January 18, 2014
Jelly Brings Mankind Closer
A new app called Jelly from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone will help us not only to get quick advice and information from a huge pool of people, but to become closer as a species too. That is, if you believe the ambitious claims of Stone in one of the promo videos for the app.
Jelly involves taking a picture with an accompanying question, and then you can ask your social network friends, and their friends, that question. It allows questions with a visual element to be asked which can’t easily be asked on search engines, for example if you are out and about and see a building or site and want to know what it is. A picture is easier than trying to describe in words to Google. It’s basically like asking for advice on Facebook or Twitter but to more than just your own friends.
Jelly has particularly been getting attention this week after Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg used it to take a photo of a spider in his bathroom and ask what kind it was. He was advised that the spider is not deadly, avoiding a funeral with more coverage than those of Princess Diana or Ayatollah Khomeini, but that he might wish to remove it from his house. Zuckerberg was also a victim of Jelly earlier in the week when he was pictured texting and driving. “Mark Zuckerberg texting and driving. How do you respond?” asked Jelly user Ben Schaechter.
Biz Stone says that “we are driven to help each other,” and that “making the world a more empathetic place” is what makes him so excited about the app. This sounds slightly grand, but spoken over the emotive music and delicate shots of sunset San Francisco in the promo vid, it is not untypical of the widely-used ‘ethics as marketing’ technique. We should all eat potato chips not because they taste nice and make the company money, but because sharing snacks brings families together, that sort of thing.
I don’t think Jelly is a revolution, nor do I think it will really bring mankind closer together. If it is like anything else where people respond electronically, it will invite as much hostility, misinformation and sarcasm as every other comment thread. But I don’t agree with some of the reviews that call it a waste of time. I quite often ask questions on Facebook and although I get plenty of said sarcasm and friendly abuse, I get useful information from people too. Jelly will obviously have its uses, as long as we aren’t really expected to believe it will unite mankind.
I suppose we need to be careful, though. What we are actually doing is putting questions out to huge numbers of people who are overwhelmingly unqualified to answer them. One of my friends asked on Facebook yesterday: “Is it safe to put uncooked chicken directly into pasta bake.” She received two answers, “yes” and “no.” I thought about weighing in, fancying myself as a bit of a chef, but realized I didn’t really know the answer. On balance I think it is probably safe, and might easily have sent a deciding second “yes.” Simply being online and part of a social network, though, does not necessarily qualify me to do so.
Image Credit: Jelly