Pingster 1.4 Released on iPhone!

Pingster 1.4 is an optimization — fixing a few key elements that simply weren’t working right — to make the current Pingster prototype more useful. (1) The ping now works even when you’re phone is sleeping or the app is in the background (although it still shuts off when the timer ends); and (2) the Wall finally is a proper partyline when you want to chat with a stranger or leave a quick (non-SMS) note for someone you’re trying to rendezvous with). We have a few more central features to release over the next few weeks that will finally make Pingster testable and determine what next steps should be. (Saving other Pingsters to your contacts and getting notified when they ping, for instance).

In the meantime, I am working on the prototype for Pingster 2.0 — a somewhat radical change in the product. The distinction is important. As my Netflix friends say, testing new ideas and a willingness to fail will facilitate big change. The key to testing a new idea is rapid prototyping. That’s what we did when we created mapOmatic and then quickly created Pingster. We know we have the pieces but are unsure of the product. Iteration, the improvement of the product through fixes and so on, is an act of optimization. A big mistake companies make is they optimize their products too soon, before they’re done prototyping. Optimization follows once you have a great idea prototyped and have a positive signal from your users.

Pingster 2.0 will be a significant change – not a better product necessarily – but a different product based on what we’ve learned from usage and tests.  Please keep using Pingster – and version 1.4 is significantly more useful than prior versions. It will really help us as we move forward. And we think you’ll like it.


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Yes, it seems like we all disappeared for the summer.  The real story involves a fire in a neighbor’s apartment after the 4th of July –which wiped out the building and sent our start-up into a bit of disarray. (They say that launching start-ups frequently involves putting out fires… but i’m reasonably sure that’s a metaphor…)

Anyway, we’re back in San Francisco – and after looking at the data from mapOmatic and Pingster use, we are confident we know what the product needs to be and how to get there. Engineering is underway with a vengeance; Pingster 2.0 will roll out later this fall – and trust me – it’s a game changer…

Until then, mess around with the current versions of our products; they’re exceptionally useful even in their rudimentary state. And watch this space for details. We’re really very excited.

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Pingster 1.3 Released for iPhone

In the past couple days i’ve had opportunities to use Pingster in ways that made it clear that it’s really not like other apps, and it can be enormously useful. I was in San Francisco, North Beach, and was planning to meet an associate in Union Square. He was south of Market, and was going to meet me when his prior meeting was over. I was going to take a bus. While we planned to meet “around” 2pm, he wasn’t sure exactly when the meeting would be over, and he was on foot. I was at the mercy of the bus system. And we weren’t precisely clear WHERE we would meet. Just “in Union Square.”

Pingster made it simple. We pinged. We did whatever we needed to. And as I was on the bus i knew he could see me coming. I felt better noticing he was running late (which i could tell from his position). When I got off the bus I could see he was walking up another street… so I hopped off the bus and started moving in his direction. Without a call, text or other stress, we ran into each other on the street a block from the Square. It was great. And fun.

ANYWAY: Version 1.3 released today, which has two particularly good features.

First, instead of pinging only for 15 minutes, you can repeatedly press the Ping button and pump up the time as you’d like. You can still cancel any time, but it’s the easiest way to keep pinging for whatever duration makes sense. I ping on my commute. 45 minutes. I know it will shut off when i get home.

The "magic eye" in the flyout lets you "beam down" to the Google Street View instantly.

Second, we added a quick Google Street View to the flyout – so from a planetsize view, you can pop down to Earth (we think of it as “beaming down”) to see pretty much what the Pingster is seeing when they ping. Almost creepy, but not really. Have fun.

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Push Beyond…

Messing around tonight with some old material, I re-edited my first YouTube video, cutting it down and hotting it up (the Beck song rocks). I thought it might be a statement about Pingster – something about friends/strangers or connecting or something else… but I gave up trying to tell that story. I’ll make a special video about Pingster this summer. This one was just for fun in low resolution! (Could “Push Beyond” have something to do with the future Pingster? )

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Mood Swings and Innovation

Yesterday was weird. It began by hearing that Glympse closed on $7.5M in a B round of financing. Glympse has been around for a couple years, still pushing their version of location-sharing, and recently hit 1M users. Regardless of what I think of them, they convinced Menlo Ventures et al that they were onto something and worth maybe $20M bucks. That was before noon. Then I heard that a friend of a friend just released a pretty cool location app — also not entirely unlike Pingster or Glympse — called I played with it. It was interesting.

A few moments later I noticed a ReadWriteWeb article on the entire slate of location-sharing social tools. It was a very good article. Pingster wasn’t mentioned. Sonar was. I remembered that Sonar had released at TechCrunch Disrupt in NYC last month, and was sorta the darling of the show. Somewhere around here depression set in.

I downloaded all of these products and spent the afternoon playing with them, and trying to determine what was the same as Pingster and what was different, and in what ways I was convinced my product was better. But seeing them all in one panorama was enormously helpful — it helped me clarify what Pingster was, and what it was not. I’ll describe the underpinnings of this in a future post – but with the next release of Pingster (1.3) I think the unique position will be clear. As I changed the way I looked at my product, and played with the feature set in wireframe form, I got enormously excited. I was feeling something different, renewed optimism and confidence in the path. Holy shit: in the course of a few hours I went from a catatonic despair to nothing short of irrational elation.

This process of new product evolution is painful. I sometimes equate it to film editing, where you need to cut elements out dispassionately, not because they are bad, but because they are too much. Because the goal is the end product, not the features. But film editing doesn’t include the kind of rollercoaster you feel in your gut as you not only move your product forward, but attempt to be undistracted by the swirl around you.

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Pingster 1.2 for Android Released Today

While iPhone downloads seem to be eclipsing Android downloads, we still felt the need to keep the Android version caught up to the iOS so friends can more easily connect. Ok Android users: go get some Pingster and play around!

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Velocity Ignite

"Why is Pixar So F*king Good?"

Always wanted to try an Ignite session. Don’t know what that is? It’s a powerpoint presentation on any topic (usually held at a drinking party attached to a tech conference) with very formal rules — 20 slides that are set to auto-advance every 15 seconds. You don’t control it. Exactly 5 minutes. I decided to try one about a month ago, and looked around for a fun venue that was hosting an Ignite. Trust me: the O’Reilly Velocity conference is EXACTLY the right crowd for a performance that includes Star Wars, stochastic sampling and Pixar. Tuesday night. It was great.

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