Much of what is driving the innovation we’re seeing around the Bay Area these days is the convergence of three technology meta-trends -- social, local and mobile.
A perfect example is RAVN Events, an iOS app that launched earlier this month, which co-founder and CEO Jonathan Wu calls “the Pandora for event discovery.”
“What they offer event discovery based on aggregation, which can be overwhelming to the user. We want to pare that down to what you actually care about.”
So what RAVN does is present you with roughly 100 upcoming events – from music festivals to family-friendly outings to Tulipmania – depending on your preferences, location, and (assuming you sign in via Facebook Connect, your social graph.
“If you sign in with Facebook Connect, it will be an awesome experience right from the start,” says Wu. “If you don’t, we will display the most popular events over the next two weeks until we get to know you better.”
His analogy to Pandora, of course, references how that popular music service fine-tunes its recommendations to you not only based on your personal indications of which music you like, or the songs and artists your friends like, but “the wisdom of the audience,” or the preferences of many other people with tastes like yours.
In order to create the databases behind RAVN Events, Wu and his team crawl the web for events, including all the aggregator sites, and then add in additional information where necessary.
“We mix algorithmic scraping with a little curation, for example, if the photos are poor quality, we’ll source better photos from the web, because RAVN is very photo-driven.”
The social component to RAVN is based on geo-fencing, which Apple built into its iOS last November.
“Relying on your social graph and location, it builds a radius around an event, so you can receive alerts when your friends arrive,” explains Wu. “The great thing is that because it’s embedded in the operating system, it doesn’t wear down your battery the old way location-based services had to ping your phone to locate you, which was battery-intensive.”
The key to RAVN really is personalization – the more you use it, the smarter it will become, and Wu and his team are determined to cut through the clutter of the thousands of events online, what he calls the "era of TMI."
“We want to present you with a good diversity of events, but not an overwhelming number,” he says. “We focus on the next two weeks, because our research shows that is the window during which people plan what to do.”
During this stage of early adoption, he says, people are using RAVN to post photos at events, photos that can help the app move closer to an even more powerful capability.
“We are working toward real-time event discovery,” he explains. “People can share the events they attend by the photos they shoot with their phones, and we can present those as a live photo stream based on their location at the time.”
The current interface groups events under five headings – Family, Arts & Culture, Food, Festivals, and Concerts.” The app is free and has a number of unpublicized features, one of which is a more panoramic landscape view if you hold your phone sideways.