Really, that title was too easy.
So, my first day at this and already I’ve found something that’s just not working all that great in Cincinnati. I blame the private beta status more than anything though. (I have to blame something.)
So here are the basics of BrightKite. It’s a location-based social networking service. It connects you with the real people around you, which is pretty darn nifty. One thing I love about Twitter is the evolution of spontaneous Tweetups. We chat all day but really, we all seem to crave real live interaction. BrightKite allows you to find your current friends who are near you, or even find new folks nearby, live and in-person.
When you’re out in the world at large, you can text your location to BrightKite by “checking in”. BrightKite then lets you know if any other super-connected folks are nearby. Everything seems to be accessible from the web site and from your phone. BrightKite isn’t a phone snob either – it supports just about every major carrier (although Verizon apparently has issues). Because it’s SMS based, you don’t need a fancy iPhone either.
Well, I have a fancy iPhone, but I have a limited amount of text messages. I don’t waste them lightly. But because I do have a fancy phone, it’s no problem for me to access the web-based version of the site. As far as I can tell, there isn’t yet a mobile site (m.) or an iphone site. But that’s okay as long as you can access the web from your phone.
I can think of a million and one uses for this. When I attend a professional conference, I’m constantly calling and texting folks. This would be an easy way to get online and instantly know where folks are and where they’re heading. I also suspect that if I lived in San Francisco or New York City, there would be a lot more BrightKite users around me, including some close friends. That’s when this app really becomes useful I would think. However, I think there are about 6 of us from Cincy on BrightKite right now. As it continues to open up it’s beta, hopefully that will change.
I want to address the privacy settings. They’re pretty neat, and multi-layered. You can set it up so that certain people are your Trusted Friends. Trusted Friends see everything – the complete address where you’re located.
You can also adjust your overall setting so that you are in Private mode or Public. The BrightKite folks did this screencast to address the privacy issue. (Of course, the screencast isn’t displaying, so here’s the Flickr link.)
BrightKite integrates with Twitter and with FireEagle. You can even pull in your Twitter friends if they are on BrightKite. You can set which types of BrightKite posts show up in Twitter as well.
Overall, it’s a nifty tool. I would love to use it at a conference or large group event. I’m debating on suggesting it as a cool tool at a wine blogger’s conference I’m attending later this year. If you’re in a large city, or at least a place where the beta invites have spread like wildfire, you’ll probably appreciate BrightKite more than I do. I haven’t written it off yet though. I remember when I thought Twitter was silly and annoying. So I withhold judgement on BrightKite until I’m addicted.