Announcing PicRoost – and a back-story on why we made it.
Remember Color, the geo-aware photo sharing app that launched a few weeks ago? It received $41M in funding from Sequoia Capital and other major investors even before it launched. This is the most money that Sequoia Capital has ever invested in a pre-launch startup. Full disclosure, we have only read about Color, we have not tried it.
Neither picture sharing or mobile picture sharing is a new concept, Flickr and instagr.am are both quite popular and have been for some time. So what was the big idea behind Color that allowed it to garnished such lavish funding? Sure, its buzzwords included social, mobile, and pictures. All very buzzy and that’s a good start. But the one that mattered the most: it is geo-aware. It allows you to see pictures that were taken near you, essentially making an ad hoc social connection with someone based on their proximity, instead of looking at predetermined people that you are already following in your social network. Kind of like if foursquare and instagr.am had a baby. Some people have labeled this as creepy, but that it is perhaps what generated a lot of the media attention around it (besides the extraordinary funding).
This got us thinking: people are already tweeting links to pictures that are taken on their mobile phones, and these Tweets are in Twitter’s public timeline, available for anyone to see. This happens all the time, but there is no easy way to find only the Tweets that contain links to pictures, and then to see those pictures all at once. Twitter’s search API allows searching with a latitude and longitude, to get Tweets that are near a specified location, so it should even be possible to get pictures that were tweeted near me or a given location. We thought, if we could find links to pictures in Tweets near a given area in real-time, we could display a gallery of the pictures formatted any way we like. We thought that’d be a new, interesting way to explore Twitter. We found a few other sites which did something similar, but of course we thought we could do it just a little nicer.
We were waiting for Twitter to give us beta access to site streams (we finally got it!) and had a little free time away from working on TweetRoost, our enterprise Twitter management application that allows you to save Tweets and put some serious workflow around your Twitter presence. This was starting to sound like it could be a fun weekend project and so we thought we’d give it a go, with the goal of having a minimum viable product by the end of the weekend. We’re big fans of HackerNews, and thought if we completed something in a weekend it’d be fun to show the community and get some feedback.
So, what were the results of our experiment? There are a few, and a few tips:
1) Getting some momentum from a dead stop is always tricky. At the moment @picroost has three followers and has not been used by anyone other than myself and our PR team. It has been sitting quietly on our servers for a week. So there has been no action on the “viral” part of the experiment, but we will report back if we learn anything. Give us a hand and use the “Tweet This” link to share anything you think is worth sharing.
2) The location-based searching is a bit hit or miss. We are not convinced that it is always accurate, but it’s still interesting to search by location or keyword. For example, if you wanted to pull up some real-time pictures that are being tweeted for a concert that you know about, or a rally.
3) People Tweet links to some disturbing pictures. Seriously. Still, clicking the “reload” link on the top right of the page is very addicting. Pictures come into the public timeline so quickly that every reload shows something new.
4) Try a search on “instagr” (without the quotes) to see only pictures from instagr.am. They are generally the best, and the least disturbing! We credit this to iphone’s camera, instragram’s effects, and some creative types who tend to use instagram.
5) It’s fun to use no search terms at all and just click “reload” if you like to be random. But be careful, sometimes what comes back is nsfw! Expecially at night…
Anyway, it was a fun weekend project and we think the results are pretty neat. It gives a different perspective into Twitter and how it is used by different people. In a sense, it is like Twitter Zeitgeist. We have already thought of a few new features that would make PicRoost a better experience, too:
1) Allow a selection of which picture providers to search on.
2) Automatically remove duplicate (retweeted) pictures from being displayed on the same search results.
3) View a given @user’s Twitter account in picture format.
4) Get it to work on mobile phones, so time can be wasted on the go!
5) Include links to view pictures for trending topics.
The site is http://www.picroost.com/ and sometimes we’ll retweet pictures that we like from @picroost … give it a try, and use the “Tweet This” link to retweet anything you think needs to be seen! If you think PicRoost is interesting, please write us a comment and let us know what you like. Did you find any clever search terms or uses for it ? Are there any features that you would like to see added?