It’s been a long time since we were delighted and even slightly bemused by the utterly stripped down simplicity of Twitter. And let’s face it, there have been many pretenders to that simplistic interface crown since then. But Amen appears to have come up with a mellifluous new take on a mobile service which is tantalisingly simple, but designed to create masses amounts of data about things people like.
Put simply, Amen is about finding the best of everything, often via arguments over the worst. To get the app go to getamen.com/tc in your Safari on the iPhone, sign up and download it OverTheAir. There are about 2,000 sign ups for Techcrunch Disrupt.
Here’s how it works. You fire up the app on the iPhone or web browser and say a person, place or thing is “the best” or “the worst” ever, like like, the Best Dubstep track ever. Or perhaps, as actress Demi Moore (a beta user) puts it, “After Sex is the Best State For Amening Ever.” Hubbie Ashton Kutcher – an investor – “Led Zeppelin is the best rock band ever.” You can agree with this statement with an “Amen”. But with a “Hell no” you have to suggest an alternative answer. It’s a rigid structure, but you can post whatever you want.
Leaving aside reading between the lines of Demi’s post (as tempting as it is) the creation of the simple “Amen” or “Hell No” mechanic means Amen can create lots of definitive data about something. For instance, right now Amen says “The Best Place for Mexican Food in San Mateo is Taqueria La Cumbre. Of course, you might disagree…
The location of any Amen statement is also built into the app, meaning Amen will start to tell you the best things around you.
But more interesting than that, it generates a feed from users who see lots of potentially divisive statements from their friends.
This is when the gaming element kicks in because you can weigh in and vehemently disagree with a person. This not just a Dilike button – you can only disagree, typing “hell no” – by suggesting a replacement to the post.
That means Amen gets continually more finessed data each time. Crucially, each statement is a data point.
So where as Twitter and its thousands of third party developers have had to apply tortuous natural language algorithms to the firehose in order to work out what the hell is going on, Amen has all this data and structure pre-built in to its system. It’s like one big brawl to find the best stuff, but this time with rules so simple you don’ even notice them.
So the whole system is built from the ground up to bubble-up the best of everything in the world.
Founderr Felix says users of the closed beta have been posting about TV shows, of coffee houses, The worst airline, the best position for sex. Literally everything. In addition people use it to create a kind of status update which their friends can agree or disagree with, e.g. “This bar is the best place for meeting Mike.”
Then again it might be something more nuanced, such as…
Or more inside baseball:
Or more gamed:
The startup has been in closed private beta for the last month and now has 3,500 users, generating quite a lot of engagement. In one month those users created 30,000 statements, created 15,500 score cards and clicked the Amen button 80,000 times.
An unintended use is using is as a Q&A platform, and then finding the thing you were after, like asking “Who is the best Dentist in Berlin” and people disputing that and entering their suggestion.
People have also been talking about everything from brand to what the best jokes are, to the best playlists.
Of course, it’s the brands element to this that has a lot of potential. Brands can get feedback on what people are saying about them, definitely, in realtime and to a high level of accuracy because it’s all structured data. This is much harder in Twitter because there is no structured data to mine, just people random words.
Plus, Amen is de-duping all the words and lists, so there is no duplication, no fat in the system.
And because its starts suggesting things to you, it can start to predict what you are planning to type. The same goes for location where the Amen iPhone might already know you are in a particular bar.
Lists don’t just generate one answer – there is a long tail of answers after the top result. So they get the head and the long tail of results. Even an answer with only two votes will still appear in the system.
Yes, the best movie ever made bay end up being agreed on (it’s 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Amen’s game plan is engagement first, and get big. Then to enable discovery and utility. Monetisation comes afterwards and could consist of ad buys within the lists, like AdWords.
The startup has raised a Seed funding from Index Ventures and Kutcher.
The team itself is sterling. CEO and Founder Felix Petersen formerly founded Plazes, which was acquired by Nokia in 2008. There is also Caitlin Winner (MIT, Nokia) and Ricki Vester Gregersen (Input Squared), and Florian Weber, Twitter’s first engineer interviewed here).
But finally, here is a problem. In theory Amen could be copyable, assuming someone can think out how to structure this data. It’s barrier to entry might therefore be lower. But then, how many startups already have Demi Moore as a private – poised to be public – beta user?