Quick Initial Thoughts On Jelly

Biz Stone’s much anticipated mobile app “Jelly” officially launched today, and since it marries some of my core interests — mobile and marketplaces (Q&A) — I thought I’d jot down some quick, unpolished reactions to the app — which at a high-level, is very well-designed — because it brought together many of the things I’ve been writing about and interested in. While I have questions (haha!) about how the quality of questions can be maintained out of Beta, the app on Day 1 is bold enough to make an impression, no doubt. Some initial thoughts:

  • Q&A forums are marketplaces. It’s easy to forget that. Someone demands a question, and (hopefully) someone supplies an answer. As someone who asks (too) many questions on social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Quora), I see the native need to do this. On the web, marketplaces are one thing, but on mobile, when there are two big platforms that don’t interoperate, companies need to figure out how to short-circuit the time to liquidity by either being very focused (Uber) or launching on iOS and Android at the same time. Related reading by me: How Mobile Alters Traditional Network Effects In Marketplaces.
  • The camera remains, by far, the most important mobile sensor. No surprises here. What will be interesting is if and when users start sharing mobile screenshots instead of regular pictures, like early Instagram users did. Related reading by me: The Harsh Realities Surrounding Mobile App Investing.
  • Mobile “search” continues may take unconventional angles. There’s voice (Siri), machine learning (anticipatory), and even apps themselves like Quora (more horizontal) or Yelp (vertical), for instance. Related reading by me: Calendar Frenzy, Google Now, And Apple’s Anticipatory Computing Problem.
  • The app uses a “Cards” interface, popularized by Tinder and others, too many to list here. We use them at Swell, of course. It comes down to our thumbs. Related reading by me: Mobile Apps, Cards Interfaces, And Our Opposable Thumbs.
  • The app allows users to “star” a question and agree to receive push notifications as replies. This is a great, core, intent-based engagement loop in a hyper-competitive world for consumer app attention. Related reading by me: The Precise Art Of Mobile Push Notifications.
  • Jelly harnesses existing social networks to more efficiently “route” questions to those who have a great likelihood of responding and/or knowing the answer. Quora does a great job of this on the web, and it’s a very hard problem to get right. Takes years. The app has a nice touch of pulling the avatars of people you recognize, which creates more of an incentive to engage and respond.
  • Unknowns, or things that should give us pause, in no particular order: Yahoo Q&A still stutters along; Google tried with Aardvark after acquisition but shut them down; Google has no problem giving Quora good SEO juice for its great content; Facebook tried and abandoned questions a while back; and the point of creation or origination for these questions usually take place on existing social networks, so pushing audiences over to another app remains a very high hurdle to clear.