Certainly Ambitious. Some said pointless. We believe visionary. But ultimately unsuccessful.

Today bubbleby was shut down. Bubbleby was a site for communities concerned with places. It allowed anyone to start a community around any place and fill it with content and apps from the – as far as we know – first App Store for locations. Checkout the screenshots below to get an impression.spacer

The Intro

This is how we described bubbleby to visitors

This is how we described bubbleby to visitors

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Navigating bubbleby

Navigation is steered through search, activities, a map and location based social media

Navigation is steered through search, activities, a map and location based social media

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Placing a Bubble

Place the bubble interactively on the map. Any new bubble adapts interactively to existing ones on the map

Place the bubble interactively on the map. Any new bubble adapts interactively to existing ones on the map

Enter some basic data to get started after the right position was selected

Enter some basic data to get started after the right position was selected

Edit the content inside the bubble

Edit the content inside the bubble

Furnish your bubble with Apps from the App Store

Furnish your bubble with Apps from the App Store

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Some Examples of Bubbles

This is the private area of the "Berlin 1"-bubble

This is the private area of the “Berlin 1”-bubble

The Public area of the "Berlin 1"-bubble

The Public area of the “Berlin 1”-bubble

Invite Friends to the "Berlin 1"-bubble

Invite Friends to the “Berlin 1”-bubble

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Personal Newsfeed, Communication and Bubble Memberships

Overview of created bubbles and membership bubbles

Overview of created bubbles and membership bubbles

Send messages to other users

Send messages to other users

A newsfeed shows all activities within bubbles users are interested in along with the occasional disturbance by neighbours

A newsfeed shows all activities within bubbles users are interested in along with the occasional disturbance by neighbours

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Settings, Login, Signup etc.

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Why bubbleby access is open and free

Over at oursociety.org.uk Gavin voiced reservations about using social networks such as bubbleby as a means to bring people in local communities together, since quite recently networks such as Ning, which were originally open and free, migrated to an “all pay”-model. Gavin makes a case for using WordPress instead.

On the one hand, we believe that he is making a valid point. On the other hand, we have the clear opinion that an “All pay”-model would not work for bubbleby at all and thus we do not see this as an option for the future. Furthermore, we believe that bubbleby adds value, which can’t be achieved by setting up a wordpress site. Let me explain.

First of all bubbleby is about neighbourhood, not only neighbourhood between individuals and places, but neighbourhood of communities as well. You see which other communities are close to yours on the map and can interact with them. And you can reach out to communities across the world which are dealing with questions regarding similar contexts.

We believe that this is one of the core values of bubbleby. If you for example create your local community on the web using wordpress, it is somewhere in cyberspace, it does not have local context.

The richer the context the more engagement. Our world is incredibly big and there are so many interesting facets to it. One of the reasons that we created bubbleby was to bring this richness to the otherwise very static concept of a map. We want the map to come alive with social interaction. Taking some of the richness away would diminish what makes bubbleby attractive and worth coming back to.

Central to this concept of richness is of course that anyone should be able to create a community and add content to a place and thus initiate exchange between not only locals, but also people from all around the world.

With other services, this kind of control of a place is only granted to businesses, who can actually prove that they are located in the spot they claim. Bubbleby primarily wants the visibility of communities in places to be driven by community interaction and not by legal proof of real world ownership, because our value lies in interaction. We want interaction in places to go beyond the exchange of coupons.

In terms of 3rd party plugins, “Apps for Places” as we call them, our system is already laid out for that. As a matter of fact all the apps you can add to a bubble right now are already built on top of the open source Opensocial standard. bubbleby is what you call an Opensocial container. The reason why our platform is not open for 3rd parties to add their apps yet, is that we have been focusing on getting a basic set of features out there up until now. We simply haven’t had the time to write the manuals, add the tools etc. Generally though, any plugin you can add to iGoogle, Ning, LinkedIn etc. could basically be added to bubbles.

Last but not least, bubbleby is fundamentally different from Ning. Ning can be used as a white label platform, meaning most users of Ning communities, don’t even know that their community is driven by Ning. So if someone is a member of a community, that is closed down because of the new pricing model, this does not necessarily mean, that he would abandon the platform all together.  This is different with bubbleby. Negative behaviour towards the community would always be directly attributable to us.

What is your point of view?

bubbleby in Online Journalism

It is always exiting when new uses of bubbleby pop up, which we did not think about ourselves.

Andy Bull, an online journalism consultant and trainer from the UK, was doing research on possibilities of using geo local tools in journalism, when he stumbled over bubbleby. His point of view is, “I think Bubbleby has great potential for journalism.

So of course we started thinking about what it actually is that bubbleby does better for online journalism than other sites out there. For those of you who do not know what bubbleby does yet, let me quickly explain:

bubbleby let’s you combine communities and content in geographical locations by creating what we call bubbles.

The biggest part of our social lives takes place in or revolves around specific real world places. So, naturally people are interested in them. Places like our home, our workplace, our favorite coffee shop, where we went to school, where we met our closest friends etc. Some of these places we visit every day, others we never come back to, but we still feel the connection. This is the starting point for bubbleby, to let people stay in touch with places they care about and even contribute to them by being part of a community. And this is also where online journalism comes in as a perfect match.

