Where I’m At

Where I’m At is a sonic graffiti app for iPhone and Android.

The main user interface consists of a record button and a map.

When you open the app, or hit the refresh icon, a bunch of things happen: It uses the geolocation API to fetch your location. Then it sends your latitude/longitude to the Foursquare API to locations near where you are at. It changes the location listed below the record button to the location nearest you. When you click on the name, you’ll see that the app repopulates the list of available locations. It also uses your lat/long to center the map, which uses the Google Maps API. And it gets the most recent data from my database, populating the map with pins representing sonic graffiti tags.

When there are multiple tags at a location, only the most recent tag is accessible through the map. It would be interesting to also provide access to the history of sounds, and find a way of representing the date at which the sounds were recording (which I am storing in the database).

It’s currently anonymous so there is no login. It would be interesting to allow sign in, so that you could follow friends and hear their tags. For now that’s not necessary because I’m already friends with all the current users, and there are only a few of us.

I set up a LAMP server on Digital Ocean following these directions. From there, I was able to use PHP scripts to handle file uploads, and to save JSON-structured data to a text file.

USER RESEARCH / FUTURE PLANS

One of my major questions is, how would people use audio? So far that’s still a bit unclear, people are shy when using their voice in a way that they aren’t when using photo and/or text apps. Some want to leave audio tips about locations, others want to leave notes for their friends.

I’ve found that the 10 second restriction is cool once people get the hang of it, but some wanted to make longer recordings. Should I allow for this, or keep the limitation? Maybe sounds should be limited to 16 seconds or something just a bit longer.

I like how simple the interface is, because the recordings people make are raw, they have to be their own editor, all they have is a button to start and when they let go the recording is done. But people sometimes want to make a longer recording and then trim them down after, similar to Instagram. In the process, they could even add effects, samples, and/or mix/stitch multiple recordings together to create their audio graffiti. I think I could do it with something like EZ-Audio and an NSNotification (for ios at least). This has the potential to become a rabbit hole, especially because right now I’m not doing anything to access the audio buffer, just using the Media plugin which has very limited functionality.

Users were confused about whether the map shows locations that you can select in order to tag them, or whether it shows existing tags near you. Currently, it’s the latter, but this would be clearer if the pins were more than just red dots – they could show the name of the location and an audio icon or date of the recording relative to the current time.

The map should show your current location, and update when you change locations or re-open the app.

The app needs a more cohesive visual aesthetic. During class, I got some feedback encouraging me to go for more of a “graffiti” aesthetic.

I’d like to analyze the sounds that are recorded and provide some data about them. For example, I could send audio to the Echo Nest to detect what song is playing, and detect some data about the recording such as loudness. I’d like to offer sonic profiles of spaces so that the app becomes usable even without listening—it’s not always convenient to wear headphones or hold the phone up to your ear. let alone allow some piece of unvetted sonic graffiti to blast out of your speaker in public.

If somebody leaves a tag at Fresh & Co saying “the tuna sandwich is fine now” in response to somebody else’s tag, it should maintain that thread. I’m not sure whether tags should allow the user to enter optional keywords, or I could have the ability to make a tag in response to another tag to create a discussion, similar to twitter.

In the meantime, Kyle tipped me off to an ITP thesis project from 2012 that has some similarities: Dig.It by Amelia Hancock.

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