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Plague (plague.io)
201 points by jamesjyu on Dec 23, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

More like Vague amirite!

But seriously, I am unclear on pretty much every aspect of this. Even the screenshots give very little info. I don't know if I'm going to need to sign up for an account, or whether I'd be receiving "infections" from Portland and Boise or just up the block here in Seattle. And since I'm guessing 90% of these items are going to originate on the wider net to begin with, or be posted there simultaneously, the benefit to me seems dubious at best.

A more limited version that only sends stuff over local wifi or using local wifi as a beacon to make an ad hoc connection between "carriers" would be cool, though. More hyperlocal, you can be sure if the thing has only taken two or three steps, it was someone nearby who made it. Maybe that's how it works; there's no way to know for sure and I don't really plan to find out!

The first thing I thought of was something I saw at a weekend hack event: in a disaster or when no network can be found, it looks for nearby phones over blutooth and propogates messages until the original message eventually finds a phone to send out a communication over data or wifi.

Yeah I love the idea of this kind of robust mesh. I think it'll happen eventually. Alternatively it could propagate until it reaches whoever it's going to on the limited network (your friend in a different neighborhood) and then send out a kill order for the other propagating packets.

The kill order sounds like it could waste as much bandwidth as the duplicated message copies, and be exploitable to suppress messages unless it requires a signature from the message's recipient.

I like that idea, but I'd guess Bluetooth range would limit it. I wonder if you could do something with special packets and wireless cards in promiscuous mode?

This sounds so interesting. Any more info (where you saw it or name)?

It was at LAHacks. I don't recall the name of the hacker or project though. :-(

FireChat does this. Not sure it was the aforementioned LAHacks project though.

Yep, I opened the page and my only thought was "nice pictures, but what this things actually does?" Right, it spreads information. So does www, email, twitter, facebook, tumblr and I could be here all day listing the rest. What is this specific thing?

I've never used it, but our CEO swears by "Yik-Yak" (I wrote "Whisper" which was wrong)

Well it doesn't seem like it's supposed to be a very serious utility, so I think the vagueness is just supposed to give it a cool factor. I like it.

Since the page itself is useless: this is like Tinder for reddit's r/funny subreddit.

No account creation, so it's probably just tied to your device - sort of like Yik Yak, I guess. Things seem to be geographically correlated, though I imagine that the more 'viral' a thing is, presumably the further it can spread.

edit: I guess you can create an account, but it's not required to 'infect' crap.

At least here in NYC, it seems like one user is generating 99% of all content. A third of it is "art", a third of it is gifs of girls twerking, and another third is just celebrity snapshots.

You have to have an account for "creating" content. Not for infecting.

hi all,

I've been working on a similar concept called Ripple, and launched 2 days ago. I heard of Plague days after submitting my app to the iOS store, and found it to be a bit different from what I want to focus on.

I do think it's possible to create a community with this type of concept without all the clutter, and have it simultaneously focus on local (city or neighborhood wide) events and news.

Ripple allows users to only submit text-based content for now, and presents all content in table form instead of individual cards. We've found that this combination really focuses the type of content shared as well as allows users to browse content and spread "ripples" they truly find engaging. There is also a bit of a difference with how ripples are spread versus how plague infects people. Ripples are received by users only once.

Though we are at the beginning of our user base building and want many users on Ripple, we are also promoting this in specific cities and communities to have people share local news that matters amongst each other.

Check it out here: http://getkefi.com/ripple I'd love to hear all your feedback and thoughts.

Consider picking a different name; Ripple is already used: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripple_%28payment_protocol%29

I don't know why you're getting downvoted. When I think of Ripple I think of the payment protocol and I'm not even that tech savvy.

Says the guy with 2k karma and a 3 year old account on a site called hackernews :D

Hello colmvp,

Yes, there are a couple of products out there with the name Ripple, but I don't think the vast majority of people know any of them, including this.

If this does turn out to be a problem, I'll rename in a heartbeat!

I've never heard of a product/protocol/whatever named Ripple, which might not mean much due to the fact that I am a random internet person. By all means stick with it, sounds like the name definitely applies to the product.

