Location-Based People Discovery Networks are for Fun not Business

Short blog post for you. I was on a walkabout with a friend and former colleague and we got on the subject of location-based people discovery services like Highlight, Sonar, and Circle. We got on the subject of whether I’d use those services for professional as opposed to entertainment purposes.

People discovery is a form of entertainment for me. I find it entertaining to see who’s around me and I often reach out to folks on those services when I have some downtime and am in the mood to chat with others. That’s how I use Highlight, which is my favorite, and it has been a good experience. Sometimes I meet people where there is a professional connection, but that’s a relative rarity.

I’ve been struggling to see how I would get value from using one of these services for more professional uses. Professional people discovery seems different to me as it has inherent asymmetry that is made worse by adding in proximity. There are supernodes (investors, founders and execs at high-profile companies, etc.) who are in high demand and already likely have more inbound requests for networking / getting together than they can manage. Adding in proximity seems like it would make things even more difficult for these people – they’d be hounded or flooded even more than they are on email without the inbox as a way to hide.

If you actively use location-based people discovery services, let me know your thoughts. You can always leave a comment below or hit me on Twitter on @chudson.

  • I share this sentiment. These apps are a big Silicon Valley hype that means nothing for the rest of the world, for now. Currently these apps are all tech-loaded and remind me of the Augmented Reality app hype in 2010. These services should be baked into hardware solutions. More here   http://tekcrunch.posterous.com/hype

  • Great post. Discovery is one use, communication is another.

    We created our app Locally on the iPhone, a social network for neighbors, locals & local business to socialize, mobilize and organize using a neighborhood pin board.

  • It’s possible for an LB discovery service to add value in a professional context if it can effectively rattle the linkage between physical entity, virtual/digital and location. For example, maybe I have a business relationship with a local small business, say an auto shop — Bob’s Auto Repair. Bob has done work for me a few times, he does great work, he’s my go-to guy and so on. Then I’ve travelling out of my area, car breaks down, something non-trivial and I need a good local professional. Maybe Bob’s linked with an organization that can find a similar shop near me — one with a similar type/quality/size/price, and the LBS is linked with that, so I get some amount of curation/authority from a location-based recommendation. If Bob’s an active member of the LBS, then I may have even better authority, particularly if the LBS has incentivized him in some way to rate other shops and/or the LBS can correlate between his level of LBS activity/participation and others.