When Twitter came to light in 2006, few people took it seriously. Until SXSW of 2007 it didn’t truly enjoy mass use. Furthermore, Biz Stone, the co-founder of the service was told on occasion that twittr, as it was initially known then, was fun but not particularly useful.
Neither is ice cream. So what if it’s just fun?
Well last week, in addition to the blitz of news about wearables from CES 2014, saw the launch of a new service from Biz Stone, called Jelly.
Jelly is an app that defines itself as a new way to search which feeds off your social contacts. It’s a kind of conversational search engine.
Jelly is an app for iOS & Android.
Although, for now at least, you cannot do a search in the classic sense as we are used to.
You connect to Jelly with Twitter or Facebook with your mobile, you ask a question with a photo and you throw it to the stream.
Point. Shoot. Ask.
Jelly feeds off your pesonal social network although it does not pretend to be a standalone network in itself. Here nobody has a profile and so there is no mad rush to register one and attract followers of sorts.
You can reply to questions with text, with a link and you may also draw an answer with your finger.
I’m not going to dive into detail how the app works, there are already tonnes of posts on tech blogs explaining how to use the service, it’s limitations and it’s potential.
Some compare it to Aardvark, which Google acquired then closed down, with Quora but more visual and quick, with Yahoo Answers but with more credibility, with Google Goggles but more socialble.
The fact is the place is not even a week old and there are already thousands of questions in Jelly about how it should evolve to serve users. Things like hashtags, search functions, tags, if brands should be active and how, and so on.
As always, when early adopters get to grips with a new app or service, the place tends to become saturated with conversation about the service itself in a meta kind of way.
A source of empathy?
Despite the criticsm and comparisons – something that all apps go through at the start – one thing that caught my attention was the statement (expressed in more detail on Techcrunch) from Stone that Jelly aims to generate empathy.
Some have asked why is Jelly would triumph where other Q&A services have not, or what utility does this app have that others do no, or why should we further fragment even more our attention with yet another service or app, when nowadays we have gajillions for every possible scenario.
It’s evident that it is ever more difficult to compete for users’ attention, that there is an avalanche of content and at the same time, there is a boom in sites that aim to serve the ephemeral web – Snapchat, Vine, Tumblr and more – sites that where a delightful user experience with content that is close to your interests and aligned with your social graph, encourage a feeling of empathy and capture precious user attention however fleeting it may be.
Where does Jelly fit in?
If you have used the app or you feel bombarded by questions and all sorts of random encounters, you may be asking yourself the same thing.
And yet, on the official Jelly blog, they explain what is their use case vision of the site. Citing Einstein, Jelly’s goal is that we apply our collective wisdom and experience to help other, over simply spreading information.
Despite that, it appears there are many questions on Jelly that do not necessarily follow the example in the explainer video, where Biz finds himself infront of a work of art in a forest, he takes a pic, and feeds the stream to fathom the mystery of the object.
Questions such as where am I?, who is this? is this person attractive? and such, that now exist in abundance on Jelly, or those questions that only seem to be designed to generate interaction, are perhaps not the finest use case examples of the platform.
What is clear is that people are experimenting with how to use the platform and checking if it is likely to evolve with any more sophistication.
The Jelly power user
Out of sheer curiosity, Droiders also joined in, popping a question to the flock of early adopters by asking: how many apps do you estimate you have installed on your mobile? just to check if the average for the early Jelly users is significantly different to that average as described below that we also blogged about last week.
And despite receiving responses almost immediately, we are aware that, maybe in the longer term, this is not the place to poll user opinion.
By the way, the average number of apps installed by jelly users, in this case was 68 compared to the Statistia 26 of the infographic as published in Mashable as shown above.
What is the meta with feta on Jelly?
For each question posed on Jelly, no matter how serious or flippant, there are all sorts of replies and of course, sarcasm and absurdity are never in short supply.
Maybe the most widely repeated to date is the case of the feta cheese answer that some have dubbed spam in everything but name.
If you have not come across feta cheese whilst using Jelly, perhaps you have been lucky (or not?) or you simply have not swiped away enough questions.