I don't think its going to be a problem.

Your app seems much more put together than the other one - at least I understand what it is from reading the site :)

Cool concept, i'll check it out soon! Best of luck.

The beauty of the internet is that physical/geographic distance is not the deciding factor any more. Two people far separated by geography can be very close online. So why would an internet-enabled app re-introduce artificial geographic rigidity?

There are times when geographic locality is the thing you want to filter on.

A few weeks ago, I was stuck on a freeway. Completely stopped. After about 10 minutes of no motion I really wished I had been able to do a "search within 1/2 mile of my location" sort of thing to find out what was going on and when it would likely be fixed, so I could decide to tell the friends I was meeting "I'll be a bit late" or "Sorry, guys, go on without me".

>There are times when geographic locality is the thing you want to filter on.

Which has nothing to do with actually being near said locality. I think filtering on geographic locations is great, but even greater is that ability to do so while remote. I can learn about events occurring in and around a specific area without actually being in that area. That's (part of) the beauty of the internet.

I disagree that it has nothing to do with it.

I'm way more likely to be interested in stuff happening near where I currently am than in some other arbitrary place.

Sure, sometimes it makes sense to be able to search elsewhere, but that makes things more complicated for marginal gains.

Yelp is a good example. Yes, I've used it to research food in other locations, but it would still be 95% as useful to me if the only thing it did was show me stuff that was nearby, since that's what I almost always use it for.

You should check out waze https://www.waze.com/

I was a dedicated Wazer for a while and I eventually had to accept that it just didn't work. I could count on one hand maybe the number of instances where it actually seemed to react to construction or road obstacles in a practical way. I could count on 10-20 hands the number of times it tried to get me to maneuver across several lanes of traffic in order to spend 30 feet on some back road only to get back onto the road I was just on, having to re-maneuver across lanes.

Also, at some point a few months ago they redesigned the ride sharing interface. I'm referring to the feature where you can link a friend so they can see your drive. I used this all the time with my girlfriend when I'd come to visit, so she could see how close I was. Then it completely broke. It became horribly unreliable.

In the end I left Waze for Google Maps because it didn't seem to actually deliver on any of its goals.

Wow. I've had almost the opposite experience in every way.

Waze has saved me a huge amount of time by routing me around the random traffic I have in my area in ways that I'd have never thought of.

And the ride sharing update actually made the feature usable for me whereas before it just seemed to lock the app up as often as not.

It seemed to behave strangely on a long road trip, trying to send me on a very bizarre and obviously wrong path, but aside from that I've got nothing but good things to say about it -- oh, except the bizarre 'lets put up a popup ad in your way when you stop at a light when you will be most likely be looking for direction clarification' thing it has been doing lately.

Oh yes, I forgot about the pop-up ads whenever you're stopped. :)

Waze's routing just did not satisfy me. It tended to prefer highly complex routes, sometimes just for the sake of avoiding a tiny little stretch of road where it thought there was heavy traffic. Half the time, it was wrong about the more complex route being faster. When it was right, though, the added labor of following that route wasn't really worth it, because it would only save me a negligible amount of time.

Waze claims to learn your favorite routes. It never seemed to learn anything at all about my favorite routes. As far as I could tell, this feature didn't exist.

The ride sharing update not only made it much more frustrating to share the ride -- before you had a great link you could just paste or share anywhere, now it's some sort of Waze-specific notification which goes away and gets lost after you click on it -- but it also made the ride sharing maps nearly non-functional. Whenever my girlfriend or I would use it, it would almost never actually update the other person's position on the map. We tried this several times over the course of more than a month and the failure rate was very high.

In my opinion, if there were bugs causing it to crash before (which I never experienced), they should have just fixed those bugs. The interface "improvement" was a huge step back for me.

Maybe all this is fixed now. I hope so. But it wasn't that long ago that I switched away from it -- about a month or two after the ride sharing update.

Doesn't Google own Waze[1]?

