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.
'Ee by Gum
It works thusly:
  1. Scan a barcode (any barcode) with the Gum app open on your device
  2. Type a message - something about the item you have just scanned, for example2.
  3. 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...

A barcode.
Scan the barcode with Gum!


  1. Gum is currently only available for iOS
  2. "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!".
  3. but you do have a username attached to your posts
  4. Although the bottle sends you a message back whenever someone picks it up
  5. There is a "Report Abuse" option within the app, but otherwise it is unpoliced.