Summary:

Highlight is already the hot app to have at SXSW, and the event hasn’t even started yet. But an update provides a more intuitive dashboard and adds a few key features to give users more ways to communicate with each other and save them for later.

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Highlight is already the hot app to have at South by Southwest, and the event hasn’t even started yet. The application, which leverages users’ GPS location data along with information from their social graph to connect them with like-minded people nearby, could enable SXSW visitors to know when friends — and friends of friends — are nearby. But the latest update provides a more intuitive dashboard and adds a few key features that should give users more ways to communicate with each other.

There are a few common use cases that the Highlight team wants to tackle heading into SXSW, according to CEO Paul Davison. They include:

  • “I just met you and want to talk to you and look at your profile and see what we have in common.”
  • “I just met you and had a great conversation and want to keep in touch somehow.”
  • “I’m sitting in a talk and want to browse and see who’s around me.”
  • “I’m at a party, and want to know when my friends are nearby.”

When considering how to meet the needs of those users, Davison & company thought about what it could do to more immediately show when users came into contact with each other. Hence, the new “now” description, which lets users see who is around them at any one time. It also tweaked the time stamp to let users know when the last time they were in proximity of one another was.

The highlight app also added a search feature, so users can more immediately gather information about those they’ve met — taking care of that first use case. As for enabling them to keep track of one another, the app now gives users the ability to “highlight” each other — that is to tag someone in a sort of “save for later” list.

Highlights are public by design, meaning that you can see whoever has highlighted you, and they can see who you’ve highlighted. Davison says it’s akin to bookmarking someone you’ve found interesting, which also allows you to keep tabs on exactly when and how you met. It’s also, in his mind, a kind of public endorsement of the person that can be seen by others.

The app also added a new pane for managing activity, user profile and settings, and to see who you’ve highlighted and who has highlighted you. It also adds an ultra-easy way to “pause” Highlight, or to disable the location tracking portion when it doesn’t need to be in use.

Davison told me that preparing for SXSW is like preparing for the future where everyone has Highlight installed. To meet that challenge, the team has been tweaking settings to limit the number of notifications that users will receive, especially in a place like Austin during the busy show, where a ton of tech-heads will be congregating. It’s also trying to reduce battery drain, which has been a major issue for early users.

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