I'm surprised that you find Google Maps superior after the Waze acquisition; you'd think both products would be approaching a feature-equilibrium by now.

[1] http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/google-maps-and-waze-...

I just got (on Android) a Waze push notification saying that I could add Waze integration to my (iOS) notification center.

I was very confused, even despite the handy animation they showed me (I apparently can't recognize the iOS notification center on sight, so thought it was showing me something on Android that I'd never seen before).

Yep, they do. I prefer Google Maps simply because it's simpler and I ultimately found that the additional features of Waze weren't worth the complexity.

I believe Google uses the crowdsourced Waze data in various ways, e.g., for their traffic maps, but I'm not sure of a source for that.

I guess it depends on the location - for me (Silicon Valley) it works great to avoid traffic. Never tried the sharing part though. Also, seems to drain the battery quite quickly but since I only use it in a car I just need not to forget to plug it in.

In my experience Waze is mich more accurate than gmaps in predicting commute times. It's also alerted me to speed traps on multiple occasions. Crowd-sourced "radar detector" was an unexpected bonus.

How many years ago did you try Waze? I was on waze when it first came to the US and I agreed. It's much better now though - it depends on the number of users in your area.

I have found twitter search to be a very reliable indicator in such events. e.g. caltrain failures, traffic blockages and such.

Try Waze

Isn't this exactly what twitter is for?

There are plenty of apps for which geographic vicinity is crucial to the service they provide: meetup, yelp, uber... apps for which the end goal is for the user to interact with, or obtaining information about, something/someone close to him/her.

To be fair, the description of this app it's so vague that it's hard to see how distance would affect its users.

During the growth stage they probably need to allow infections to go far (otherwise if you are in a sleepy town you see nothing and stop using it)

Once they gain traction, you will get too many infections from around the world and may be interesting in what is happening local.

I like how vague it is - it is allowing the the users to define it's purpose. A bit like Facebook.

Already seen too many cats on there for one day though. One is too many.

"Already seen too many cats on there for one day though. One is too many."

Well, that's the fatal flaw of this recurring "let's build a local social network!" idea... if you wanted to indiscriminately talk to people all around you in your area, you already would be. By and large, you don't have every neighbor on your Facebook because you don't really want them there.... I still haven't seen a compelling use case that isn't based largely on wishful thinking or nostalgia (often for eras not lived in by the nostalgia-ee that may or may not even have existed...), rather than being based on some sort of witnessed need.

Well, as I see it, different apps for different purposes. Information that is only relevant in a certain geographic area won't spread beyond that area. Information that is widely relevant will spread widely (if I understand the app correctly, I haven't actually used it).

Also, many communication platforms have "arbitrary" constraints (square photos, 140 characters) that help shape the user experience.

It's perfect for something like a protest, especially if you're worried about a (non-local) adversary flooding the network with irrelevant information.

See some of the coverage on the use of FireChat in Hong Kong (http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/16/tech/mobile/tomorrow-transform...).

Along a similar vein, I could see localized information being very useful during an emergency or natural disaster. "Downed power lines on Main Street" means different things depending on the poster's geography.

But you can't take your cell phone to protests anymore - we live in a constant mass-surveillance society now. So unless you don't care that that protest will be added to your personal profile, you leave it at home.

Perhaps it could work as follows: 1) in terms of information sharing you are always sharing what is 'nearby' with others who are 'nearby'; this keeps the information flowing no matter what 2) in terms of information DISPLAY, it defaults to monitoring what is 'nearby' BUT you can also choose to remotely monitor other geographic areas (while 1) is still happening)

The popularity of Yik-Yak has kind of already proven that you are objectively wrong.

Sometimes artificial limits adds to the fun. Why is soccer only played with feet and not with hands, and why can't I kick a basketball? And why can't I go outside the hockey rink at will.

I think the greatest example of this is Snapchat with their short lifespan.

This page is totally devoid of content. If it wasn't for the comments in here, I would have absolutely no idea what it's advertising; I would have closed it and forgot about it forever.

It does seem like a cool idea though.

Deleted within 5 minutes.

