Highlight (like its many counterparts, including Bay Area-based Kismet) requires a login through Facebook. The app gives you a list of people you were “nearby” today and what six degrees of separation connect you based on the details you reveal in your Facebook profile. As I write these words, there are people in the vicinity who share my like of SPIN, Outside Lands, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Cool? Yes. Fun? Kind of. A little creepy? Yes.
The point is to make social introductions a little less awkward. Why go through the whole rigmarole of, “Hi, how are you, what do you do? I live in San Francisco, I work at 7x7,” when you could just cut to the chase – “Hi, you like naps and Radiohead, I like naps and Radiohead too!” Consider it another evolution of human social interaction.
I headed to the mike during a SXSW panel to participate in the Q & A. I was networking at the end of the session when a random guy interrupted and blatantly asked me, “Are you a Burner?” My moment of stunned silence led him to clarify, “You know, Burning Man, have you been?” I raised my eyebrow and stuttered, uh… He continued, “When you stood up, I checked my Highlight, and you popped up first. We have Burning Man in common, do you go every year?” Not exactly what I wanted to reveal in front of a potential business partner, but still, um, wow.
Highlight has some great advantages though. A friend of mine used it to avoid her boss at SXSW. Because they are Facebook friends, Highlight sent her a push notification any time the chief was nearby in Austin. It actually pinpoints the exact area two people nearly cross paths, so she knew in advance to turn left instead of right to avoid the inevitable run-in.
One of my colleagues made the point that every new tech innovation is created by “nerds who wanna get laid.” There definitely seem to be a lot of dudes on Highlight. One feature I didn’t notice while using it at SXSWi was that you could highlight other people (and they can highlight you). It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed I had been “highlighted” by Clive at 10:53 a.m. on 10th St. But, why? Was it because he recognized an opportunity to work together? Or was it because we both liked Ski.com and Burning Man? The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I looked over my shoulder, despite the fact that I was standing in my apartment. I wasn’t sure whether to feel flattered, honored, or weirded out. Nice guy or total creeper?
Time will tell, as with all things of the moment, if Highlight and its app cohorts will remain as sticky as they were in Austin. But if you don’t mind approaching strangers with info ammo in tow, give it a try. With Highlight, you’re off the hook for being a total stalker.