Explore Chicagoland with Whrrl and Chicago Architecture Info

As social networking becomes less a curiosity, and more of an everyday activity for a lot of people, we’ve been exploring ways to make this web site more “social.”

You already know about our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, and Flickr photo pool. Now we’ve come up with a way to make exploring Chicago and its architecture more interesting, fun, and indeed… social.

Over dozens of e-mails, a series of meetings, and a pastrami sandwich, we’ve formed a partnership with the good people at Pelago to bring Whrrl to Chicago Architecture Info.  You can see the results at http://whrrl.chicagoarchitecture.info

What is Whrrl? Well, put simply it’s like Foursquare + Facebook + Yelp + a whole lot more.

  • It’s a geolocation check-in app like Foursquare that lets you earn badges, prizes, and discounts for “checking in” at certain places.
  • It’s a social network like Facebook that lets you see where your friends are and what they’re doing.
  • It’s a review service like Yelp that lets you recommend places and activities to friends and strangers who are also on Whrrl.

It’s also a great way to learn about new restaurants, businesses, and activities near where you live and work that you didn’t know about before.

Personally, I treat it like a game. I like to earn points for making recommendations that people like, and then each week there’s a tally of my earned points against my other Whrrl friends. But I’ve been told that I’m only scratching the service.

Here’s where it gets all Chicago-specific…

We can create “societies,” which are groups of places with similar themes. For example, you might check in at The Art of Pizza and end up earning points in the “Mama Mia!” society. The more you check in at similar places (pizza joints in this case), the more points you earn and you, to use video game parlance, level up. You can share you recommendations for The Art of Pizza (like “The Brooklyn style pizza is as close to the real thing as you can get this far north.”) and when other people indicate that they want to try your recommendation, you get more points. When they actually complete something you’ve suggested, you get even more.

Some societies are national (“Starbucks,” “Night Owl,” etc…), but some are local. In our case, very local.

I’ve created a couple of societies so far — the Chicago Architecture Top 10 Society, and the Uniquely Chicago Society.  I have lots of ideas for other Chicago area societies that I will create in the next few weeks. I’d also like to hear your ideas for other societies that we could create. Maybe one for the great Mod buildings in the city. Or one for interesting abandoned buildings. Or one for independent coffee shops. It’s really up to your imagination.

What does this web site get out of it? No money, unless you count that pastrami sammitch the Whrrl people bought me a couple of weeks ago. No, this is about exposure. Whrrl already has what looks like a few million users (I haven’t actually asked for a number). Those that are in Chicago will come across our societies and find out about Chicago Architecture Info.

What do you get out of it? A chance to explore your city through the eyes of other people. A way to learn insider tips about places you’ve already been. And for a lot of people, social location apps are simply a lot of fun. I read someplace recently that there are over 150 million people using social location services. I’m willing to bet there are a lot of them in Chicago.

Here’s the big question — Do you need an iPhone? The answer is an emphatic NO.

  • If you have an iDevice, that’s great — download the app from the iTunes App Store. 
  • If you have an Android device, don’t worry — I’ve been assured that an Android version is coming soon. 
  • If you have a BlackBerry or some other kind of mobile device, then simply use the mobile web version at http://m.whrrl.com
  • If you just don’t have a mobile internet device, you can still use Whrrl. Just do it from your web browser at http://whrrl.com

Reply to this thread with whatever questions and suggestions you have.

Here’s a web page I’ve created that explains things and lists the current CAI-sponsored societies: http://whrrl.chicagoarchitecture.info. As a point of interest, I’ve also created Whrrl societies for CAI’s sister sites. They can be viewed at http://whrrl.towrs.com and http://whrrl.houstonarchitecture.com

Here’s a recent Pelago press release that explains better than I did what Whrrl is:

Whrrl 3 Launches With a Promise: ‘We’ll Save You From Farmville’

Whrrl Brings People Together with Real Ideas of Real Things to do in the Real World