There was no news, no actual information. Only a series of random pictures, screenshots of other apps, and vague comments about whatever what on the poster's mind.

Social news will always have a near zero signal to noise ratio.

I love Plague.

For me, it's like the spiritual, mobile successor to mainpage reddit, i.e., a nice casual way to consume & share neat photos, links, and interesting "what if...?" questions.

So far at least, the community has been very positive, and not overrun with 9gag-style inanity.

An interesting aspect of the dissemination scheme is that even popular cards will only spread to, say, 100 to 1000 people. This keeps the conversations on the cards small enough to still be intimate.

Description on the app store is better than the website imo https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.plague

"Plague is an essentially different way to spread information. The idea for Plague is to create a perfect medium for spreading information as wide as it deserves to be spread, without any boundaries. Plague works like a virus. When you spread information, it goes to the users who are closest to you physically. The infected users can spread information exponentially further or they can resist the epidemic by keeping the information to themselves. Everyone has a fair and equal chance to be heard by the whole network right from the start - there is no friending or following on Plague. If your information is interesting to people, it can eventually spread to the entire world."

I don't care to see pictures of cats but I do want to be notified of major local events. Allow me to filter out posts that haven't already been spread by X users and you're onto something major here.

It is a bit of a cross between tinder (swipe to amplify/dampen) and images (photos are the social object)

Why can't the website tell what it actually does? It's honestly a terrible landing page for an app.

It's probably their strategy. Being (intentionally) vague raises curiosity. The best way to find out what it does is to download the app.

It's interesting how addictive it is, at one hand, and how fast it becomes boring on the other.

After one hour of seeing "motivational quotes" and "funny pictures" I about had enough.

My feedback:

I just tried it in Toronto and had to swipe down about 50 times to get rid of obvious (and NSFW) spam.

The content is better now, but all coming from the eastern USA.

I tried to comment on something, and got prompted to register. But after I registered, I lost the card I was going to comment on, and there appears to be no way to go back to a previous card.

The geolocation is a little wonky ("Nueva York, Estados Unidos").

I tried in the Halton area (West of Toronto) and had about 40 things from a single individual in Hamilton who continually posted far right conspiracy type things. I suppose this is the issue with the network effect -- right now it looks pretty pathetic in this area.

But the idea is solid. The Internet went global, but really a lot of the activity now is making it local again.

The website doesn't do a good job of explaining what it is. Essentially, you are provided with a list of 'infections' which are just funny photos or messages. You can choose to either 'stop' the infection from spreading further or 'infect' other people, propagating the message to new people whom you can geographically reach but the previous propagators could not.

It seems like the range can get pretty large. I live in the middle of nowhere. My first few images were from maybe ~5 miles away, but after using it for a bit I'm getting messages from 40-100 miles away.

You don't need an account, but it gives an option to create an account to "track" your infections as they spread.

Forward to Marketing:

A few bits I've noticed over 25+ years in the industry in assessing technology product and service offerings: hardware, software, SAAS, PAAS, and more.

⚫ Tell me what your product is. What it does, where it works, how it does it, what it requires. Is it a physical product (or is it shipped in one), an interactive application, a Web service, a programming language / tool? As a reader notes, don't make me use Wikipedia to figure out WTF your company does.



(Previously on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7489870)

I suspect the story would have had less traction here if it was obvious what the app did

Wow, marketing fail.

Epidemic information distribution was the center piece of the paper "Epidemic information dissemination in distributed systems" and highlighted in Gossip[1].

Marketing words that have a better connotation for this might be 'discovery' or 'enlightment' or 'intuition', even 'gossip', even though it is often a scourge in middle school, has a better reception than 'plague'.

[1] http://phdopen.mimuw.edu.pl/lato08/notes-1.pdf

“I am unclear on pretty much every aspect of this”

“don't know if I'm going to need to sign up”

“benefit to me seems dubious”

“what this things actually do?”