And yet, in the case of the feta cheese replies, there is a more subtle force at work and we can reveal how it really came to be and how the fate of feta has evolved.
Having my mobile in my hand whilst I boiled the kettle for a quick unglamourous yatekomo snack (think freeze dried noodles with a sachet of flavouring) I throw out this question via my personal Jelly account.
Note: yatekomo (sic) is a fictious mispelling of the phrase in Spanish which roughly translates as – I’m about to eat
you, but as pronounced in spanish it has a fun sort of far east oriental accent sound to it when repeated quickly.
It’s onomatopoeia is, dare I say it, exquisite.
And long behold, in response to my mildly inane Jelly query, I received an answer of feta cheese, which just about qualifies in this context as an accurate answer as it is a word pun on the sound of the word fatter.
OK, not strictly a brand name which I was asking about, but not too bad nonetheless for a fleeting chuckle.
A little later, I noticed that each time I attempted to answer a Jelly question, the app would struggle to eliminate the previous answer in the cache, and I would inadvertently answer a question with the previous answer to a wholly unrelated question.
The app was buggy and sure enough my Android device duly updated itself with a new iteration of Jelly several times in those first few days of activity.
Maybe the same issue afflicted Lee Stacey who with uncanny coincidence therein after, began answering questions with the same absurd answer of feta cheese.
Pretty soon a deluge of feta cheese answers inundated Jelly to the increasing chagrin and bemusement of fellow users..
And so it continued with no sign of a user ban in store for Mr Stacey.
To the point that some openly doubted if feta cheese were actually a brand trying to muscle in on the action:
The reality is that in all probability, feta cheese is a mild form of silly protest against those questions that do not meet the expectations of the platform, let alone the standards of Einstein.
Take a look at a tweet of our friend Lee offering a hint of an explanation in a polite exchange of thoughts with another Jelly user:
Maybe we need to look beyond Jelly to really understand Lee’s motives.
That said, if you want a real deep dive of the user behaviour data that Jelly users have left in their wake, take a look at the excellent RJMetrics blog piece.
Absurdity is big business
So if empathy is an brand goal which offers value, companies graft it every day and earn it, not only with high quality production ads, lower budget efforts on YouTube or in tweet exchanges with famous celebrities with powerful followers.
Translation: @raquelsastrecom At long last I feel like a normal woman, I am really excited because tomorrow I am going to try on some new glasses. Google Glass !! @droiders
@raquelsastrecom we will do everything posible to normalise you as you so desire Raquel…”we have the technology” -pg
Translation: Lookout @raquelsastrecom you will have to first pass through the lab before you can leave here wearing Glass.
Huge tech brands that perhaps you do not immediately associate with the absurd, infact devote part of their marketing efforts wholesale into ridiculousness, so they can, according to them, and I quote:
compete with your wife and doughnuts for your attention.”
In this recommended Social Pros podcast, Tim Washer, a consultant for Cisco, explains to Jay Baer of Convince & Convert, how the stateside manufacturer of routers uses humour to connect with their b2b audience to indeed open doors to sizeable sales deals.
And the absurd is not at all reserved to a few daring brands and geeks who use shiny new apps in an unconventional way. Only this week No Pants Subway Ride was celebrated in cities all around the world including here in Madrid.
So what role do wearables have in all this?
Wearable tech not only allows us to enjoy contextual utility at any given moment but it also enables those moments of total human expression to be seen and shared from the faithful perspective of the wearer, allowing those instants to be captured for posterity.
How many times has that opportunity to seize a photo at a critical moment escaped you, which, even if you had whipped out your mobile quickly, you would simply not have captured it in time?
That photo above was captured with Google Glass. Hands free, in the zone, without a contrived pose or expression in sight.
Wearables allow us that and more. With minimum effort and intrusion we can take a photo and share it, or even ask our network, in a mere few seconds.
And so whilst it remains a tad early to venture the possibility – as there is no formal Jelly API at the moment – I will end on one final thought or indeed pose the question, naturally, in a picture below, itself worth more than a thousand words.