Caterina Fake wants your pictures. And she wants that funny note about the time you saw Woody Allen having lunch. But she doesn’t want your tip about the Eggs Benedict at that bistro in Brooklyn. Or, the specialty cocktail in Soho. And especially, not the poor service at dinner.
During a fireside chat at Street Fight Summit West on Tuesday, the co-founder of Flickr told Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici that the restaurant discovery problem — a hobby horse of local tech over the past decade — has effectively been solved.
“There’s a ton of software out there about ratings and recommendations, and how to find a restaurant in this town,” said Fake. “I think can say with confidence that the problem of ‘finding a restaurant in this town’ has been solved — many times over.”
Earlier this year, Fake released her newest venture to the world in Findery, a service that allows users to share content, or “notes,” about places. The company spent two years in a private beta (mostly as Pinwheel), growing the community of contributors and amassing a trove off typically off-beat bites of content about people at places across the world.
The content that Findery users submit is meant to be less utilitarian, says Fake. These “notes” — typically, between a tweet and a blog post in length— might remark on a historical event that occurred nearby or may reflect on the place where a user proposed to his wife. But they’re not going to tell you where to eat.
However, while the community focuses on stories today, Fake said that there natural inclination of users was to leave the types of tips and advice, which turned Yelp into a multi-billion-dollar business.
“When people first show up on Findery there first instinct is to leave a note at the place where they have coffee every morning,” said Fake. “There’s this assumption [by users] that they have to add something that’s going to be of a similar ilk [to the other search services.] Then all of a sudden it dawns on them that it’s going to be different.”
But Findery has done very little to force that epiphany for its users. Fake remains adamant about allowing these kinds of constraints — like, say, Twitter’s 140 character limit — to emerge, at least in part, from the community, in part because of her experience during the early days of Flickr.
“One of the things that’s so exciting about building a participatory product is that you can create these constraints and you still don’t know what people are going to do with them. “When we started Flickr we had this idea that we were going to have all of these groups about classic categories of photos. But instead, we ended up with a thread where people were posting pictures of consecutive numbers. We didn’t start that. The users imposed it on themselves.”
Findery is the latest in a series of startups, which have tried (and largely failed) to create participatory communities around places. Yelp has seen a ton of success creating a community around reviews, and Nextdoor has found solid traction building communities for neighborhoods, but many other projects have failed. The question is whether the stars will align again for Fake.
“You never know, when [the enabling trends] — things like the accuracy of location data or the size of your screen — will come together,” said Fake, speaking about the outlook for location-based services. “But something will happen. Everything will tip. And it will all come together.”
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.