Journalists’ stories are very often centered around a specific place with emotional value to a lot of people. This can be anything from the tearing down of the cinema where you kissed your first girl friend to Gadaffi’s compound in Tripoli. Bubbleby gives journalists, whether professionals or citizen journalists, the possibility to position their stories right where they unfold. By creating a bubble journalists not only have the possibility to add rich and dynamic content to a specific location on a map, but bubbleby also creates a context for these stories by pulling location based social media sources from across the web.

I am of course no specialist on journalism, but from what I can see, it is changing massively. Not only has it never been easier to author stories using different media like video, images and text, but also the borders of the profession are blurred by bloggers and citizen journalists competing for attention with professionals working for traditional media outlets. Furthermore, the old process of tapping your sources then creating the story is on its way out. Stories seem to never be finished, but continuously developing. They blend in more and more with what they are describing and become part of the action, as can be seen from the recent uprisings in the middle east.
In our eyes bubbleby offers unique tools in the area of location based stories that reflect and incorporate these changes.

As a summary here are the main points again, with which bubbleby can help you authoring your location based story:

  • Rich MediaNo other site we have seen gives users the possibility to author their location based stories with such a rich set of media and such ease.
  • Interactionbubbles let communities come together around a story and a location and let them interact and develop these stories by contributing content and support.
  • DiscoveryYour story will not only be added to google, bing or facebook if you use bubbleby, but the site offers a whole new way for people to discover information about places and their neighborhoods.

Take a look at Andy’s first story at “Defend the Empire 2011“.

We want your local stories on bubbleby! Help us weave a new social fabric across the world at http://www.bubbleby.com/!

UPDATE: Checkout this overview of geo local tools for journalism including bubbleby.

New bubble Apps Launched

In the last couple of weeks, we have been hard at work to improve the interior design of bubbles and to give founders more possibilities to be a good host to bubble members.

So what came out of it?
We added two new Apps to the bubbleby App Store and made some enhancements to the Comments App and the Image Gallery App. Try out the new Apps by adding them to your bubble!

Events App (new)
Schedule events connected to your bubble and let members add events as well. Send invitations to bubble members and keep track of who is attending.

Locator App (new)
In the future this app will be added to new bubbles as a default. It shows the location and the address of the bubble. Bubble founders can of course add this App to their bubble and edit the address and zoom level at will.

Comment App
The App for discussions and commenting. You can add several Comment Apps if you want to set different themes for members and visitors to discuss.

Image Gallery
The Image Gallery App let’s you and other bubble members upload images to the bubble. Add a gallery to the public area to make photos visible to the world. To only share photos amongst members, add the gallery to the member area.

spaces and loyalty

In the last couple of days Seth Godin added 2 great posts to his blog which resonated with what we are doing here at bubbleby. In How should you treat your best customers? he makes the point that businesses should look at rewarding consumer loyalty rather than opportunism and in The space matters he claims that places actually do make a difference.

If you combine the two, you actually get a pretty good image of what we are working on here at bubbleby. Bubbleby is about showing your loyalty to places that have an impact on you. You do this by establishing or participating in communities at those places.

You could argue, that this goes against a certain “been-there-done-that”-trend in location oriented services, that caters to the collector in us. All the places I have been, jogged, traveled, partied and so on. The more locations the user logs the better for the service, since every interaction is an opportunity to get rid of those coupons. Basically, these services work with “place impressions” rather than “page impressions”.

What does that do to customer loyalty though? If it is just the bargain that matters and not the place, you would skip your favorite coffee shop to go around the corner for a luke warm capucchino at half the price, served by a barrista, that does not care who you are and how his product tastes. Unsurprisingly, most people don’t do that – more than once.

As a matter of fact, loyalty is bad for these services, because they are rewarded when people divide their attention and switch venues, not when they stay and focus.

What we are aiming at is extending the possible interaction with places as well as people attached to them. We give people a tool to discover what places stand for and to associate themselves with them.

People and places deserve more than just coupons.

More personal and refreshing

We are excited to announce another update of bubbleby, that makes the bubbleby experience more personal and up-to-date!

The new profile page
Anyone who signs up with bubbleby now automatically gets a profile page. It contains an overview of bubbles joined and founded, and a news feed of the bubble communities you are a member of. Swing by your profile if you are a user or checkout other people’s profiles and the bubbles they are interested in.

Your new bubble feed
Joined or founded a bubble yet? News & updates from all the bubbles you are a member of will be delivered instantaneously to your news tab. When a new member joins a bubble, an image is uploaded or an App is added, you will know right away.

What else?

* You can now browse all the members of a bubble and their profiles.
* About 4x more wikipedia articles are now accessible through bubbleby.
* The results of the Youtube stream in the main page have been greatly improved. Like the Flickr, Twitter and Wikipedia streams, the Youtube stream shows the freshest content from within the current map area.

Checkout the social streams (Twitter, Flickr, Youtube) of the events in Egypt.
Go to Cairo.
Russians and Americans are socializing at the WEF.
Go to Davos.
Up to date images and tweets from the Australian Open.
Go to Melbourne.

We are deeply grateful for all the valuable feedback we got during the last couple of months.
Keep it going! Tell us about your ideas, needs and experiences or tweet and follow us @bubblebycom.