Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.


When I was a little younger, I used to spend an awful lot of time hanging out on IRC in small rooms of like-minded people. I’ve made a lot of acquaintances and a few friends in that way. Over time, those relationships moved over to Twitter. While the friendships continue, it’s more passive, and a little harder to keep a discussion going. While I’m not one to hope Twitter goes away, I see the value in a platform more tailored to conversations.

For the past week, I’ve been testing an interesting new app called Wulu that promises that and, for the most part, seems to deliver. They describe it this way:

WULU is a place for real people and real conversation.

Just pick a trending topic and we’ll pair you with other people looking to talk about the same thing.

Which makes sense, but I like to think of it as short, real-time conversations among four like-minded people. Just four: no more, no less.

Now, full disclosure: one of the creators of the app, Andrew Turnbull, emailed me to tell me about it, and to inquire about purchasing sponsorship space on the site. I get loads of emails like this, and I ignore most of them, but Wulu seemed interesting. I declined the sponsorship, but told him I’d check out the beta and see if it interested me. And it’s earned a space on my first home screen, so I think that tells you all you need to know.

The app also has another interesting angle: it was developed right here in Calgary. So I met Andrew for coffee (well, tea) yesterday and got to know a little more about the intent of the app. He reiterated that the real-time aspect was very important, so that’s why there’s no archived chats. He explained that double-tapping on a comment in a thread would “nod” that comment — sort of like a thumbs-up; each nod equates to a point, and there’s a leaderboard to see how many nods you and others are getting. Andrew explained to me that this encourages productive conversations, rather than spam. (There’s a “report inappropriate” button on each user’s profile to combat the latter.)

To reiterate: I wasn’t paid for this post, and not even encouraged. I’m just a fan of the app and wanted to let you, my dear readers, know about it. It’s definitely a 1.0; there are some things that aren’t entirely sorted out. Topics, for example, are currently set manually by the founders, with Google News, and trending Facebook and Twitter topics as guides. But it’s a really good start. You should check it out.