As recommended by Thing 22 - Mobile Things, I have been been playing around with the fashionably retro app, Gum1. The app's creators describe Gum as "the social network of things". Sounds great, but doesn't tell you very much - but luckily, the app is about as simple as apps get these days. The website helps to clarify things - Gum is:
A way to attach digital messages to barcodes, turning physical things into social pinboards.
- Scan a barcode (any barcode) with the Gum app open on your device
- Type a message - something about the item you have just scanned, for example2.
- Post it.
Anyone who scans that same barcode will see your message. If the item you scanned already has notes, you will see them. You can interact with other "gums" - reply, up/downvote comments and get alerts when new gums are left on barcodes you follow. And that's about it. It is very minimal - there is no integration with other social networks, they don't have accounts3 and it doesn't track your location.
I really like this app. I like the simplicity, the aesthetic (very 80s home computer), the interaction with physical objects - it's like leaving a message in a bottle4. The app has great potential for me at work - in a school library, it could be used for sharing book reviews, creating interactive displays and leaving messages on books without defacing them! It could be a great tool for engaging the kids with libraries and books.
Because of the anonymous nature of the app, there is a danger that inappropriate messages, language and behaviour could occur - the app's "House Rules" say:
GUM allows you to post anonymously to the service. We're trusting you whilst we're out of town - so be good5.
This kind of "trusting" attitude is part of the appeal of the app, but it also leaves it open to potential abuse. I feel I would need to monitor its use in a school environment - at least partially - but I'm not sure what that would look like in practice (scanning every barcode in the library?).
One to experiment with in the coming terms, methinks. I shall report back on my findings. Watch this space...
- Gum is currently only available for iOS
- "Wait till you get to page 173!"; "These biscuits make a great cheesecake base"; "Can I have my library card back, please?"; "These boots were made for walking"; "Bruce Willis is a ghost!".
- but you do have a username attached to your posts
- Although the bottle sends you a message back whenever someone picks it up
- There is a "Report Abuse" option within the app, but otherwise it is unpoliced.