“This page is totally devoid of content”

“If it wasn't for the comments… I would have closed it and forgot about it forever”

“Tell me what your product is. What it does, where it works, how it does it, what it requires. Is it a physical product (or is it shipped in one), an interactive application, a Web service, a programming language / tool? As a reader notes, don't make me use Wikipedia to figure out WTF your company does”

1) Lower your bar for trying new things

2) Don’t be so cynical and quick to judge.

“The best way to find out what it does is to download the app.”

Considering the amount of malware, spyware, marketing-ware, grab-all-your-phone-contacts-and-upload-them-to-our-server-ware on the marketplace these days, my bar is quite high and I'm happy for it to remain so.

For a new product/app, the onus is on the company creating it to explain why I would want/need their product. I'm not going to go around installing random things on my phone just to 'find out what it does'. I want at least some idea of what the app does before installing.

No compelling use-case? No download.

I would rather install an app, to see what permissions it needs, before assuming it needs anything. If an app does nothing without me logging in or giving them my contacts, then it probably does nothing.

There are many good reasons to be a late adopter, safety is one. I don't think they should optimize their landing page for late adopters.

Judging from the site I thought Plague would be a new take on Reddit. Where Reddit asks if you like or dislike a Meme (we need a new word). Plague asks if you want to slow down or speed up its spread. This difference should mean different content is surfaced.

No, but they should definitely optimise their landing page for first adopters, with the number one rule being tell people what your product does.

Late adopters will probably already know about the product before downloading it. It's the first adopters you need to provide the description for.

I see you trying to be cute about what your product/service is/does. I still don't know but now don't I care.

Actually that kind of feedback can be extremely useful to a creator... There might be a demographic worth targeting with "it looks cool, just install it!", but that's surely not HN...

Having a page detailing what the product offers never killed any marketing attempt (unless we are talking complete vaporware, that is).

I personally wasn't sure if I was looking at a game or some social app, and certainly I wouldn't install everything that shows up on HN for the sake of trying (we would wind up with a hundred apps per week, each with its own security clearance!)

3) Sermon.

I'm trying it right now on Android and I think the up/down swipe gestures are too sensitive. I have to be super careful with my finger on the screen to avoid accidentally swiping a card the wrong way.

Other than that, it's an interesting idea. For those who are unclear on how this actually works, it presents cards with information on them that others nearby you have posted (photos, etc.). You can swipe up to "infect" nearby people (send the card to them) or swipe down to do nothing. Also, I didn't have to sign up or create an account to start swiping.

Something like this that didn't use the Internet would be cool. Like if it used some kind of Bluetooth and would "sync" certain topics. Kind of like Bitcoin meets Usenet but using a mesh network.

so ... street pass on 3DS

Woah! That's neat!

It's slightly worrying that looking at a post I made via "my profile" shows a map with "Infection started here" pinpointed to my exact house, but when I click "Show post" it shows the same map with the marker offset somewhat. Is the post tagged with exact geolocation and merely randomly offset by the client in its "show post" mode? Why else would it should an exact location on my profile but a distorted location on "show post"?

I have used it for a few days. Here is my account:

==== The mechanics ====

Basically you share cards with short messages, pictures and videos. When you post a card you infect a few people who are closest to you.

Then those people see it as a card, and decide whether to swipe up to infect more people close to them, or swipe down to ignore.

If you make something popular and people tend to swipe up 25% or more of the time, it slowly will spread across the world.

I live in Sydney, so with a faily dense userbase here, the first infections are in the same city. However if you live somewhere without any users nearby the infections will go further geographically to find the nearest 4 or so people.

The more success you have with infecting people, the more your infection index goes up, and so the more people you infect when you post or swipe up.

In addition there are comments on cards. If you make a comment you get subscribed to the card and altered on further comments. You can unsubscribe from a card when this gets annoying.

==== Expect to see ====

► Memes copied from other sites. This leads to popular cards complaining about this, and saying to not upswipe memes.

► More memes.

► Even more memes.

► Inspirational quotes, mostly cliche but sometimes something new.

► Pet cats, dogs as expected.

► Pretty women, boobs, etc.

► Holiday photos.

► A small amount of politics.

