To say I’ve been mesmerized by the iPhone 4s would be an understatement. But not just for the phone, but the apps that are available. There are some of the most creative and innovative ideas available for use for free or a small charge.
One of the apps that has really captured my attention and imagination is Tackable, an interesting social media platform that has hopes of joining the “Big Three” (Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin). The three mainstays all serve their purpose in the world — Facebook for friends; Twitter for quick hits, links, interesting notes and, also, friends; and Linkedin as a strong professional connection site.
Tackable is different.
It’s an app that will have assignments for photographs. It’s grassroots journalism at its finest in the digital age. Besides having the “friend” atomosphere assignments (say, food photos), you can have a lot of other things, such as the Wall Street situation.
Citizen journalism is growing with an app like this.
Add in that the cameras on phones are getting better and better, and all of a sudden citizen journalists could be helping and assisting new agencies with what is going on. With the ability to create assignments, users can help dictate the way things will go with Tackable.
And for those of you with a Droid, fear not. The Tackable crew has already started development of the Droid version and are looking to have that app out sometime in December.
One thing not to worry about — this isn’t all citizen journalism. So there’s no need to worry about becoming Clark Kent here. People can make silly or fun assignments as well.
“At its core, Tackable is a photo and video assignment platform,” said Luke Stangel, a 29-year-old who is one of the companies founders. He’s also Tackable’s Chief Marketing Officer. “You create assignments asking for specific things, which your followers complete using their smartphones.”
For example, as I tried out the app, I posted three assignments — geocaching, disc golf and high school football. These were items that people could get. The cool thing was that with some of the photos I posted, it seemed like I got a few people interested in some of these items. At least one person went out searching for a geocache, which is excellent considering there is an app for that on the iPhone and Android operating system.
But the assignments won’t all be ones like that. Reporters and editors at media outlets can use Tackable to solicit citizen journalism. Stangel said reporters have asked for photos from three major Occupy movements in California’s Bay Area. He noted that KQED, which gives public media in Northern California, placed an assignment for photos of the general strike in Oakland.
Too, Stangel said, non-profits are experimenting with Tackable to direct people to their events.
And, of course, people are asking for things that interest them, such as the disc golf one I posted.
Tackable, too, can be a game. If you accept and fulfill an assignment, you are assigned points. You can also earn points by commenting on photos.
Most of the people on the staff have worked in social gaming, Stangel said.
“So points, levels, badges and general theories around gamification run through our DNA,” he said. “Points are a way to encourage positive behavior and friendly competition. In the early versions of the app, we’ve included a leader board, showing you how you stack up compared to the rest of the people on Tackable.”
The positive behavior he mentioned includes creating photos and videos, commenting on other media and sharing outside the app.
Many social media “games” have that feel, such as Foursquare, where one gets points based on their check ins and sees how they stack up in points against friends.
But, the points could be for more in the future, Stangel said.
These points are part of the marketing plan to make a profit. Stangel said the Tackable team things these assignments could be interesting enough to gain corporate sponsorship. So a mainstream corporation (such as a softdrink company etc.) could post an assignment where they hid something somewhere. If people find it, take a photo, they could earn a prize. Tackable would charge the company for that campaign and be the platform to transfer those items to the user, Stangel said.
Being the company began its beta testing in October and went into a wider release only recently, he said these are just thoughts at this point moving forward.
How’s it work?
This app is pretty straight forward, which makes it even better because it’s not an imposing piece of technology.
However, being in beta still, it’s got a few hiccups and bugs. I have experienced a few of them, but nothing that would scare me from the app. They update things on a decent timeline, so it’s nice to know things are being worked out. I’ve had slow periods of seeing photos (but that could be my connection, so take that into account), and I’ve had situations where I did an assignment or posted a comment and didn’t receive the points that I was supposed to get.
But those items will be fixed. It’s a new app and it’s fun to watch it grow.
Overall, it’s an easy program to use.
When you first open the application, you get a screen showing available assignments. You can scroll through them to see what is there to offer. Some of these assignments are based on location — such as an Occupy event in San Francisco. Others, such as the ones I made, can be done anywhere.
Either way, the reality is people connecting through a journalistic-style social media app.
“Imagine being able to see what’s going on anywhere in the world by asking someone there to share it,” Tackable Chief Executive Officer Ed Lucero said. “It’s a real-time social search connecting people in (different) locations. … It’s magical when you make the connection. When you experience that spontaneous ‘wow, holy crap, that’s (a) way cool’ moment, you want others to feel it as well. It becomes a new social experience that drives both sides of the connection that we’re only beginning to unravel.”
