The loneliness of the short-distance ambler

For various reasons, I try to get out and go for a reasonable number of walks around the place. I like going for strolls, and they’re good for me, but I find that after a while I can exhaust the local area’s supply of relatively interesting walks. I’ve found that two things help solve this problem – photography and company. But the number of people I know who are interested in going for a leisurely stroll is quite small. Similarly, my social circle has shrunk a bit in recent years for a variety of reasons. So whilst I was out walking in St. James’s Park over lunch, an idea occurred to me: A simple web / phone app to match up people, location and (potentially) interests for short strolls at lunchtime or early evening. With a focus on geeky interests there’s a chance of keeping the strolling pool to likeminded people who may have some conversation topics.

The idea would be to promote the idea of people meeting up with groups of other people in their area to go for strolls and share some good conversation. That’s all.

Ambulatory geek socials

Strolling groups could easily form around common interests, around planned discussion themes or purely based on location. This is online social discovery of offline social light exercise and company, with the idea that meeting in ad-hoc groups for some gentle outdoor exercise is a good way to explore your area a bit and get in touch with your surroundings as well as meeting new folks.

Rather than the traditional “all go to a pub and eat and drink your way through a chat”, the idea here is to meet at a park gate at lunchtime (or after work) and just walk, talk and maybe take a few photos and fire them at the net. It would encourage people to explore their local areas a bit more, and to meet up with people in an area that they might not otherwise meet who have a connection to the same places.

With integration with a whole bunch of other social tools, you could build up ad-hoc lunchtime walks that end up spawning new social ties between people who work or live in an area, and also help those people to explore their surroundings.

Meet the local community

You might not be around your usual stomping ground, and want some good conversational company for a walk. Sure, the people you meet via a webapp could limit your conversational options to geekier topics… hence the Geek Strolls name, but the geek church is pretty broad! You’ve got the developers and UX people. You’ve got the SF fans, the knitting junkies, the console gamers. You’ve got the roleplayers, the boardgamers and the electronic hackers. Throw in a few amateur theatre folks and a woodworker, then mix in somebody with local knowledge who’s found an interesting spot to walk through and you’re golden.

The problem

I’m a frontend and UX guy. I probably _could_ build something to make this happen, but it wouldn’t exactly be elegant and well written. I could probably make it pretty, and I could probably streamline the interactions and make it slick and usable to a good cross section of users, but somebody else would need to actually code the little bugger up and make it work.

How could you help?

Does the idea sound like a good one, and one that you’d be interested in using? Are you a developer who can knock together something like this? Grand! Go right ahead. I’ll certainly use the tool when it exists, and would be happy to be a test audience, testbed user and (time permitting) UX guy. Maybe even to do some UI work for it.

Basically, I want this app. I want it for a desktop PC (where I can manually specify my location) and for my android phone (where I’d like to be able to manually specify OR use GPS). So there.