An Open Letter to Dodgeball

As some of you may have known, I am a fan of Dodgeball, I’ve even written about it before.

I’ve been impressed with it, but have felt that it has had a long way to go and haven’t seen much movement on it. So, without further ado, my letter to its founders.

I’m a big fan of dodgeball as it fits right into my lifestyle and would love to see it take off, so I had some suggestions/comments.

First, some things for you to take a look at:

  •, these guys are basically trying to put together a database of venues and events and provide access to it via web services. That kind of data would play directly into the venue listing of dodgeball, and additionally if there were specific events when a person checked in at a venue during the times of the event the notification could be more contextual (“Your friend Andy has checked in at Slim’s, for the Built To Spill event, maybe you should stop by”). Logging which events people went to would also provide some interesting metadata.
  • I am making this a bit of an open letter, and posting it my blog at

Ideas and suggestions:

  • Other people in your “scene.” One of Amazon’s big draws is the “people who liked this also liked these” feature. Going to specific venues affords some of this, but an audioscrobbler-esque “neighbors” would not go unnoticed.
  • A way to add venues remotely. If I check into a place, “@ taqueria cancun” it will tell me “I’m sorry we can’t find that venue.” Well, obviously if I am trying to check in there, it exists in some form or another. So shoot back a message, “hey we couldn’t find taqueria cancun anywhere, if you would like to add it as a new venue, send us a +taqueria cancun.” Sure, it won’t have a street location yet so you may not be able to notify friends of friends, but any of my friends who know where it is will get the idea. After a new location is added, send the person who added it an email (on their email account, not their phone) with a link to fill in the pertinent details of the place.
  • Venues should be more wiki-like, that is free editing by anybody, with a recent changes list so that “attacks” could be noticed and resolved. Wikis work, and if bad things happen, you can always turn it off while you find a solution, right now you don’t have a lot to lose.
  • Attributes are cool, but tags are the rage, go with the flow.
  • I would expect “web services” goes without saying, and they are much more difficult to implement after the fact, but they really mean the world. I would like to have an api to search venues, to get recent check-ins to venues, to add venues, to tag venues, to get locations of venues, to find venues tagged a certain way, to get the neighbors. Besides, when you eventually want to roll out apps for mobile phones, you’ll need the interface anyway.
  • Integration with Google|Yahoo|Whatever maps. No reason not to provide maps to these places easily on the site. The “In The Neighborhood” could show the locations of all the things in the area.
  • Open things up on both ends, you’re a conduit for getting data into and out of people’s phones. With web services, allowing other companies (i.e. CitySearch or whatever those things are) to make use of your data for things like “253 people have checked in to Luna Lounge,” could be a profit opportunity. And, dare I say this without becoming a sales pitch, Sxip. Single sign-on would allow just about any site to be an affiliate and offer specialized reports (a la Absolut Vodka) by giving them a way to quickly get users into your system, and being able to build reputation wouldn’t be too shabby either.
  • Aggregate information about venues. If a url is provided to a venue’s website, show the technorati cosmos for it. If you can find an rss feed on the venue’s site, publish that.
  • Meta-venues (areas?) and private venues. A meta-venue would be something like “SoMa Clubs” and would be an aggregation of other venues that have been added to it. Wouldn’t be as helpful for checking in as a real venue, but on the website end it would allow aggregate data to be provided for a selection of places at once, i.e. labeling an area as having quick access to the subway. Private venues would be “friends only” venues, somewhere i can check-in to and my friends (or a subset thereof) will be notified about it, but only those friends would be able to see the venue on and friends of friends would not be notified if they were near. The use case for this would be “@ andy’s house,” where I may not want everybody dodgeball to have my address.
  • Advanced syntax. Something for power users to do something like “@slims !crazy Van Halen cover band” where the “your friend has checked in notification” would contain the message “crazy Van Halen cover band.” Other uses would be: “@slims =4” to say “at slims for four hours” or “@slims > andy’s house” to say “at slims then andy’s house”
  • Flickr. Parsing the images out of MMS messages is admittedly a pain but if somebody checks in to a place and sends you a picture message later on while they are still considered checked in, upload the photo to Flickr for them if they have associated a Flickr account with Dodgeball and include tags for the venue (and event information if they have it). Aggregate photos provided this way under the venue and for the user.

There you have it. And guys, anything you open source, I’ll work on, and if you want help getting Sxip integrated, I’m your man.

Long winded and typo-ridden,

Andy Smith

Tags: dodgeball, sms, social, communication

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