► Screenshot of a plague card, which someone else takes a screenshot of so you get a recursion. Those are really boring now!

► More Memes.

► Vary rarely inappropriate things - NSFW, porn, hatred etc. The system seems good at self policing that kind of rubbish.

==== What is it for ====

In my opinion it is for mindless entertainment. The same way you may hang out on Facebook for an hour because you are bored. This fills a boredom hole and can get addictive, especially with the gamification of rewards (higher infection ability) for creating new messages and getting to argue with strangers about pointless stuff.

For this reason alone I decided to uninstall.

This is kind of reinventing the wheel. If I want to hear things from people in my area, why can't I just walk outside and talk to them instead of using this app?

Such an odd response. How many people are waiting on your doorstep to inform you of information in your local area?

I don't think this app does information sharing any better than, say, twitter (far worse, imo) - but i find your response puzzling.

Since your issue is not of the quality of content (signal/noise), and instead that of locality.. that you believe you can just walk out of your door and get the same information this app provides - I ask you, can you? Can you walk out your door, and receive similar info to that of this app?

The range on the internet far exceeds most peoples doorstep. Mine for sure, at least.

To some, going outside and talking to people is an inconvenience and uncomfortable. Reinvention affords convenience, why rent a movie from iTunes when I can just walk the thirty minutes to my nearest DVD rental place? Why listen to a song immediately when instead I can wait for a CD to arrive in the post?

New ideas are always welcome; for even if they fail - they may inspire another.

So far my plague experience has been random photos of random locations, text quotes of famous people, and text quotes of users. So basically, a lot like Instagram. Neat concept, but I'd rather it be pictures of something exciting down the street that I may pass forward to others in the area and if it's exciting enough, even further. Not reposts just to gain points for how far your post reached.

You shouldn't have to login to create a new item.

I'm confused what it is even after reading the comments. It's some kind of image sharing thing? Why is this at the top of HN?

Seemed interesting; however I uninstalled after a few minutes of use. I think the idea certainly has potential - but the people around me just seem to treat it as a status update or Instagram post.

This would be a great technology to spread important information but I don't know how you'd filter that without defeating the purpose of "infecting" people.

An information dissemination tool created by a company called "Deep Sea Marketing"? Colour me cynical, but nope.

99 Notifications on the app icon badge; made me uninstall.

Also, would be nice to be able to go back to a post I accidentally swiped.

I really like this. Simple mechanic and has that intimate feel that you get from snapchat but with people nearby. They clearly need some love from a real designer tho.. that logo / loading thing looks like something you'd stomp to death if you ever ran into it.

What is the definition of "nearby users" in this context? It seems like someone can start something in Seattle for example, and then only 1 other person has seen it, but they are in France?

They've been tweaking the algorithm as they go along. Initially it was highly local centric, now it appears to bias towards nearby but with a lower probability chance of jumping further away. (Source: Early user, and some comments from the CEO on Plague cards asking the same question.)

I couldn't figure out where the post came from. That should be easy.

They do need to make it more clear what the word "information" means in the context of the app... It's such a broad word.

I highly recommend this. I've been a heavy user for two weeks, and it's been working fantastic, I don't regret it.

This has advertising and spam written all over it.

How nice just as you pass Benny Giraffe store:

"Today 50% off healthy biscuits for Giraffes."

This medium only works for localized information. There's no reason to use it for anything that's not.

Opened the app and was immediately met with ~10 posts from a local leather daddy. It was incredibly endearing.

Tried this... You could equate this to Jelly, Foursquare. But seriously there is not much use of it.

It is a lot of fun. Glad to see some infections already down here in Sydney.

It could get very addictive.

Two requests:

1. Please make the videos not auto-play! Embarrassing at work. 2. Please properly set the audio source in Android, so that when I adjust the volume it isn't the ringer volume but the app volume.

It looks to me like someone just reinvented RFC 977 (or maybe 3977) as an app ...

Plague Inc. of real data! Cool!

Hopefully Madagascar can get some news with this!

I believe there is a game with a similar name and concept: Plague Inc.

Amazing idea!!

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