How iCoolhunt Works
In Fall of 2010, I learned about iCoolhunt - a social, geolocated coolhunting game that, at the time, came in the form of only an iPhone app, but now exists in web form as well. As a trend spotter, I find iCoolhunt to be interesting for several reasons - first, that it democratizes the process of coolhunting (a pursuit that used to be the purvue of a rather limited group of "insiders"), second, that it emphasizes geographic location for items spotted, and third, that it utilizes feedback from the community to determine what is cool and what is not.
Curious to know a bit more about iCoolhunt is and how it works? I'll give you the basic intro below.
The iCoolhunt Process
Essentially, iCoolhunt is a game (and how cool is that??? Trend spotting as a social game!!). Players join the site, create a username, upload an avatar, and immediately begin hunting.
The process is simple - after joining the site (or downloading the iPhone app and creating a username and password), players / coolhunters / users:
- Go about their daily lives
- Spot something cool (this is referred to as "prey" on the site)
- Catch it by snapping a photo through the app, or uploading a photo to the app or site by either doing a straight upload or importing online using the iCoolhunt bookmarklet
- Add a description, location, and category
The App and the Site
iCoolhunt can be played and perused from a website (www.iCoolhunt.com) or from an iPhone app. The interfaces from each front are fairly similar and include the following features:
- Latest prey: A feed of the most recent images uploaded to the site by users. You can rate these and leave comments as you please
- Top Prey: Prey with the highest ratings on iCoolhunt
- Top Gurus: The most active (and well-rated) users on the site
- Trendboxes: Coming soon, this feature will allow users to identify recurring trends, contribute photos to it, and allow others to do so as well, thus testing the validity of their theories
- Wall: Comments posted from other users on one's Prey
- Backpack: Basically a profile page allowing one to change one's name, password, profile, and location settings
- Trenditory: A map overlaid with geotagged Prey or users
The Trenditory is one of my favorite features in iCoolhunt. It is, simply put, a nice-looking map showing prey that has been caught around the world. The Trenditory can also be set to show various iCoolhunt players around the world (at least those who have chosen to show their locations).
What makes the Trenditory interesting is that it allows you to investigate the trend-based and cultural landscape of a specific geographic area, and also look for hot spots. As more prey gets added to the Trenditory, it will be easier and easier to notice new trends emerging on the streets of different cities - and spreading around the globe from there.
The Social Aspect
Another feature that iCoolhunt emphasizes (and that many coolhunting agencies haven't really managed to harness yet) is community. Because users from relatively diverse backgrounds rate, share, and interact, there is less of a risk of groupthink taking place, making the site's "data" a bit less curated than a lot of the finds you'll find showcased by trend-savvy boutique firms and agencies.
iCoolhunt also allows players to easily share their prey on Twitter and Facebook, making cool finds easy to share with larger networks.
The Gaming Aspect
iCoolhunt puts a very interesting spin on the act of trend scouting by turning it into a game by tying finds and their subseuqent community ratings into ranks and scores.
As users rate, share, and interact on the site, they evolve from a banana-holding monkey of a Rookie to a Paleolithic-styled Observer, then a headphone-crowned Spotter and finally a hipster-garbed Guru. Players can track their progress on their profile, noting the votes garnered by their prey as well as their status, rank, and percentage progress.
The Personal Research Aspect
Though a lot of people will approach iCoolhunt as a game and fun social bookmarking site, I see it as an excellent trendspotting resource.
Being able to see an open, public feed of "cool" sightings that is neatly categorized and geotagged is extremely convenient. I love the idea of being able to poke around on a map, look for interesting cultural artifacts, and even see what other people think of those things. I also like being able to browse found items by category.
iCoolhunt is also a great place to organize one's visual trend spotting notes. I have hundreds of street shots and product photos that I have taken over time. Sadly, they sit in old folders on various external hard drives, forgotten by me and evaluated by nobody.
Had iCoolhunt been around when I shot those images, I could have instantly categorized and uploaded them, noted feedback, and gone back and viewed them by location and category. I could have browsed them by category, compared by street fashion in Beijing with that in New York City, compared my finds in Washington, DC, with those of fellow iCoolhunters in the area, and noted change in design and emphasis over time.
iCoolhunt is a fun way to conduct research, share fun finds with friends, discover new trends, and track the progress of existing ones.
The team behind iCoolhunt is fun, open, and all for improving the app and site, so I'm sure we can all expect cool new features in the future. Enjoy!