eHub Interviews CommunityWalk

Posted by Emily Chang on Wednesday, October 5th, 2005. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit CommunityWalk, originally added to eHub on Sep 22, 05.

imageThanks to Jared Cosulich of CommunityWalk for this email interview on October 2, 2005.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

CommunityWalk: CommunityWalk is a loosely defined project that allows people to create maps of a community. A community is really any number of physical locations that have something in common. This something may be as obvious as their physical location or as abstract as “places I like”. Basically it simply allows people to describe their perspectives on the world, allowing for others to see this new perspective on a place they may already know, making new connections to new places. It is trying to harness the flexibility and infinite nature of the internet and use it to add a new dimension to maps, making the general exploration of the world around us more interesting.

CommunityWalk is also a great tool for private usage. A number of people are already using it to plan, execute and document vacations, coordinate group activities, help their coworkers and employees be more efficient when they are away on busniess, etc. This wasn’t the original intention for CommunityWalk, but the flexible design makes CommunityWalk a great tool for this regardless.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

CommunityWalk: I originally started the project to help my mother sell homes. She is a realtor and, after I saw HousingMaps, I thought there was some potential for a more indepth look at a house in the context of its surrounding community. Since then it has evolved into the more flexible and loosely defined project that it is today.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

imageCommunityWalk: I do have a day job and work on CommunityWalk in my spare time. I would estimate that I am able to dedicate about two to three hours a night on it during the week and probably ten to fifteen hours on the weekend, putting me at around twenty to thirty hours per week.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

CommunityWalk: I am solo, although soon I should have some more help on it. My background is in software. I work in Silicon Valley at a business to business web based software company called Noosh.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

CommunityWalk: Keep it simple and stick to themes.

I try to be very focused on the user’s experience with CommunityWalk and in general try to avoid featuritis. Instead I focus on making the basic functionality as robust as possible. As I get more feedback from users I start to expand my horizons into the few more advanced enhancements that I think will benefit the user community the most.

When I say stick to themes I mean that I want my designs to require someone to grasp as few general concepts and ideas as possible and make it so that the software helps them to expand those concepts so that they see the full potential in what a simple theme can accomplish. I know this is a little abstract. An example would probably help clarify the situation, but the best example I can think of would give away my next big idea :)

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

CommunityWalk: CommunityWalk is build using Ruby on Rails, Javascript (AJAX), dhtml, and xml technologies. It is build on a mySql database with an Apache webserver. It also relies on the Google Maps API, which harnesses the fantastic Google Maps technology.

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

CommunityWalk: Safari support, easier ways to add information to their maps, and RSS feeds. All of which are on their way.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

CommunityWalk: Completely distributed. I brought CommunityWalk live a few weeks ago and already it has more international users than U.S. users. I can’t understand half of what is written on maps in CommunityWalk as they are written in numerous different languages.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

CommunityWalk: Eventually I hope to have CommunityWalk become the first place people turn to for mapping needs. I hope people will see the site as a tool that makes it quick and easy to accomplish anything having to do with mapping. I also hope it will become a place where people can explore the world around them, learing about geography, different cultures, where the best restaurants are, etc.

I also hope that it will serve as the engine to power websites that want to have maps such as the ones on CommunityWalk on their own websites, potentially showing where all the Hertz rental car locations are or where the nearest Jiffy Lube is, etc.

I have other plans as well, but would have to kill you and anyone who read this article if I discussed it here. As I don’t know who will read the article (nor do I particularly enjoy killing people), I think I am going to have to keep some of the other plans secret.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

CommunityWalk: Staying motivated and handling all the new challenges as they come up.

Already it is difficult to maintain focus on the project night after night, especially with a full time job. If I didn’t love the project completely then I may have shelved it long ago. It’s amazing what passion can help you accomplish.

Also as CommunityWalk continues to grow it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet all the demands with the limited time and budget I have for the project.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

CommunityWalk: Passion.

Cheesy, I know. Obviously CommunityWalk would benefit a great deal if I could dedicate more resources (time, money, and manpower) to it, but the fact of the matter is that these things are not going to happen over night, nor are they necessarily good. Dealing with the constraints I have right now really focuses my efforts on accomplishing what is important. So in the end my passion for the project is going to the driving force for getting CommunityWalk to the next phase.

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

CommunityWalk: Make more money than I spend :-)

There isn’t really a formal business model yet, although sales from licensing the technology and advertising are the current focus of my informal business model.

eHub: If you’re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

CommunityWalk: I’d rather not say at this point, but I did write a brief post about the traffic after the first week here:

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

CommunityWalk: The simple fact that people are using the product is enormously satisfying. The feedback I receive about it is definitely my most significant source of pride.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

CommunityWalk: I think we are simply seeing people begin to harness the power of the web as a communication tool, enabling the efficient sharing of information from person to person, person to computer, and computer to computer. In my mind this encapsulates the Web 2.0 experience.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

CommunityWalk: I use the blog aggregator Rojo to handle most of my information needs. In addition to that I check my adsense revenues fairly frequently as well as my site statistics. I am also a huge Boston sports fan, so I am on ESPN fairly frequently reading up about the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. Living in San Francisco makes it difficult to follow my teams, but I try my best.

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

CommunityWalk: Haha, great question. I used to get about eight hours a night, but since I’ve started working on CommunityWalk I’ve cut that down to five or six, with the occasional four tossed in there for unhealthy measures.

Thanks to Jared Cosulich of CommunityWalk for this email interview on October 2, 2005.

Visit CommunityWalk
Originally added to eHub on Sep 22, 05