Online We’re Googling, Offline Still Stumbling

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Hyperpublic, startups |

Last week my upstairs neighbors Deeva and Sophie invited me over for a home cooked meal.  When I arrived at their house, I met their brother who was in town visiting from LA.  He had previously lived in New York, and I asked him which he preferred.  We talked about driving vs. walking, the people, the culture, and ultimately population density.  I argued that the most amazing thing about living in this city (and cities in general) is that we are so closely surrounded by millions of people. He responded with an observation that I believe is quite common amongst New Yorkers and visitors.  He said, “that’s true, it is amazing to be surrounded by so many people, and so much action, but that can also make this an extremely lonely and isolating place.”  He made the point that in moments when you are not engaged in the boundless opportunity of NYC  (whether that be through spending time with others, visiting interesting places, or discovering new things), you feel like you are somehow deficient relative to the life you could be experiencing.

I think what he was articulating was a broader and more general human reality, which is that there is a delta between an individual’s actual experience and what is possible.  New York may magnify this phenomenon, but I believe this is the case no matter where you live.  Life is not perfectly optimized.  You miss opportunities, make decisions that return some value to you, but not the maximum possible value, and this is simply a part of life.

If we are missing everyday opportunity here in New York, and beyond, I would point to an unevolved system of physical world discovery and organization as the primary culprit.  I look at the headway online applications have made in organizing and surfacing relevant online data, and they far exceed the tools we have to discover what surrounds us offline.  Online I am efficient at finding the value I seek and want.  Google has indexed almost everything I seek, and my online social graph fills in the blanks.  With intent, there is not much I cannot find and engage with online.

Offline, my discovery and engagement is not nearly as advanced.  I’m moving through my online life with Google-esque precision, while offline my discovery is barely more efficient than Stumbleupon (online channel surfing).  I am stumbling upon people, places, and things based largely on physical proximity to my home, my office, and my gym, and to a lesser extent the physical proximity of my friends’ and family’s homes, offices, and gyms.  Stumbling is great where there is no intent, where all we seek is passive exposure and stimulus as opposed to utility or any other type of value/action, but there is so much more that we can be extracting and experiencing from all that surrounds us physically.  Products like Yelp, Craigslist, and Milo have made inroads in building a data layer on top of the objects in your physical world, but there is so much more work to be done.  You see how with organization and indexing of these physical objects you are able to act on the places and things and people nearby, but your physical world is nowhere near searchable.  Not yet at least.

I think a lot about the mission behind Hyperpublic.  Why do I care about building a data layer on top of your physical and local world?  Why should you care about building a data layer on top of your physical and local world?  Why should we collectively pull together to add, organize and index this information about who and what surrounds us?  Because I see a world where you will be able to navigate the experience outside your door with the same ease and efficiency as you move through the web.  And when we collectively illuminate and demystify the opportunity that surrounds you, the delta between your experience and what is possible will shrink, and we will move away from isolation, slipping deeper into the fabric of our local, physical, and social environment.

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One Response to “Online We’re Googling, Offline Still Stumbling”

RSS Feed for Jordan Cooper's Blog: startups, venture capital, etc… Comments RSS Feed

sounds like a good data source for augmented reality apps…

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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