Home Stickybits: Portal to Another Dimension or Graffiti for Nerds?

Stickybits: Portal to Another Dimension or Graffiti for Nerds?

Seth Goldstein comes up with a lot of ideas. Some of them work and some of them don’t. He was one of the original backers of Del.icio.us (bought by Yahoo), Etherpad (bought by Google) and Bit.ly (huge via Twitter). He was also President of the short-lived Attention Trust and built a browser plug-in that allowed people to track, manage and sell on the Chicago Board of Trade futures in their browsing history and other online attention data. That didn’t work out so well, though it was a very interesting idea. Two years ago he raised $10m, built an advertising network called SocialMedia.com and then sold it off a big chunk of it in November.

Goldstein’s latest idea may be one of his most interesting yet. He’s co-founded a company called Stickybits. It’s a service that uses vinyl barcode stickers and a mobile scanning app to layer social media content on top of physical objects.

You scan a Stickybits barcode that you place or find on some thing or some place (perhaps on someone) and you can see all the multimedia that’s been associated with that barcode before and add your own.

Erick Schonfeld covered Stickybits this morning on TechCrunch and called it a way to unlock “the secret lives of objects.” Commenters on that post brought up far more questions than Stickybits has answered so far.

Someone is going to nail this, though. I’ve long fantasized about being able to use my mobile phone while around town to find out the news, demographic and property ownership history of various locations. Stickybits isn’t doing anything that ambitious yet; it’s mostly just tweets, photos and audio messages. It’s hard to know if a temporary sticker from one particular company will be the way forward into a world of places and objects with social histories made easy to unlock.

Stickybits is selling packs of 20 attractive vinyl stickers for $10, a steep price if you ask me, but perhaps calculated to maximize the significance of each one and minimize the annoyance of property owners about to get annotated. How that price point and the need to download a free mobile app will impact the spread of the program remains to be seen. Whether the messages attached to the stickers end up looking more like Foursquare, Gowalla, Wikipedia or ChatRoulette is another one of the many questions that come to mind.

In a location-aware world, the primary role of the barcode stickers may simply be in letting people know that there is data associated with a particular location, something that other services that let you “tag your world” have struggled with. There will likely be other user experience subtleties, sublime and profane, that users start to notice after a few Stickybits scanning experiences.

Expect to find these things stuck around various places in Austin this weekend. Perhaps on cats, dogs, planes, trains, automobiles and street light poles all around the country soon. Will it work? We’d love to hear your thoughts in comments below.

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