Hashtags. What are they good for? When they were first invented in 2007, they were used by Twitter users to easily follow a chain of events, or to easily track posts that relate to a single theme. Now, they’re mostly used as glib statements of how one is feeling. #boring
Floridian startup Life In Hi-Fi think the humble hashtag could be put to much better use. Meet their debut app, Hi-Fi. It’s the first ‘mobile lifestyle network’, and melds the best of Tumblr and Pinterest with the concept of hashtags… but is it any good?
Do You Need Another Social Network?
The social network space is an extremely crowded one indeed. We’re all familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And on the periphery of this sphere, there are countless other sites.
Hi-Fi isn’t a social network, at least not in the traditional sense. With Facebook and Twitter, the overwhelming emphasis is to be constantly creating content, and constantly writing posts, comments and sharing videos. That’s not really the case with Hi-Fi.
Rather, Hi-Fi is more about consuming content. You tell it what you want, and it then shares with you photos, videos, text and GIFs that are pulled from the entire Hi-Fi community of users. You’re much less pressured to contribute, as everyone is contributing to the same pot of content.
When you sign up for the first time, you’re asked to select what you’re most passionate about from a list of icons. This ranges from the incredibly vague (‘life’), to the predictable (‘music’ and ‘film’) and the surreal (‘hunting’).
Then, you can select what hashtags you wish to follow. For some reason, these are known in the app as ‘TagTopics’. Perhaps as a testament to the early stages of Hi-Fi, the range of TagTopics that exists is limited. At the time of writing, there wasn’t a ‘technology’ TagTopic available for me to follow, although there was one for Android and Apple. And one for Pineapples, weirdly.
The aim of Hi-Fi is seemingly to bring a bit of order to the unstructured chaos of social media, much like Pinterest does with its ‘pinboards’. Ironically, the app itself could only be described as chaotic, with a user-interface that is raw and jagged, and feels unintuitive at times.
Navigating through the quagmire of screens, views and buttons was a matter of trial and error, aided with random thrusts in the direction of my iPad screen. Things aren’t where you’d expect them to be, and hi-fi’s haphazard approach to button design makes this app a usability nightmare.
For example, the button to bring up the ‘new post’ screen is a fingerprint. It doesn’t say ‘create post’. There’s not even a little plus sign; a symbol that has long been associated with content creation. A fingerprint.
After 10 minutes of using this app, I found myself with a splitting headache and I wanted to go back to bed. Which is a shame, because the concept behind Hi-Fi is quite an interesting one.
Consuming Content In Hi-Fi
Right now, Hi-Fi supports text, picture, GIF and video posts.
As you’d expect from any modern social network, posts can be ‘liked’ (in Hi-Fi parlance, this is known as ‘cert-hifing’. No, I didn’t make that up), commented upon and reposted. When any of these things happen, you receive a notification.
I was surprised that given Hi-Fi puts a music channel at the forefront of their curated channels users lack the ability to post music, or to embed SoundCloud postings. Given that iPads and iPhones are content creation devices in their own right, with a port of GarageBand available for iOS, this feels like a major oversight.
However, in defense of Hi-Fi, users are able to post links to Youtube and Spotify, effectively piggypacking third-party services to share music.
Hi-Fi also supports video posts. These broadly range from animated gifs, all the way to baby videos taken on iPhone cameras. I even saw a bit of Go-Pro footage knocking about too.
Content Creation in Hi-Fi
Posting content in Hi-Fi is done through the mobile app. The options on offer include text, video and photo posts, as well as GIFs which can be created through the app’s built-in GIF editor.
The Hashtag is at the forefront of Hi-Fi, and posts themselves are categorized using them. You can use as many as you want, so long as they all fit into 35 characters of space. In addition, posts are also categorized into one specific channel. This is entirely of your choosing, and you can post to channels you don’t follow yourself.
Posts you make can also be shared with your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter.
Video, photo and text posts all follow the same formula. There’s the channel, the hashtag, and the content. A small passage of text can be added to video and photo posts, although you cannot change the color and the color gradient, as you can on posts that are exclusively text.
Hi-Fi: Tumblr For The Rest Of Us?
There are a lot of things that let Hi-Fi down. Badly. There’s the lack of native iPad support. There’s the bizarre design choices that make it incredibly unintuitive to use. There’s the ridiculous hi-fi themed names for things that already exist.
But behind that, there’s a solid idea. Firstly, the idea that a social network can be a passive experience, not focused on the creation of posts, pictures and comments. This worked for Tumblr, and it’s interesting to Hi-Fi take the Tumblr formula, and transform it into a deeply visual, deeply focused experience.
Secondly, the idea of a social network where one curates what is seen, and opts-in to being exposed to things. It can’t be overstated how unique that is, especially when one considers the extent to which our Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines are meddled with.
It’s still very early days for Hi-Fi. And there’s still time to impress.
Will you be signing up? Let me know about it. The comments box is below.