Hipster, the oddly named local Q&A site that was up for three months in Boulder, CO, shut down in order to relaunch, went viral despite being in “stealth” a month ago, almost got bought by Google and Groupon pre-launch, didn’t end up launching at the Launch conference and so on, has revealed itself to the public today, just in time for yes, SXSW.
Hipster basically provides you with a newsfeed centered around questions about a location (like Austin in the case of SXSW), where you can toggle back and forth between Popular, Recent, My Topics and Friends activity. Like on Quora, you can follow People, Categories, Neighborhoods and Questions and receive notifications on followed activity when you log back in to Hipster. To add a location to a question or answer, use the @ symbol and type the location name like you normally would.
Linking your Foursquare, Facebook or Gowalla account with Hipster will enable you to follow specific locations that you’ve checked in to, as the reasoning is that you’re more likely to have answers to questions about these locations. Hipster also allows you to custom auto-publish your question-asking and answering activity to Twitter and Facebook.
While some have compared Hipster to local business Q&A site Loqly, CEO Doug Ludlow says his greatest competitor is Google, “[But] Google can’t read minds. This is a big problem, because the vast majority of the world’s useful information concerning the locations around us (cities, businesses, neighborhoods, etc.) is not yet on the web.” Ludlow says that Hipster, by trying to match people who have questions with the people who can answer them, is trying to bring that untapped information lode online.
It’s a formidable goal and there’s a lot more work done in Hipster’s case, admittedly. Now in public beta, Hipster SXSW has been the realm of around 500 people from the viral signup sheet for the past day or so and already the quality of some of the questions is negligible. Ludlow says he’s planning on fixing the Eternal September problem by giving the community the power to edit and delete irrelevant questions, like on Quora.
Having rebuked Google and Groupon’s advances, Hipster is currently in the process of fundraising and I’m hearing some pretty impressive investors have signed on before today’s SXSW-centered launch.
When asked why he didn’t bite the bullet and launch an iPhone app like everybody else in the world Ludlow explained, “There are 50 to 100 mobile apps competeing for attention at SXSW. We want to be the thing that people check first thing in the morning when they hop on their computer.”
Aside from working on a mobile app, Ludlow’s future plans include launching in multiple cities after SXSW (he plans on holding a “Bring Hipster To Your Town” contest to see which city can clamor the most for it) and iterating on the product, “every time we launch in a new city we’ll get better and better.” Well with 38,000 signups on its waiting list, its got to do something.