Jelly, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s new mobile startup, is pretty fascinating.  For context, Jelly is a social question app based on mobile photos, placing it at the intersection of Q&A (Quora), local, real-time information (Foursquare), short-form visual content (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter) and ephemeral, person-to-person swipe-based interaction (Tinder). Creating a visual layer (interlaced with conversation) over local information is a big, ambitious idea that in most cases I’d say is trying to bite off more than it can chew, if the founding team wasn’t so strong and well-connected. 

Jelly bears some similarities to local Q&A service LocalMind, acquired by AirBnB in late 2012, as well as Waze, so crowdsourcing local information via mobile is a big opportunity when the community gets traction. Getting to scale is obviously critical, since a Q&A community is only as good as the quality, depth, engagement and diversity of its membership (which Quora did a remarkable job of when in its early days).

When I downloaded and spent my first minutes on Jelly I tangibly felt like the app was trying to be a lot of things at once – there are images, conversations and responses that aren’t ordered chronologically like a typical feed, but based more on proximity and relationship connections. It’s a different experience. One interesting question I have is in a situation where your audience is on the go and time-constrained (typical mobile use case), what hook incentivizes them to provide good answers? I read Quora a fair bit on mobile but don’t answer many questions on it (and certainly would never write a response like this on mobile), but unlike Snapchat or Instagram where it’s easy to be a passive consumer, to really get value out of Jelly my gut is you need to be much more conversational interactive. Although it’s clear Jelly 1.0 was designed to encourage data altruism (i.e., much of the experience is oriented around the question responder, rather than the user asking the question), the behavioral reinforcement for this in 1.0.1 isn’t that strong.

Nonetheless, I’m excited to see how the product and community develops. Again it’s a great team going after a big idea with a new angle – that’s always worth following along with.

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