Charles Basenga Kiyanda

cell phone + camera + dating site + internet = ?

I saw an ad for snap by lavalife while on the subway in New York this week and I was intrigued to say the least. Snap is actually a contest. Lavalife submit questions regularly along the lines of “Photograph your favorite or ideal pet” or “Photograph something with your favorite color”. It sounds cheezy, but I actually find it interesting.

The fact that lavalife is the originator of this contest actually makes it even more interesting. I’ll admit to it, I’ve used lavalife in the past. Online dating so far has really been an expanded version of the newspaper classifieds. Basically more words than you’d normally put in the newspaper and some pictures if you want. Video now I think is also possible, but there’s been video dating agencies before the internet too. Nonetheless, all the dating sites I have known were basically the same thing, a storefront for an ad for yourself. (I may be slightly outdated, I haven’t really looked at the latest offerings.)

This contest makes it interesting. There’s something organically genuine about showing people the world that’s around you, like somehow that also defines very well who you are, more than seeing you directly. You have to admit that there’s a big difference between reading “I have played the piano for many years and would never stop even if I never become a professional” and seeing a picture of the piano in my living room under the heading “A picture of the most important item in my house”.

I’m a little confused about how separate the snap contest is from the general lavalife website. The contest sounds fun, but I’m not so interested in participating in it if I have to sign up to lavalife and create a profile. (Not that I’d expect to get tons of propositions, but I’m just not interested.) Would there be a different platform to host such a contest?

There is something similar on the forums at Digital Photography Review, namely on the Pentax SLR Talk forum. There’s a weekly assignement challenge contest. The previous week winner makes up a theme and people post images. Essentially a very similar concept, but the platform is not superbly well adapted. If you’ve used forums before, you can imagine all sorts of threads getting created to submit images and for people to vote on pictures. It works. People make it work. But it’s definitely not ideal.

I could see someone creating an application on facebook to do something similar. That would be something quite interesting. The platform is right, one could build all the necessary tools. What’s missing now is, as in lavalife’s case, the proper community. Most people on facebook aren’t photographers. It could be that making it an application would make the process self-selecting. People interested in the application would recommend it to friends who would be genuinely interested in submitting photographs. But how about letting people see the pictures easily? Facebook just feels too general.

What I’d like to see is a site like Flickr or Photography Voice build a site with an API so people can build applications that mesh into their site. Imagine if could build applications on flickr. I could go on there and build all the machinery to allow people to participate in such a contest. Maybe open social APIs like the google initiative will change that. Somehow mesh (mashup? that seems to be the buzzword these days) strong online communities with social networking infrastructures.

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