Following its launch, SketchFactor app hits top of app store for Apple products, promises updated version and Android friendly release soon.
By Jacob Engels
Several weeks back, you probably read this Gawker article titled "Smiling Young White People Make App for Avoiding Black Neighborhoods." This intrigued myself and several of our readers, so we decided to reach out to the founders of the app and learn about their vision for the app, along with the process they went through developing it and creating it. Turns out, that obnoxiously inflammatory headline from Gawker could not be further from the truth, according to SketchFactor founder Allison McGuire. Check out our Q&A with her below.
First, explain to us a little bit about your company and how you developed SketchFactor.
SketchFactor is a community-driven navigation app that relies on crowdsourcing and public data to get you where you need to go. You're able to report sketchy stories, vote on others' experiences, and get walking directions according to your preferences.
Some have made the argument that this app is racist, alluding to the fact that users will determine predominantly minority heavy areas as "sketchy." What is your response to this?
The power of SketchFactor is that we rely on our users to define sketchiness. As I developed this for a year, I consulted with hundreds of diverse people, dozens of community groups, and 100 beta testers. Sketchy was the word that kept coming up. Sketchy can be something bizarre or something dangerous. We leave that to you to report.
SketchFactor is a technology platform, like Facebook or Twitter, that relies on user-generated content to drive the app. If you're using Facebook to be helpful, you're likely using SketchFactor in the same way. If you post foul language on Twitter, you're probably also post the same on SketchFactor. Users have the ability to upvote or downvote posts, marking experiences as helpful or offensive, respectively.
So far in the greater Orlando area, the submissions have for the most part been very informative and serious - but there have been a few that are more comedic. How do you feel about some degree of unrealistic or comical reports being submitted?
Great question. There's a reason we're SketchFactor and not SafetyFactor or DangerFactor. Anyone who has lived or traveled to a city experiences the weird, the funny, and sometimes the dangerous. Sketchiness can mean a number of different things, which is why we've categorized the posts as Weird, Dangerous, Protip (information about an area known by someone who goes there frequently), or Something Else. Some of our users like reading posts for the entertainment value, others prefer reading posts for the helpful anecdotes. We're thrilled to see so many different reports.
Since launching, you have garnered an enormous amount of press. How has this effected the download numbers for the app and is it available on both Apple & Android devices?
True. We were hoping for 10,000 users in three months. We got 60,000 downloads in four days. We were completely blown away by the response. We landed at #3 in iPhone Navigation Apps on our first day, behind Google Maps and Waze. We will be available on Android in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
With the new influx of users, have you found any improvements that you plan on making to the app in the near future?
Yes, absolutely. We're on version 1.0. This is known as the most basic form of a product. We're learning that people want to see all of their stories in one place, people want to follow other users, and people want to customize their maps even more than they already have. We're cooking up some cool improvements, so stay tuned for that too.
If people would like to learn more about SketchFactor, where can they go?
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at email@example.com