Currently, assignments expire after seven days to keep the list fresh. But the team was unhappy about how quick things disappear, so Tackable is experimenting with having perpetual assignments, Stangel said.
In the end, Stangel said there will probably be a happy medium between the two.
To see information about an assignment, you tap on it. Once there, you can fill the assignment with a photo, text or video.
From the main page, you can also access your account, the rankings and other useful things. Playing with the app will allow you to find everything you need as the app as a whole is easy to navigate.
Aesthetically, it’s pretty nice, too. It’s sharp and colorful. You can change your personal icon and nothing seems distorted. Overall, it seems to branch the usability/good looking parts very well.
Tackable isn’t huge, by any means, in regard to workers. Stangel said the company has about 10 employees, including interns and part-timers.
The three at the top include Chief Executive Officer Ed Lucero, Stangel and Chief Technology Officer Steven Woo. All three have been involved with startups inSilicon Valleythat have been extremely successful. Woo, for example, was one of the principal engineers on the game Diablo II, one of the best-selling games of all-time.
On the developmental end, as well, Stangel pointed out people such as Eri Izawa and Mike Doan. Izawa, an MIT graduate who has worked in gaming for a number of years, designs the structure of the app. That means she figures out the points, how to structure people into groups and how to encourage daily participation. Doan, who previously worked for Activision, is the creative director.
The other members of the Tackable team include community manager Jonathan Stypula, server side developer Francis Chin, and Ben Eakins, who is named as the “Ben of all trades” on the company site. Tackable also lists Jackie Lai and Neyaz Nazar as interns.
Where did the idea come from?
Stangel worked at a newspaper and he was required to write a minimum of two bylined stories and two briefs. Being the police writer, he had to worry about the news cycle and when things happened. But reality was, he couldn’t always be where he had to be on time. As the news gets older and stale (especially with the Internet and other social media), it becomes harder to make it fresh.
So Stangel started to think about ways to get news alerts from the public. Something had to be done and he figured he might as well do it, he said.
He pitched the idea toLucero, who Stangel said is “the smartest executive I had ever met.” They started in early 2010, brought some people in and the team started to build and create Tackable.
“We’re far from done,” Stangel said. “There are lots of interesting things on the horizon.”
In the world of social media and technology, who knows? The future seems bright, but with how things come and go, it’s going to obviously take a lot of work to become relevant.
“The future of Tackable is in empowering people, in creating networks and channels for people and groups to exchange the information they need and want,” Izawa said. “Every user — both requester and responder — has the power to shape the content for their own needs and their own audience. Serious, newsworthy stuff? Yes. Fun and casual stuff? Yes. (I am) looking forward to watching the platform do all those things, and more.”
Being the app went mainstream not long ago, the number of users is at about 1,500. However, what is coming out of those users is a positive point and gives hope for the growth of the app.
“Tackable right now is more about quality than quantity,” Stangel said. “However, what we’re finding is that the right types of people are trying out the app, and many are returning to the app day after day. That’s really positive news for us.”
The app is one a one-week development cycle. Basically, the company prioritize new features and bug fixes on Monday and issue a new build within seven days.
“There is a lot of energy and excitement on the team about the app,” Stangel said. “We get the feeling that there’s something really compelling here, and we’re busy doing quick tests on theories around improving engagement and retention.”
Stangel said they’ve demoed the app to nearly every major news organization in the San Francisco Bay Area and have gotten positive feedback.
But the ultimate goal?
“To become a fourth social network,” Stangel said. “We think there’s room for us in the Big Three.”
The idea, too, will be to separate itself and become a different platform in the social media world.
Stangel used Twitter as an example, noting that the platform is probably about 98 percent thoughts and two percent objects. It’s made up of links to virtual things (online articles, videos, photos etc.). Those are thoughts and though interesting, not all are valuable, he said.
But, people also post objects to Twitter — first-hand accounts of news or photos they took themselves. Consider something big happening and no journalists are there — but people are. These accounts are very valuable, especially to new agencies.
The problem? Everything goes into the same stream. Valuable things can be swept away in the Twitter world quickly because it moves at a rapid pace. The way to stay up there is to be re-tweeted and hope the right people see it.
Theoretically, Tackable is made up purely of objects. If you ask for something, you’ll get possibly three or four (or more) perspectives.
“Our goal is that people will open up Tackable to see what’s happening near them and experience those things in real time,” Stangel said.
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