Recently, I took the family out to a pumpkin patch. As my daughter rode off on a guided pony tour, I had some free time on my hands. As I looked around, I saw a few other dads with wandering glances. Because I’m quite “networking oriented,” I wondered what these other dads did for a living and whether we shared any common interests.
It occurred to me that a mobile app could work well in this scenario. You could “check in” to a particular location and see “profiles” (e.g. LinkedIn profiles) of other individuals who checked in to the same spot. Perhaps you discover an individual who works for a company that you’re trying to sell into. Or, perhaps you volunteer for a non-profit organization and find an individual who’s a potential donor.
On its web site, Sonar describes itself as “a mobile application that uncovers the hidden connections you share with people nearby. We bottle the 1000s of connections that you miss every day- friends, friends of friends, fellow alumni, likeminded strangers- and put them in the palm of your hand. Sonar helps you use the information you share about yourself online to connect with the person sitting next to you.”
Sonar searches publically available data on Foursquare (checkins), Twitter (tweets) and Facebook (posts) to determine who’s nearby and how you may be connected to those people.
Finding People via Sonar
In the image above, I’m at (or near) the Jacob Javits Convention Center and see a list of people who recently checked in there (presumably, via Foursquare). From here, I can click on a user and see their profile card.
The profile card shows me that I have mutual friends, connections and interests on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, respectively. I can drill down to find out more details on the common connections. For Twitter, “shared interests” include common friends and common followers. In addition, I can “Say Hi” to the user, which posts a public tweet (Twitter at-reply) directed to the user.
Here’s a tweet I generated via my own use of the service:
Hi @(username-removed). I saw on @sonarme that we’re both checked-in @ Cisco – Building 9 so I thought I’d say hello!
Sonar’s design is elegant, as the service can be useful even without a lot of users (downloads). I download the app, but since Sonar parses publically available data, the people I find do not need to be users of the service. Also, rather than encouraging random (if not intrusive) introductions, Sonar seeks to find common attributes that connect you with others, so that you may leverage those common elements as a means of introduction.
Recommendations for Sonar
That being said, here are a few things I’d like to see added to the service.
Opt-In for the Random Introduction
While Sonar seeks to find common connections tying two people together, I’d love to see a “random introduction mode,” in which those who opt in can introduce themselves to one another at random (i.e. without any connection whatsoever). If I’m selling into a company and I see people listed from that company, I want to introduce myself (virtually) and let them know I’d like to chat. The key here is that they’ve already opted in, so an introduction is not unexpected.
Saving of Contacts
Sonar allows me to find new people and send them messages. However, I don’t see a means for saving discovered contacts within the app. I’d love to have a record of whom I discovered (and where) and be able to view their “discovered” profile, including the common elements Sonar discovered on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Built-In Messaging System
Currently, Sonar allows me to send messages to other users via Twiter. I’d like a built-in messaging system that allows supports “SMS-like texting” to other users. I’d use this capability to reach out to other users (privately) and invite them to meet up at a particular time and spot. In addition, for groups of users that discover each other via the service, a built-in group messaging service (a la GroupMe) would be neat.
Linking Additional Services
How about linking to Instagram (a popular photo-sharing app for the iPhone). Location data can be parsed from Instagram users who choose to share it. Posting a picture (with location information enabled) becomes a form of “check in” and Sonar users could use commentary on the shared photo as a means for starting up a conversation.
Now that I have Sonar installed on my iPhone, I’m planning on “checking in” to it from time to time. It will be especially useful when I’m out and about, and happen to have some idle time. Shopping malls, airports and sports stadiums come to mind. And don’t even get me started about trade shows and events!
Here’s a short video about Sonar: