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If you are a subscriber of my Om Says newsletter, then there is a good chance you know about Craig Mod – one of the most astute observers of the publishing world (both paper and the digital kind) — I have linked to his many essays about digital books, web publishing and, of course, Flipboard, where he worked as a product designer during the company’s formative years.
Mod is one of those rare writers who has a remarkable ability to make his words connect with his readers at a much deeper and more meaningful level. A lot of that has to do with who he is and his nomadic lifestyle — Tokyo, San Francisco, New York, Palo Alto, wherever his feet (and airplanes) take him.
“Travel is my drug. Usually prescription based, although, at times, it can feel illicit,” he writes on his bio. “Sometimes, people have a hard time understanding why. They tilt their heads. To me, it’s simple: stay sharp. Each time the plane lands I can hear the crisp scrape of my senses pushed across a whetstone.”
A few months ago, we ended up talking about home in the age of connectedness and concluded that “our physical interaction with a place defines how we feel about that place.” And for the past six years, Mod says, he has been wanting a product that allows him to tell that very story — the story of a place, a moment, a feeling that is captured through photos, simple text, feeling layered on top of location (map). “We all visit places and see them differently,” he says. What if we could have many narratives based on a location and then see them?
Build what you need
In November 2012, having waited long enough, Mod decided that perhaps it was time to take matters into his own hands and build the product he so badly wanted — it is called Hi. He teamed up with design firm AQ, which is based in Tokyo. He teamed up with Chris Palmieri (founder of AQ) and started Moments Management Corp., the company behind Hi. Mod is the CEO and Palmieri is the VP of Product. In a blog post outlining the product, Mod writes:
In the most simple terms, Hi is a website that lets you attach a snippet of text and a photograph to a location. We call that a _moment. Moments are grouped by location. You can then choose to return to that moment later and extend it. Write 100 or 10,000 words about the moment. That collection — moments tied to location — is a narrative mapping. But, we hear you ask, don’t other apps already do this? Sort of, but none really to our liking.
The longterm goal of Hi is to become the “Narrative map the world,” Mod says. “To be a universal container for moments. What that means — concretely — depends on who you are. If you’re a travel writer it means Hi is the place you go to quickly place digital mental markers while exploring a new city.”
Of course, when writing about a major event, let’s say Arab Spring or the Superbowl, Hi becomes a place for everyone experiencing that event to place their markers. “To draw a circle around a place and a time and know that that shared history will be later accessible” is the goal, Mod says. “The platform is generic enough to allow a variety of uses and we look forward to seeing how the tools are put to use.”
I have had about 36 hours to play around with the service, so my impressions are relatively nebulous and should be treated as such. I applaud Craig for choosing the hard path — staying focused on the web and optimizing the experience around the mobile web. In our mad-dash for native platform support, we have to some extent forgotten that the web is the fastest way to learn, adapt and re-polish new services. And perhaps when it is all grown up, a web app should (rather could) graduate to the native platforms.
I am digressing, so back to Hi. Once you signup and log-in, you create a sketch — which is a location, photo and a minimum of 20 words. That sketch is shared among friends who in turn can ask you to extend the sketch — that means perhaps adding another photo or more text. If you like a sketch, you can say thanks!
The web app on the iPhone5 web browser shows what a great mobile web app can look like. These newer mobile operating systems allow you to access some hardware capabilities such as location and the camera to create a great experience. What I like about the editing interface is that it is simple enough to get everyone to share a moment, paint a sketch. It is inviting. The clean white space, the gorgeous typography and flow of the app bring one word to mind: human. And like humans, it has flaws. But go ahead and try it — it might be worth a few minutes of your precious time.
I don’t know what the future holds for Hi (I mean, I was giving Twitter clueless advice on the day it launched.) All I know is that I like it and how it makes me feel. I like the sentimentality of it. I like the simplicity of it. Most importantly, I love the fact that it allows us all to share how we see a place and a moment in time — and that the people we share with perhaps will see the same place differently.