A year or so ago, I took a trip to Austin, Texas, for the first time. Before I jumped on a plane, I asked for bar and restaurant recommendations from a friend of mine who had spent a few years living there. What I received in response was a 1,200-word exegesis of this person’s favorite culinary picks from around town, complete with Yelp links to each of the locations and a short description of each.
When it came to go to any of those places or do any of those things, I’d have to open the Yelp link, find the place on a map and then chart my journey to and from and try to figure out where else I wanted to go while I was out. It wasn’t very intuitive. But, silly boy that I am, when a friend of mine asked me about places to hang out in Austin when he moved there, I sent the same goddamn list, with my own additions and annotations. And he has since passed it on to his friends who have been visiting.
I refer to this anecdote because, in the year or so since I had this experience, not much has changed. The way we provide location-based recommendations to friends and the way that they parse those recommendation is still a not very pretty process.
Which is why Urbantag is worth a look. The app allows you to curate and build lists of your favorite, and then share them with friends, either online or on your iPhone. They can then create their own lists or provide input to your own, giving recommendations for where to go or where not to go. It’s kind of like Pinterest, but for real-world places.
Take, for instance, this awesome list of beer spots — in San Francisco and beyond. In Urbantag, all of the places are located on a map, and the tips and photos provided give you a good idea of what they’re getting into before they go. There’s no fussing around bouncing from Yelp link to Yelp link to decide on a place.
More importantly, there’s a community aspect to the app, allowing people to follow each other’s lists and discover new recommendations from other people in the network. Urbantag is trying to build an editorially curated group of “tastemakers” who provide recommendations in a number of categories like food and fashion in major cities. But if you’re more interested in your own social circle, you can also connect with Facebook and Twitter to see your friends’ list of where to go — or where not to go.
Of course, there are other apps, like Foursquare, which help you keep track of where you’ve gone. Foursquare also lets users create lists and make notes and provide recommendations, but it’s not the primary use case (and in my experience, very few people actually use those tools). And it’s getting more into the social discovery game, with the ‘Explore’ tab to help recommend new places to users. That’s helpful, but if you just want to start creating and sharing lists with friends, Urbantag is probably the better way to do it.