Staying streetwise

August 16, 2011

Damien Patton, CEO of Banjo

A new social app helps visitors with city slicking and trouble-avoidance

Whether caused by summer boredom, socio-economic frustration, space storms, or opportunistic, follow-the-gang-leader greed, British looters turned parts of several major cities into hellish, post-apocalyptic places between 6 and 9, August.

Liaising and peer-pressuring through social networks and BlackBerry Messenger ensured the mob remained several steps ahead of authorities. City residents and visitors also took en masse to networks such as Twitter to find out how to keep safely away from those engaged in what some in the media have termed “violent shopping”.

Perhaps they should have used Banjo.

Days earlier I’d interviewed Damien Patton, founder of the six-week-old app which forms a convergent layer atop one’s various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, TwitPic and Instagram).

Patton’s canny creation, which he describes as, “a federation of all the location and social and mobile applications – so people can make sense out of all the noise,” allows users to keep up with what people are saying about current events, search and save locations to quickly return to and communicate with users who are actually in an area.

Avoid like the plague

During the recent rioting, I checked back in with Patton to ask how people could use the service to help keep out of dodge.

“On Banjo*, users see pictures uploaded and comments posted by people in the social-verse who are actually there experiencing it first-hand. Users in and around London could quickly search social activity at any location for the latest on the riots.”

A quick search of Tottenham on August 9, for example, saw the social community talking about the Tesco’s being closed with the only place open to eat being McDonalds. People were talking about the inconveniences of the shops and supermarkets being closed on Kentish Town High Street as well as in Holloway.

Banjo about town
Why is Banjo particularly useful for business travellers? Patton first conceived the idea upon realising an old friend of his had been at the same airport terminal as him, in Boston, without either of them knowing it. He couldn’t fathom that none of his social networks had brought this to his attention.

Now, when killing time in an airport lounge, head buried in a device, one can easily discover whether a contact is nearby, or whether someone who could be a future colleague or business relationship is in the vicinity.

Patton recounts how somebody recently told him that their flight was delayed in New York: “He pulled out Banjo and saw that one of the big vendors of his company happened to be at a hotel bar at the airport. He went over there – they’d never met before – now the two companies are doing more business together because of that meeting.”

Business travellers often head out into the unknown, and like many of us, Patton isn’t a fan of relying on the hotel concierge. “I want to rely on the local people because they know what’s best. So with Banjo I can ‘visit’ these places ahead of time and see where is the traffic at, where should I avoid, what are the happening places to eat, what’s the best local pub. It’s mixing business with pleasure.”

*Banjo only shares publically available information; as well as information that you are privy to through friends and contacts you’re connected with on your social networks. For the non-signed in person on the Banjo network, the information that you’re seeing is a collection of all the publically available information out there.

Caption for main image: A woman walks past messages written on a boarded up shop that was damaged during the recent riots in Clapham, south London August 12, 2011. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

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