Back in 2013, location-based social media was still quite new. More specifically, the idea of geo-tagging your instagram images, your tweets or your Flickr images was something that has just started to gain traction - and consequently, it has sparked privacy discussions which are now long forgotten.

In the midst of all this, I built thingsmap. I had just moved from being a Software Engineer to being a Product Owner and was experimenting with Lean Startup at the time - so I was torn between building something beautiful and technically sound - and building something that can be delivered fast to see if there is any kind of interest in the thing I was building.

What it was

The idea of thingsmap is fairly easy: See Social Media Activity on a map. For any given city, the web app would get real time updates about tweets, instagram and flickr images, foursquare check ins and wikipedia articles. The result was a mesmerizing web site which showed you the heartbeat of a city - I remember watching the activity in Rome while the sun set - slowly, selfies at the Colosseum at dusk were replaced by check ins in bars and restaurants as well as images of food.

A spin off of thingsmap was the iOS app “heartbeat”, which showed real time updates without a map, but as a feed, and not for a specific city, but for the user’s current location.

What I learned

Well, what I told myself I learned was that this kind of app generates one of the following two extremes for a user:

  • Either you see nothing at all because you are somewhere in the hinterlands
  • Or your map or phone blows up because of the sheer amount of real time updates around you.

In hindsight, the idea is something that definitely had aesthetical value, but the actual benefit for any user is zero. But it was fun to code, which was my main driver at the time.

This post is part of my Pet Project Sematary, click here to get to the first post in this series.