The lazy person's guide to geo sites

For those who want to get stuff out without putting stuff in.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

It's entertaining to see all these new geo-focused sites trying to build out their social networks and their databases of local content. There's still a huge disconnect between the sites that make data entry easy and the ones that do a good job of helping you find what and who you are looking for.

Everyblock gathers hyper-local news and info.

Being lazy, I favor the geo-focused sites that don't require that I do any work. Everyblock (review) wins the lazy-geo award from me: It scans local news sources and public records and shows me what's happening in my 'hood. My participation with the site consists solely of entering my address. Outside.in (news) has a similar function, but its user interface is less clear.

What I really want, though, is a geo-enabled Yelp, both on my desktop browser and in my mobile phone. Yelp has all the location data I could possibly want; it just doesn't have a very good location-focused interface, or the capability to auto-locate me when I am on my mobile phone.

The personal location-reporting sites (Loopt, Brightkite, Whrrl, etc.) require a change in behavior: I have to tell these apps who my friends are and where I am to get them to work right. Integration with existing social nets should help these products take off, but until people start hooking these apps into their network profiles, they are going to languish.

At least one geo site has a CEO who's aware that you can grow your audience more by giving users a lot before you ask them to give anything to the site. Platial's CEO, Diann Eisnor, recently relaunched her site with a new reader-focused interface, replacing a previous design that appeared to be made more for contributors. Platial, unfortunately, doesn't have the rich data set of reviews that Yelp does, but it does a better job of displaying Yelp-like content. We can hope for a partnership.

Platial's new UI is great for browsing local info, but it needs a richer reviews database.

It's when the iPhone app store opens up next month that we're really going to see geo-focused reviews sites and networks take off. Despite its lack of GPS (so far), a core component of the iPhone is location reporting (using a combination of Wi-Fi router mapping and cell tower triangulation). All of the Web 2.0 geo execs I've talked to are working on iPhone apps; many will be available on day one of the app store opening.