Barcode Hero, the first application released by startup Kima Labs, is looking to carve a space in the growing ownership social network arena by ending “offline” shopping. Part GetGlue, part Apple Genius, Barcode Hero aims to eliminate the friction between the products in stores and recommendations by friends. It’s check-in culture meets Facebook, giving users a roaming group of friends to shop with in brick-and-mortar store so long as your smartphone is handy.
The idea behind Barcode Hero is a simple one: users scan the barcodes of books, movies, food etc. and share their thoughts about them. Once scanned, you can check out where the item is sold and for how much, select whether you own it, are shopping for it now, or want to add it to your wish list.
You can leave a comment about it or share the item with your friends on Facebook. Users can also see who was the first in the Barcode Hero network to purchase that item, whether they are following that person or not. Just like Twitter, all you have to do is click “follow” to see other people’s purchases or browsing in your activity feed.
Each of these actions also results in a reward: points. The more you participate in the network through purchasing, commenting or adding to your wishlist, the more points you earn. While Foursquare makes you the mayor of a physical location, Barcode Hero uses the monarchy as its inspiration. As you earn more points you can rise from untitled to Duke to King. But the titles are actually broader than this: the subject of the item is just as important as the title. There is a King of “frozen Healthy Choice chicken meals” just as there is a King of DVDs in general, a Duke of Mustard and a King of Jason Fried. To become King of Jason Fried, 37 Signals, and “business plans” in general, all I had to do was scan my copy of Rework. Similar to the Guru rank on GetGlue, these user awards make it easier to find the taste makers of particular topics or interests and follow them to find more things that are up your alley.
I scanned my copy of The Geeks’s Guide to World Domination. I just got the book a few weeks ago so I checked off that I own it and recommend it. I commented that “[t]his book introduced me to Kung Fu the TV series” because on p. 210 there are several amazing quotes from the series (“I seek not to know the answers, but to understand the questions.”) which sparked my interest. With 10 or so books scanned this brought my total to 178 points for books and 155 points for non-fiction – both good enough for the title of Duke. The King of books is at just over 5,000 points, so I would have a lot of work to do to catch up.
If this sounds like another Newsfeed hog, you have nothing to fear: Barcode Hero has taken a Facebook No-Spam Pledge. While they use Facebook as the login rather than vanilla account creation, your Newsfeed will never become a source of overshare that your friends will hate you for. The “don’t be evil” actions taken by the app are a welcome change. How many times do you register for a service using Facebook only to find that it wants access to your friends, wall and all your posted information? It’s happened to me a few times and I’ve largely given up on Facebook Connect opting to create a native account for each web service or game whenever I can. The stance Barcode Hero takes is very refreshing. Most apps shouldn’t need total access to my profile or require me to turn off “options” that litter my feed.
The only problem with Barcode Hero is populating your library – scanning takes time and occasionally requires a second grab of the barcode to get it right. Thankfully the points and monarchy system make barcode scanning somewhat fun, like wandering through a video game collecting coins, rather than a chore where you take pictures of lines. What could be a great feature in the future would be Amazon account integration so users could merge their Amazon wish list with their wish list on Barcode Hero.