Facebook’s Events feature is fairly good at recommending the sort of real-world meetups and activities you may be interested in, but there’s a whole host of other “events” you could be missing out on — like TV show premieres, live broadcasts, pre-orders for a hotly anticipated device, Twitch streams and more. A new app called Soon, from Lowercase Capital managing director Matt Mazzeo and friends, aims to help.
Explains Mazzeo, the idea for Soon was inspired by a feature the live streaming app Meerkat once offered — that is, the idea that you could subscribe to virtual events. That’s an area that Facebook Events generally overlooks.
He worked on Soon with Jackson Dahl and Laz Alberto, also of Lowercase, and girlfriend Jessica Ahlberg. Patrick Mandia and Brian Wagner coded Soon, but everyone on the team served as a product manager, says Mazzeo.
Mazzeo also clarifies that Soon is just an experiment, not an attempt at starting a new business.
“Everybody has real jobs,” he says. “I’m running Lowercase; Jess is an interior designer. Both the front-end and backend engineers are employed and very talented… This is one of those things where we enjoyed building it. The goal was to build it, get it out, and not sit on ideas that we love.”
While a number of event finders have launched over the years, Soon takes a different approach than most.
Instead of ingesting feeds, everything featured in the app is user-generated content — meaning it’s an event someone felt the need to share. The app supports any kind of event, from those taking place in the real world to those that are occurring online, like a live stream or an AMA on Reddit. You can even deep link to another mobile application so it launches the right page in the app where the event takes place.
Events can also be private — like a birthday party among friends — and you can share and discuss events over Soon’s built-in messaging system and group chats.
Soon (not to be confused with the bucket list app by the same name) also focuses on the social aspect of events by highlighting those that are popular with friends. And it points you to people worth following through the app’s leaderboard, which is refreshed regularly to not give preference to early adopters.
Soon’s biggest disadvantage is that it needs to grow its network from the ground up.
Facebook’s Event, by comparison, benefits from Facebook’s vast social network, its numerous Facebook Pages from brands and businesses each with their own events feeds and its understanding of user’s real-world social graphs.
To overcome its “cold start” problem, Soon suggests some users to follow.
Of course, this is both a good and bad thing, as it turns out. While it’s helpful to seed the app with content, following a bunch of people you don’t know means you’re not being shown events your “real” friends are attending, and you may be pointed to events that are taking place far from your current physical location.
That said, the app’s launch is poised to take advantage of SXSW to gain an initial following. Users attending SXSW can follow a “Best of SXSW” account in the app to keep informed of some of the better events taking place in Austin this month.
However, if you’re of a certain age (ahem), Soon can feel a little busy.
Events are displayed in card-style format that shows a title, time, location- and an image — or, often, a GIF. Other visual cues show you who posted it and who’s attending, while buttons let you tap to favorite it, save it, share it, tweet it, grab a link or see a map.
Events are also hashtagged for search and discovery purposes. The app is bright, colorful and animated, and is a lot to take in at first.
Plus, when you tap into an event, the event’s “soundtrack” — a song of the creator’s choosing — starts playing. (Yes, be warned, olds!)
But if Soon has staying power beyond SXSW, it’s because it could work as a modern-day calendar for younger people who don’t tend to use traditional calendaring applications.
“A feed just feels natural to the mobile-first gen[eration]. Why shouldn’t your calendar be in that feed mechanic?… It felt like the calendar version of Instagram,” explains Mazzeo.
“Nobody has ever gotten a calendar invite and said ‘yeah, that’s really fun,'” he says, laughing. “So much of social is self-expression, but events always felt so tactical, static and formal. This is an attempt to be way lighter weight and way more fun,” Mazzeo adds.
Soon is available as a free download on the iTunes App Store.