SEATTLEMarch 11 /PRNewswire/ — Pelago today announced the launch of their iPhone application, Whrrl 3, the cure for people afflicted by dreaded Social Rut.
Social Rut affects millions. People go out to the same places over and over again, trapped in the “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do?” loop. But it’s become worse in recent months — now, people spend countless hours throwing sheep at each other’s Facebook walls, playing Mafia Wars to level infinity and hoeing each other’s virtual gardens on Farmville, all under the guise of “being social.” Whrrl promises to bring people together in the real world, to open doors to new and interesting things to do, and truly end Social Rut.
“We have a very simple premise: people are inspired by the things other people do. Through Whrrl, I recently learned of an amazing mountain biking park close to my home in Seattle, and seeing my friends’ adventures there made me crave the experience for myself. In Whrrl 3, we unleash inspiration by helping people who have similar real-world tastes come together in a game-like way to share experiences and ideas,” said Jeff Holden, Founder and CEO of Pelago. “We put those ideas — whether to head out to a mountain biking park, try a specific drink or dish at a particular restaurant or to join a nearby friend right now — at your fingertips with unprecedented relevancy.  This is how, together, we will end Social Rut.”
Whrrl 3 is built on the powerful idea of Societies — groups of people with similar real-world patterns. Everyone has deep, untapped expertise based on experiences they have had at the places they go. This expertise is rarely shared, however, because there has been no appropriate forum where it’s clear the recipients will care and be able to access it at the right time. Societies are this forum. Now, people with shared passions can finally exchange their recommendations and experiences, knowing they’ll always be at their fingertips based on their location.
Today, at SXSW in Austin, TX, Whrrl will launch the Austin Underground Society, which will provide members with at-your-fingertips access to the hottest parties, events, and other fun things to do at the conference. Furthermore, 50+ Austin merchants are participating to provide Underground members with exclusive offers. Whrrl 3 users simply check in to places at SXSW to unlock membership to the Austin Underground Society and redeem the offers by showing their phones to the merchants. Notable participating merchants include Four Seasons Hotel Austin, Outback Steakhouse, Cool River Cafe, Chuggin’ Monkey, J Black’s, Red Fez and Third Base, among many others.
Here’s Whrrl 3 in a nutshell:
  • Check In, Share Experiences, Invite Others to Join You — Users check in to the places they go with total control over the privacy level, from completely private to public and with the ability to share to Facebook and Twitter. As always, users can add photos and notes to their check-ins to share out their experiences. Now, users can invite others to join them where they’re checked in. Photos and notes from people checked in together are pooled for easy sharing.
  • Societies — Every place has its own Society, and there are now over 60 multi-place Societies nationwide that users join by checking in (in some cases during certain times of day and days of week), such as Foodies, Jimmy Hendrix, Indie Music, Night Owls and Pinball Wizards, among many others.
  • Recommendations (with Photos!) — Create recommendations to capture and share all those ideas you have for specific things to do at places. Target your recs to just friends or to any of your Societies. Photos can be added to any recommendation. Why just say it when you can show it?
  • Influence Points — Every time you check in, you earn points. Create recommendations, get more points. But here’s the kicker: when you inspire others with your check-ins, recommendations and stories, you get even more points. People can “want to,” “did it” and “re-recommend” each other’s recommendations. As you earn points, you level up in your Societies.
  • Ideas — Recommendations, whether created by others in your Societies, friends or Whrrl’s algorithms, come together in one new Ideas tab that shows the most relevant nearby things to do.
  • Merchant Offers — Hundreds of merchants (and counting!) have created offers exclusive to Whrrl users. Users redeem the offers simply by showing the Whrrl 3 redeem screen on their phone. Offers can be made for members of Societies and even to members at specific levels of Societies. A coffeehouse owner might offer a free latte’ for a new member of its Society, 10% off all purchases for Insider-level members, 20% off for VIPs and 30% off for Trendsetters, their most loyal customers.
  • Special Privileges — As users level up in Societies, they will unlock new Whrrl capabilities, like the ability to curate a Society or even create their own Societies. There are many such privileges waiting to be discovered, and more in the works.
  • Fun Facts — With every check-in, Whrrl gives you a little tidbit of interesting information about the place, the area or your or your friends’ relationship with place.
  • New User Interface — A fresh new look and app organization make Whrrl 3 the most fun-to-use and powerful Whrrl to date.

About Pelago
Pelago was founded to revolutionize the way people experience the physical world. Whrrl 3, the company’s flagship product, endeavors to end Social Rut, an affliction impacting millions that keeps people from experiencing adventure in their daily lives. Pelago was founded in 2006, is based in Seattle, and led by an executive team from companies including Amazon, RealNetworks and Yahoo. The company is backed by pioneering Internet and mobile investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Bezos Expeditions, T-Venture, Trilogy Equity Partners and Reliance Technology Ventures. For more information, visit www.pelago.com

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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