Article in Companies, Social Media, Social Networking, App Review categories.

Schemer, from Google, is a Playful New Discovery Platform

Somewhat recently, Google released Schemer in its beta form, and so the effort on technology’s part to push us into the real world continued onward. Through Google+ profiles, the service provides suggestions on any and all possible daily and lifelong activities using content provided by users, who can make suggestions, comment on others’ suggestions, and create to-do and have-done lists.

Fortunately, the service has a playful feel, tiptoeing the line between overwrought and in-the-moment. Currently, the top suggestions are to visit Japan, write a book, or start a company - all a bit, I don’t know, enormous - but the ideas move slowly downward toward accessible: walk the Highline, ride in a helicopter, or be part of a flash mob. As Google decided to label it, Schemer has a “pick your poison” feel, as a location-specific and universal suggestion service should.

It’s certainly a city-centric service at the moment, though, presumably because urban dwellers are the most likely to take the time to test such a product before its release, but the “pick your poison” capabilities have an intuitive design. “Hit the town” is a one-stop-shop for nightlife venues; “once in a lifetime” is a quick list of long, sometimes-frightening adventures; “kid friendly,” as you may have guessed, is the family department. Click on any section, and they’re further subdivided and tagged for ease of use.

Discovery platforms have, over the last several years, become a promising theme in the merging of social services and technology, and Schemer, being a Google product, benefits from an enormous user base. The merging of Gmail, Google+, Schemer, and Google Reader has a grand-scheme sort of feel, and Google’s hope to become the end-all and be-all of online platforms isn’t overboard. Schemer has that patent experimental feel of an early Google product, more suggestive than refined, so critique requires a certain level of presumptuousness - Google could very well have a trick up its sleeve.

With that in mind, a quick trial brings forth a wide range of comparisons, from the old - Yelp and Facebook - to the new, like Stamped and dating service HowAboutWe. The latter benefit from simplicity, particularly in Stamped - rather than say what or why something, anything, is worth a shot, Stamped allows you to simply promote with a quick stamp. There is no negativity, only suggestions. A couple weeks into its use, the benefit is obvious. Rather than, say, scour Yelp and its endless streams of amateur wordplay for a brunch spot, Stamped can provide a list of places your friends and experts have recently visited and enjoyed.

Conversely, as you may have picked up, a site like Yelp requires that you listen to strangers without context; Schemer does the same. They differ, though, in that Schemer is directive - it exists to tell you what to do. Users, at least thus far, have used it to list what they want to do, not solely by product or location, but over a lifetime. Those who provide feedback are generally positive themselves, in large part because critiquing someone’s wish to, say, climb Mount Kilimanjaro would be unnecessary negativity. If it’s not a product or a venue, especially not yours, why deter exploration? How Google of Google.

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