Night of the living apps

10 quirky apps you probably haven't seen before

SAN DIEGO-- At the side-by-side ETech and Graphing Social Patterns conferences, before the Monday Night Werewolf social event kicks off, there is the AppNite session, in which 10 developers showcase their new apps, in five minutes each. It's like a mini Demo. But the apps are rougher, and because of that, a bit more intriguing. The first six apps were made for Facebook, the last four were Open Social demos.

Facebook apps

Biggest Brain is a quiz game that challenges you with geeky brain speed tests such as counting blocks on-screen. Then you get to compare the "size of your brain" with your Facebook pal. Verdict: You Don't Know Jack it ain't, sorry.

Just Three Words is a group story-telling app for Facebook in which participants weave a story by entering three words at a time, in a giant text free-for-all. The presenter said, without a hint of irony, that these stories are helping "weave engagement at a level of depth." He also said a lot of the stories can't be run on a family site. What would you do with three words? Verdict: Fun parlor game, less likely to get the developers sued into oblivion than Scrabulous.

Puzzle Messages lets you enter a message for another person or to put on s site, but it scrambles it as a jigsaw puzzle, which your viewers have to reconstruct before they can read. Works in Facebook or you can put on a blog or other social site. Verdict: Someone please find this app on Facebook (I couldn't) and send me a press release as a puzzle message so I can mock it. Please.

Ski & Snowboard is a Facebook app that lets you find resorts that other users like. You can also collect "badges," like lift tickets, to show others where you're been. There's a bit more here, too: There's a mini wall for notes, a way to find ski buddies by level (it asks you to confirm double-black-diamond eligibility by having your friends to confirm it). And there's a trip planner sub-app within. Verdict: Impressive demo. A lot of functionality for a very focused, and very social, activity. See also Liftopia.

Dipity's mission is to "organize the Web using time." The Facebook app sorts all your Facebook activities and your history (like your school and work history) to help find friends and groups, or just visually highlight which friends are going to, or have been, to the same events you are. Dipity can also import data from RSS feeds, like Twitter. There's also a utility to create timelines for any history you want, outside of Facebook. Apparently users have created more than 30,000 timelines. Verdict: Very, very cool. I need to spend some more time with this one.

Devloper Analytics tells you how your apps are doing on Facebook, and also track what your favorite developers are up to. Lots of useful statistics, comparative data, and leaderboards on apps, developers, and advertisements. Basically an orgy of Facebook stats. Plus some news and interviews. Verdict: Looks very useful, but not unique. Any Facebook developers out there want to comment?

Open Social apps

Know Your Neighbor is an upcoming Open Social app, currently running on Orkut, is a Twitter-like app that uses physical location as well as your social group to message people. Could be used to organize things like neighborhood cleanup days or to just message your nearby pals. The presenter says, "This could be Twitter for Open Social." Verdict: Really rough. Needs time to develop.

ReadingSocial is part of the LivingSocial suite of attention apps. It lets you add books to your shelf, review them, ask questions about them, and so on. Since it's an Open Social app, the community that forms around a title can span multiple social networks. Apps like this could potentially give Yelp a run for its money. Verdict: Clever, and a great example of how networks of people can and should span platforms.

TripWiser is travel app. It uses quizzes and other features to help you find travel destinations and companions. Verdict: You want to trust Facebook to pick your travel companions?

Chrip Screen is a fancy screen save app that takes feeds from personal sites like Twitter, Facebook, and social sites. Unlike other social aggregation services, like Friendfeed and Iminta, this one has the snazzy display. You can also comment on items directly from the app; for example you can leave a Flickr comment without going to the site. Verdict: It's like Pointcast, but with data you care about.

Rafe's final word

Of these apps, Dipity is the most interesting concept. It's a truly new way to look at social data. LivingSocial probably has the best model for aggregating users. But Tripwiser, although it's not a revolutionary app, has the richest potential revenue stream: travel advertisers.

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