the news that the Turkish media channels either ignored, were muffled or too biased to report. Yode can be useful in crisis situations as a new channel of communication, relevant to you and those around you.

ARTS: PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS

Whether it's a public performance art or a concert, Yode can be useful for art lovers to engage in discussions after a certain gathering or an event. A classical music concert with 200 visitors, means 200 overlapping location footprints, therefore a unique way to reach only those people who were there with you.

Goals

With this approach, the goal is to build a platform for location based communication. Rather than focusing on a specific use case, Yode aims to create a framework that can be utilized and evolve in different ways.

Concept Development

Yode utilizes location and time as canvas for content creation. The concept of "time" is an integral part of the social mechanism that Yode offers to its users.

Location footprint

Imagine an invisible bubble around you that follows you wherever you go. As you go around in a city, imagine your bubble leaves a mark. This mark is called a location footprint.

Location footprint is painted on a map, and acts like a content filter. It makes the content it intersects with (created by other people) accessible to the user. Because the whole experience revolves around the visualization of "where you have been", it is important to iterate on this concept, in order to create a gamified experience where it feels like you are unlocking content on a map.

To try and create a more unique footprint, we can experiment with adding some variables to adjust the radius size. For example, let's set the size of the bubble to be in inverse ratio to the speed at which user is moving.

This means that if the user is in a car in transit, their location footprint in that location would be smaller compared to walking. This creates an interesting metaphor for content discovery, where if you are a passerby, you see less content compared to locals who spend most of their time there.

Physical Metaphor for Content Discovery

Because it's all about the intersection of your location footprint with various content spread around the city, on content's side we have two main aspects that determine how discoverable a content is.

  1. Where the content is (location)
  2. How much space it takes on a map (radius)

This gives us an interesting dynamic to experiment with; when something is liked by the people who've seen it, if it's radius gets bigger, it gains more reach and discoverability. If it's not liked, and instead disliked, it gets smaller and harder to discover.

This is used as a method to aggregate the content within the platform.

Proof of Concept: User flow chart

In order to achieve the loop of communication between members of a community, users go through a three-step process: Onboarding, Content Creation and Content Consumption.

Medium

The first and main tool of the platform is the smartphone application, planned to be built for iOS and Android. It travels with you in your pocket, and lets you know of relevant information nearby.

While the smartphone application is envisioned to be the first interaction with the audiences, extensive capabilities are planned to be added via additional devices.

TABLET APP

Through variations in dynamics of the concept "location footprint", different experiences can be crafted to scale the platform. The tablet app of "Yode" has a larger location footprint, so the iPad that sits at your home acts like a hub and lets you see more content nearby. Even though the medium is the same, via slight technical adjustments, the user experience can be slightly altered in devices to create a game-like feel where two different tools (smartphone and tablet apps) operate in different ways.

WEB CLIENT

A web client that offers an overview of Yode data will be made available to those in a community. The web client doesn't offer a way to create content, but it allows extended capabilities for consuming and re-using content.

Research

As stated in the Introduction part, Yode aims to work with communities. Another widely used communication tool that is already being used by communities is Facebook Groups.

When you search for a random city or area on Facebook and you select "Groups", you are presented with a number of local communities in that area.

For example, searching for "Seattle" in Groups retrieves these results:

  • Pokemon Go Seattle
  • Seattler Music Gear Swap and Sale
  • Beer Tasting Seattle
  • Seattle Seahawks Fans
  • Seattle Foodies

The good thing about Facebook Groups is that the admins are visible, and are one click away from an introductory message or a survey, which makes it an excellent resource for user research.

Over the course of the project, I have contacted admins of five (5) Facebook Groups in Turkey to learn about the possible use cases. Out of those five, four (4) communities had clear use cases for the concept I've described, and they showed willingness to participate in a pilot program.

The scenarios in the Introduction part is a direct result of conversations with those groups.

Facebook Groups willing to participate in usability testing:

ITUDAK: Istanbul University Mountaineering Club
Members: 128

34710 Ladies: Women who live in or near Caferaga, Kadikoy.
Members: 682

Biramıvar?: Find people to have a beer with.
Members: 10,542

Freecycle Istanbul: Share your unused goods with those in need

Project Planning

Critical Path Method: Timeline and Costs

Working Title

Yode: Location based content aggregation for communities

Abstract

Yode combines the concept of social news aggregation1 with geosocial networking.2

Although existing platforms provide news aggregation for online communities, no such platform exists for local communities. With this day and age where the conventional media is getting less relevant each passing day, local communities need a [independent, free, safe] platform for creating content that is more relevant for a smaller circle.

The aim is to create a new communication channel for local communities - people who live, work, and travel together, to share things that matter to them and not others.

Keywords

location footprint, social, aggregation, urban, news, social media, communities, streets, districts, radius, landmarks, nature

Personal Motivation

As someone who deeply believes in the value of local communities, I see a huge gap for social networks that cater to communicating with people who are physically closer to them. People already try to utilize platforms like Facebook Groups to solve this issue, but it’s nowhere near a complete solution, since it’s basically the same platform with a specific group of people.

During the Gezi Park protests in 2013, Turkish people realized just how powerful social networks can be; they’ve used “Twitter” and “Facebook” for distributing crucial information during the protests, broadcasted via “Ustream”, did whatever it took to get across the news that the Turkish media channels either ignored, were muffled or too biased to report.

Even though platforms like Twitter and Facebook are not created for this specific use, it was the only way for distributing relatively more reliable news.

The main issue I saw with those platforms (Twitter, Facebook) in Gezi days was that by nature, they are people-specific. Posts can have location metadata, but the platform revolves around people more than the location data. While this makes sense for their plans with their platforms, it certainly does not align with the needs of people who were on the streets during protests.

By creating a location-specific platform where posts originate from a single location and can spread throughout a city, we create a potential tool for people to use during events or protests, so they can share information with only those who are relevant.

Introduction

The idea for building location-based-social-networks is nothing new. In fact Microsoft Research has done significant research in this area, experimenting with sharing travel experiences using GPS trajectories in 2007 with GeoLife 3.

As Microsoft puts it, location based social networks is not just about location data and people, it’s about the relation and dependency between how people move and create content in the physical world, and the new social structure that is formed by this relationship. 4

A recent example worth mentioning is an app called “Jodel” from Germany. As it’s defined in their website “the community that shows you what’s happening in your area real-time, and updates you on what’s going on at your university. It’s positioned as an anonymous message board for college students. It even has some traction in Turkey, which validates that people are open to location based social experiences.

Concept Development

What I think is key to achieving local interest and traction with a location based social network is community involvement. A recent example that utilized this notion was Pokemon Go from Niantec.

In Pokemon Go, Pokemon Gyms are defined in specific locations in a city, which are virtual rooms that competition and gameplay takes place. Gyms are not just random locations - they usually have a lot of foot traffic, and are either landmarks or specific locations that local people already know of. This allows people to identify already-familiar physical locations as part of the gameplay, which creates an environment for communities to be involved not only via the game, but also physically in real world.

They key concept that Yode is built around is derived from the meaning of the word itself; “went”. It is also the differentiating factor from its competitors. Yode tracks your location data throughout the day, and creates a visualization of your location history on a map. Within that visualization, users can create posts, consume content created by other users and participate in discussions.

Medium

The medium is Earth. The tool that enables Earth as a medium is a mobile application called “Yode”, planned to be built for iOS and Android devices. Extensive capabilities can be added via additional devices (tablet app could work more like a hub, where the smartphone app is for roaming outdoors) and supervisory tools (open data visualization in select locations).

Audience & Language

Project Planning

Calendar & Timetable

Technical details about the production process of the project are yet to be determined.

Future Projection

Even though initial plan is to create a platform for content aggregation, the platform can be scaled in terms of content types and use cases.

It’s also worth mentioning that the nature of the platform is highly dependent on how people want to utilize this tool, and depending on the initial usage patterns, it is likely to pivot in a different direction to reach a more specific target audience.

Blog or website address


  1. Reddit is a social news aggregator. Reddit’s registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Registered users can then vote submissions up or down to organize the posts and determine their position on the site’s pages. The submissions with the most positive votes appear on the front page or the top of a category. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit) ↩︎

  2. Geosocial networking is a type of social networking in which geographic services and capabilities such as geocoding and geotagging are used to enable additional social dynamics. ↩︎

  3. GeoLife: Building Social Networks Using Human Location History https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/geolife-building-social-networks-using-human-location-history/ ↩︎

  4. A LBSN (location-based-social-network) does not only mean adding a location to an existing social network so that people in the social structure can share location-embedded information, but also consists of the new social structure made up of individuals connected by the interdependency derived from their locations in the physical world as well as their location-tagged media content, such as photos, video, and texts. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/location-based-social-networks/ ↩︎

  5. FramerJS is a Javascript-based prototyping tool that enables the use of real data in prototypes, making it the ideal tool for usability testing ↩︎

  6. MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a definition of a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development. ↩︎


WIP Graduation Project. Feedback would be greatly appreciated: me@yodeapp.com


Working Title

Yode: Location based social news aggregation

Abstract

Yode combines the concept of social news aggregation1 with geosocial networking.2

Although existing platforms provide news aggregation for online communities, no such platform exists for local communities. With this day and age where the conventional media is getting less reliable each day, local communities need a [independent, free, safe] platform for creating content that is more relevant for a smaller circle.

Yode tracks you all day, and visualizes your location footprint. Within that footprint, you gain access to content that other people post, as well as the ability to post things on specific locations.

Every post has a “radius” around the first location it has been post. The size of the radius gets bigger as the post gets more upvotes, and decreases with each downvote. For users to be able to see and vote posts, their location footprint must have touched the radius in the last [x] amount of hours. As a post gets more recognition, its radius gets bigger and it has the potential to reach a bigger audience. This mechanic creates a physical metaphor for content aggregation, which I call “spatial distribution of content”.

The aim is to create a new communication channel for local communities - people who live, work, and travel together, to share things that matter to them and not others.

Medium

Medium is envisioned to be -but not limited to- an application for mobile devices. A web client for viewing district-specific data might also be considered to build.

Keywords

micro-journalism, local, social, aggregation, urban, news, social media, communities, streets, districts, radius, landmarks, free speech

Blog or website address


  1. Reddit is a social news aggregator. Reddit’s registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Registered users can then vote submissions up or down to organize the posts and determine their position on the site’s pages. The submissions with the most positive votes appear on the front page or the top of a category. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit) ↩︎

  2. Geosocial networking is a type of social networking in which geographic services and capabilities such as geocoding and geotagging are used to enable additional social dynamics. ↩︎